New documents reveal that electric car company Tesla has filed a surprising new patent that has nothing to do with batteries or autonomous driving and everything to do with augmented reality.
Last week, the company's US Patent and Trademark Office patent application, titled "Augmented Reality Feature Detection," showed up online.
According to the patent documentation, which was originally submitted on May 31, 2018 and was surfaced by Forbes earlier this month, the technology uses computer vision to recognize objects based on the hues of the object appearing in the camera view and the location of the device. It compares the recognized image to a corresponding model from a library of 3D models, and overlays digital data on top of it.
When paired with other tracking methods, such as QR codes or radio frequency tags, the technology has the potential to improve assembly and quality control processes. For instance, when a car part is identified, the AR system could overlay data about welding, paint coat thickness, or other specifications to the user.
Most AR industry observers follow the machinations of companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Snapchat with regard to the future of AR technology. However, developing computer vision and augmented reality technology is a natural extension of Tesla's business model as well, particularly now that computer vision is becoming a core competency in autonomous vehicles.
Right on the heels of the discovery of the AR patent filing, Tesla CEO Elon Musk made an appearance on 60 Minutes on Sunday. Musk used the opportunity to address his SEC fine, which was imposed due to his Twitter usage, his marijuana smoking on a recent podcast, and how the company is cutting manufacturing costs by innovating the car production process.
During the interview, he also reminded the news program that he has made Tesla's patents open source. Therefore, if the new Tesla AR patent is awarded to the company and added to its collection of open source patents, the feature could also accelerate the pace of innovation among enterprise AR hardware and software makers, who might also integrate the methodology into their own offerings.