Patent filings by Microsoft describe high-tech glasses that could be a direct competitor to Google's much lauded Google Glass headsets.
In the patent application, which dates back to May 2011 but was officially published Thursday, Microsoft describes a head-mounted display that can annotate and present extra information about the event a wearer is watching or about the immediate area around a user.
Specifically, the application gives the example of a user wearing the headset at a live sporting event: "Technology is presented to provide a user wearing a head mounted display with supplemental information when viewing a live event. The information is provided about actions and objects occurring within an event and within the user's field of view. A user wearing an at least partially see-through, head mounted display can view the live event while simultaneously receiving information on objects, including people, within the user's field of view, while wearing the head mounted display. The information is presented in a position in the head mounted display which does not interfere with the user's enjoyment of the live event."
So, if wearing the technology at a football match, the user would be able to keep track of fouls, passes and other statistics; be able to access biographical information about a player as they received the ball; and would be able to view action replays of goals or controversial events, and all without taking their eyes off the football pitch and the action unfolding on it.
Although wearable technology and augmented reality are not new technologies, Google's project Glass AR headset, which debuted this year and was voted one of Time magazine's 50 best inventions of 2012, has brought the technology and its potential to the forefront. Time described the headset as "the device that will make augmented reality part of our daily lives" when it officially goes on sale in 2013, and Juniper Research's latest report on the technology, published in October, shows that by 2014 it could already be part of the mainstream -- leading the report's author Nitin Bhas to say: "With consumers embracing new technologies and form factors, wearable devices ranging from fitness accessories to heads-up displays will be more prevalent in the consumer market. While fitness and entertainment will have the greatest demand from consumers, within an enterprise environment, the demand for wearable devices will be greatest from the aviation and warehouse sectors."
The fact that Microsoft, a company that deals in huge volumes, and that doesn't entertain niche products, is developing its own AR technology, simply adds further strength to Juniper's findings and brings some potentially healthy competition to Google's own offering.