One of the main reasons Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he’s interested in virtual reality is because the technology can make you feel like you’re in a different place. Strap on a headset, and suddenly it feels like you’re exploring Mars or visiting a friend face-to-face even if he or she lives on the other side of the world.
Now, it looks as if Amazon has its own idea for using technology could be used to create the feeling of traveling somewhere new. The retail giant was recently granted a patent for a system that could map a physical room in 3-D, then project images to make the space look and feel like a different environment. You’d be able to interact with these images using your voice, gestures, or touch.
The patent filing notes that Amazon’s system could be used be used for everything from projecting simple images onto surfaces in your room to “full augmentation where an entire room is transformed into another reality for the user’s senses.” The setup would consist of a light source, a shutter mechanism, a reflector, and a camera, according to the patent.
This type of technology, known as augmented reality, overlays computerized images over the real world around you. Several technology companies are trying different approaches to augmented reality. Google’s Glass headset, which was initially unveiled in 2012, put a small screen in the corner of users’ eyes to display data like notifications and walking directions. Microsoft’s upcoming HoloLens headset displays more robust 3-D images directly in wearers’ field of vision.
Amazon’s idea differs from these approaches in that it doesn’t require users to wear a headset. But the Fire tablet maker isn’t the only company to brainstorm such an idea. Microsoft’s IllumiRoom concept from 2013 expands whatever you’re watching or playing on your TV to the furniture around you to enhance the experience.
It’s also worth noting that just because Amazon has patented this idea doesn’t mean it will come to fruition. Large technology companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple patent new technologies often with no guarantee that they will come to market.