In late February, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Samsung that reveals new sensors are coming to the side of the Gear VR headset that will be able to detect a user's in-air gesture and cause a cursor on the display to click on an item, icon, photo, movie and so forth so as to open an app or choose a photo or other item without using any physical buttons on the headset.
Samsung's Patent Background
Portable electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets detect and translate input of various modes using various sensors in addition to touch gestures on a touchscreen. Examples of the various input modes include: gestures, Air Gesture motions, changes in device orientation, proximity of an external object, and so forth. Examples of the various sensors include: an infrared camera, capacitive proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, and so forth.
Some of these input modes become either completely inaccessible or not easily interacted with when the portable electronic device is coupled to and carried by a head-mounted apparatus for near-eye viewing. As sensors that are on the screen side ("front") of the portable electronic device get enclosed by the apparatus, the fields of view of the sensors become difficult to access.
Samsung's invention relates to a system capable of implementing a sensor based user interface in a head-mounted display incorporating a light turning element.
The head-mounted display (HMD) system includes a head-mounted frame configured to receive and encase a portable electronic device (PED) that includes a touch-less sensor, and the PED. The frame includes a front slot configured to hold the PED and maintain contact with the display face of the PED. The frame includes an entry via dimensioned to prevent blockage of the sensor's field of view. The frame also includes a light turning element positioned to redirect the sensor's field of view through an exit via in the head-mounted frame and into open space outside of the head-mounted frame.
The PED includes the touchless sensor configured to detect a touchless gesture. The PED includes an image display configured to display image content on a front display face of the PED.
The PED also includes processing circuitry configured to change modes from a handheld mode to a head-mounted display (HMD) operation mode based on a determination that the PED is encased by the frame. The processing circuitry is also configured to select the image content based on input signals received from the sensor and the mode.
About the Illustrations Below
Samsung's patent FIG. 2A illustrated below shows us a field of view of a sensor within a Galaxy smartphone (PED);  FIG. 2B illustrates a hand gesture including a movement of a hand across the field of view of the sensor within the PED of FIG. 2A; FIG. 3A illustrates a smartphone being coupled to a head-mounted frame (Samsung Gear VR); FIG. 3B illustrates a field of view of a sensor obstructed by a user's head and the head-mounted frame of FIG. 3A; FIG. 4A illustrates a head-mounted display system; FIG. 4B illustrates a sensor's field of view free from obstruction and turned away from the user's head by a light turning element within the head-mounted display system of FIG. 4A.
Samsung's patent FIG. 4C noted below illustrates an example of a sensor's line of sight directed away from the user's head by the light turning element within the head-mounted frame of FIG. 4A.
Samsung's patent FIG. 5A noted below illustrates an example of a head-mounted display and screen in an unclicked state; In patent FIG. 5B we're able to see an example of a head-mounted display and screen in a clicked state.
When presented with an app, the user's head moving left, right, up and down will direct a cursor. To click on an image to focus on or an icon to activate, the user will then move their hand across the side of the Gear VR headset where the sensors will pick up the signal to click on an item.
Although Samsung doesn't expand upon this simple gesture for clicking on items, we can assume that over time other sensors will be able to sense different in-air gestures that will control the display in different ways.
Samsung filed their US patent application back in August 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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