Over the past several years, Google has pursued the idea of a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display, known generally as Google Glass. With this in mind, it was not surprising to recently see a patent application publish relating to a wearable computer system. Google Glass is set for full release by Google in 2014 and incorporates computer elements, sensors and other components into a system that can be worn like a pair of glasses. One goal of this system is to allow media capture of images, video and sound that replicate the Glass owner’s individual point of view.
The above referenced patent application — U.S. Patent Application No. 20130222638 — has been filed to protect a system of capturing pictures through a wearable device by analyzing a user’s gaze. A user looks through the viewfinder, which can detect the field of vision of a user based on the direction of that user’s gaze. This gaze information can be processed to determine the exact field of view for a user, and this data can be used to adjust the image being captured by the device.
As Claim 1 explains, Google is seeking the rights to:
“An apparatus comprising: a viewfinder providing a field of view; an image capturing device; a gaze acquisition system configured to acquire a gaze direction; and a controller configured to: (1) determine whether the acquired gaze direction indicates a gaze through the viewfinder; (2) generate an image capture instruction based, at least in part, on a determination that the acquired gaze direction indicates a gaze through the viewfinder, and (3) cause the image capturing device to capture an image in accordance with the image capture instruction, wherein the captured image includes at least a portion of the field of view provided by the view finder.”
In one particular example discussed in the patent application, a user wearing an apparatus or system, such as a head-mountable device (HMD) may be engaged in a real-world experience. For example, the wearer may be hiking in the woods or simply enjoying a meal with friends and family, while wearing the HMD. In this version of use, the HMD includes a camera configured to capture images representing the experiences of the user from the point of view of the user. If the wearer of the device wants to capture the moment with the camera on the HMD, the user can perform an action to trigger the HMD camera to capture an image representing the point of view of the wearer, without disrupting the moment by leaving to find a handheld camera.
The gaze acquisition system is undoubtedly the major portion of this particular innovation. On that point, the application explains:
In one example, the gaze acquisition system may be configured to acquire the gaze direction based on eye-tracking data provided by an eye-tracking device coupled to the gaze acquisition system. In one case, the eye-tracking device may include one or more inward facing cameras for tracking the movements of at least one eye of the wearer. The tracking of eye movements may be based on pupil or glint tracking, for example. The tracked movements of the at least one eye may then be used to determine gaze directions indicating directions where the wearer may be looking…
… In one example, the controller may be configured to determine whether the gaze direction acquired by the gaze acquisition system indicates a gaze through the viewfinder. In one case, determining whether the acquired gaze direction indicates a gaze through the viewfinder may be based on relative positions between the viewfinder and the at least one eye of the wearer. For instance, in the case the viewfinder is positioned at an angle α above the line of sight of the wearer, determining whether the acquired gaze direction indicates a gaze through the view finder may be based on a relative angle between the acquired gaze direction and the natural line of sight of the wearer. In this instance, if the relative angle of the acquired gaze direction is α or approximately α, the acquired gaze direction may indicate a gaze through the viewfinder.
The patent application also explains that there is a motion detection system that can be configured to acquire movement data associated with the HMD, and determine movements of the HMD based on the movement data. For example, the controller may generate the image capture instruction based also, at least in part, on the determined movements of the HMD. This can come in handy when the wearer has located within the field of view of the viewfinder an object of interest. In this situation the controller may generate the image capture instruction indicating that an image should be captured after a gaze through a gaze point on the field of view provided by the viewfinder has been present for a predetermined duration, and the movement data indicates the HMD is not moving.
Wearable cameras are not new, but the Google Glass device shown in prototype does seem particularly slim and likely easy to use and wear. There is certainly a lot of anticipation.