Microsoft has been granted a patent for the seemingly impossible – a transparent camera.
The patent is in fact only for a transparent camera housing – the cover for the lens and sensors which prevent stray light from hitting the sensor and interfering with your image being recorded, but which Microsoft notes forms the bulk of the assembly..
The trick is that the camera sensors Microsoft are interested in are only for recording infra-red or ultra-violet light, as used by the Windows Hello face recognition or Kinect range-finding cameras.
Their patent would use a camera housing which was transparent to visible light and opaque to infra-red light, and would make the cameras less visually obtrusive when used in near eye displays like the HoloLens headset or its successors.
As can be seen in diagram above, the camera could be pointed towards the eye, and used for eye tracking, or pointed outwards, and used for range finding and environmental sensing.
The innovation is just one of a number of recent HoloLens patents which suggests the headset is the subject of intense research and development in Microsoft, and we will hopefully see the fruits of this work in the next version of the headset due towards the end of 2017.