Microsoft has surely challenged existing platforms in the tablet market with its launch of Surface. But while Surface has yet to put a dent on the iPad’s market share, along with that of the various Android devices, it seems Redmond also has other devices in the pipeline. Or at least, they have plans to get into the augmented reality business, as well.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has published a patent application filed by Microsoft as far as May in 2011 for augmented reality glasses, which gives users real-time information on real-world events he or she is viewing. There are notable differences with similar projects by other companies, though.

Google launched its Project Glass concept a few months back with the intent of eventually making wearable computing a reality. With Google Glass, a user can interact with the real world with online data through augmented reality. While this is ambitious, Microsoft’s idea of AR glasses takes a more modest approach. Microsoft believes that wearable tech like this is likely to be worn in certain scenarios only.

A system and method to present a user wearing a head mounted display with supplemental information when viewing a live event. A user wearing an at least partially see-through, head mounted display views 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.

As such, Microsoft’s AR glasses are meant to be worn during stationary or slow-moving contexts, such as when watching athletic events, during museum tours and the like. Given that these do not require much movement, the device’s design is intended to be a bit simpler. Google wants you to actually walk around town with its Glass, but Microsoft does not expect you to bump into stuff while being too preoccupied with viewing what’s on display.

Don’t expect any product announcements yet. This is just a patented idea. One advantage that Microsoft has over Google is in terms of user interface. Microsoft is likely to combine this tech with its Kinect motion-sensing technology, which makes interacting with the device all the more intuitive than touchscreens or voice commands. Knowing how Microsoft is more of a reactive type of business of late (such as in the smartphone and tablet businesses), it might take some time before we see anything solid coming out of this patent.

J. Angelo Racoma
J. Angelo Racoma has written extensively about mobile, social media, enterprise apps and startups. Angelo develops business case studies for Microsoft enterprise platforms, and is also co-founder at WorkSmartr, a small outsourcing team that offers digital content and marketing services.