Oculus Rift Patents that change the Virtual Reality Landscape

Photo courtesy of Oculus VR, LLC.

The Oculus Rift. Photo courtesy of Oculus VR, LLC.

On March 28, 2016, virtual reality headset developer Oculus VR of Menlo Park, CA, announced on its official blog that it had begun shipments of its Oculus Rift headset. This immersive VR headset has been highly anticipated since a successful Kickstarter campaign wrapped up in September 2015, after raising 947 percent of its original goal after a little more than one month. Of the virtual reality options currently on the market, the Oculus Rift is arguably built upon one of the most technologically robust VR platforms. Oculus VR is a subsidiary of parent online social media company Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB)

Many have focused on how the Oculus Rift will enable immersive video gaming experiences but there are other valuable applications for the technology in a wide swath of industrial sectors. For example, architectural design applications such as IrisVR or Arch Virtual seek to use the Oculus Rift platform to bring computer-aided design from two-dimensions to three, improving how architects are able to communicate spatial design. The immersive nature of the Oculus Rift’s virtual reality environment is also proving attractive to behavioral researchers who want to use virtual reality immersion to treat psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety. Three-dimensional (3D) design also has growing manufacturing applications in a world where 3D printing is rapidly becoming a larger market.

Unlike other virtual reality products developed by Samsung Electronics (KRX:005930) or Alphabet Inc.’s Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), many of which are headsets requiring users to insert a compatible, portable electronic device, the Oculus Rift is its own standalone product with many components which contribute to the perception of an intricate, virtual world. To process the data which creates robust 3D environments, the Oculus Rift need only be paired with a computer that has a good deal of processing power, such as the Xbox marketed by Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT). The headset itself contains a gyroscope and an accelerometer which work to detect a person’s motion. Instead of splitting a smartphone screen in half, the Oculus Rift has twin active matrix OLED (AMOLED) displays, each having a resolution of 1200-by-1080 pixels and a refresh rate of 90 hertz (Hz). Integrated audio components further improve the wearer’s sensation while experiencing a virtual environment.

Capturing the movements of a person wearing the Oculus Rift headset is a sensor which tracks infrared LED constellations projected onto a user. Each Oculus Rift unit comes with the IR LED sensor, a mounting stand, and a cable to connect the sensor to a personal computer for processing resources. Users can also use an Oculus Rift remote or a compatible remote controller, such as an Xbox game controller, to input commands and interact with the virtual world.

Oculus VR has been assigned at least one utility patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect its headset-based virtual reality technologies. A problem in video playback where the display sometimes pans further right or left than a wearer’s head is turning is addressed by the invention protected by U.S. Patent No. 9063330, entitled Perception Based Predictive Tracking for Head Mounted Displays. It claims a method of predictive tracking for a head mounted display based on actual measurements from the user’s movements that are then used to generate a rendered image corresponding to the predicted orientation for presentation on the head mounted display. The inventor purports to provide better overall predictive moving tracking accuracy by only applying predictive tracking techniques to a head mounted display in motion, preventing the screen jitter experienced by users who are standing still. Oculus VR also holds a trio of design patents protecting the design of its Oculus Rift headset.

predictive trackingvirtual reality headset

Oculus VR also has a number of patent applications filed at the USPTO which may yet result in a patent, one of the most recently filed of which is U.S. Patent Application No. 20160070103, titled Corrective Optics for Reducing Fixed Pattern Noise in a Virtual Reality Headset. It would protect a virtual reality headset with an improved display. This innovation is reported to reduce the “screen door” effect which can result from the arrangement of different colored sub-pixels separated by dark space by blurring light from the sub-pixels using the diffractive surface of the corrective optics block.

corrective optics

Oculus Rift bundles–which include the headset, other VR components, and the PC to provide the required processing power–are being retailed starting at $1,500, a rather costly investment even by consumer gadgetry standards. The headset alone sells for $599. At the moment, at least, the high price tag does not appear to be scaring off consumers.  A series of tweets from Oculus Rift founder Palmer Luckey indicated that the first hour of Rift pre-orders almost crashed Oculus’ credit card processing servers. It appears that consumers are willing to pay for the perceived value that comes with a technological product designed to be state-of-the-art in the growing VR sector.

The Author

William Cory Spence

William Cory Spence is the founder in the IP law firm of SpencePC in Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Spence is a trial attorney with focus on patent, trade secret, unfair competition (including conspiracy, tortious interference, and related antitrust claims), breach of contract, trademark, and copyright litigation. He has litigated claims in both state and federal courts throughout the United States and counseled on post-grant patent proceedings in front of the US Patent and Trademark Office. Mr. Spence has extensive experience with a wide range of patent monetization strategies, including complex, international patent infringement litigation involving multiple parties and jurisdictions, most notably including Japan. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame where he received separate B.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering and Biophysics (“Physics in Medicine”). Mr. Spence also holds a J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center. Prior to forming SpencePC, Mr. Spence spent twelve years practicing law with Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Chicago, IL and Tokyo, Japan. Mr. Spence may be reached by email or by phone at 312-404-8882.

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Discuss this

There are currently 7 Comments comments.

  1. Machobunny May 31, 2016 9:44 am

    Since it would seem unwise for any company to take on FB in a patent infringement, I wonder how many players in the field, like HTC, license core tech from FB.

  2. Josh May 31, 2016 2:18 pm

    ” the Oculus Rift need only be paired with a computer that has a good deal of processing power, such as the Xbox marketed by Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) ”

    Since when can the Xbox support Oculus, or have enough power to run an Oculus rift?!

  3. John May 31, 2016 3:19 pm

    The article is incorrect in the implication that the current generation xbox (one) can power the rift. There are however rumors of a next gen unit coming out in 2017 that may be configured to work with the Rift.

  4. D.J. May 31, 2016 5:29 pm

    What oculus should should be credit for is destroying VR with its walled garden platform. Oculus can think they own VR but if the keep trying that nonsense VR will die

  5. Gene Quinn May 31, 2016 7:37 pm

    D.J.-

    You REALLY think VR will die because Oculus has patents that cover VR? It is hard to believe anyone could ever think such utter nonsense. Patents foster innovation, they don’t kill innovation. There are tens of thousands (if not more) patents that cover the smartphone and that technology doesn’t seem to being dying. Neither has any other heavily patented technology. Quite to the contrary. The fact that an area inspires many patents virtually guarantees that the technology will succeed at the highest levels.

    -Gene

  6. Michael June 1, 2016 3:49 am

    D.J is not complaining about patents. He’s complaning about the DRM on
    “Oculus Home”. If that is the case, the post doesn’t fit what the article is talking about.

  7. Rob Wentworth (geekmaster) August 16, 2016 10:40 am

    Why doesn’t that patent (filed in 2014) mention the ideas I presented in my “PTZ Tweening” thread from Feb 2013 (with quotes from much older threads in the second post)? Oculus staff interacted with me in that thread, after all…

    http://www.mtbs3d.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?f=138&t=16543