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US: Apple employees' vision affected by prototype laser device

An Apple Inc. employee reported “discomfort” after a laser was flashed in her eye several times on February 21 2017. Another employee on March 2 reported eye pain. This is according to an April 14 “Environment Health and Safety” contractor report that was leaked to the tech blog Gizmodo.

The document lists over 70 incidents. The two which involve prototype hardware that includes, or appears to include, laser light are:

  • “After BT4 user study, user advised study lead, that she experienced discomfort in her eye and said she was able to see the laser flash at several points during the study. Study lead referred her to optometrist and secured prototype unit for analysis.”
  • “Employee reported eye pain after working with new prototype, thought it may be associated with use. He noticed that the security seal on the magenta (outer) case had been broken and had thought the unit may have been tampered with.”

Gizmodo wrote that “a source inside Apple speculated that this [March 2] injury may have something to do with an augmented reality product Apple may be testing, something like glasses with an overhead display.”

Another tech blog, SlashGear, speculated on how Apple might be using lasers in or near eyes: “There are several possibilities as to how the lasers mentioned in one of the incident reports might be involved in that, depending on the technologies Apple is using. For instance, laser projection – where graphics are created directly on the eye using a system of targeted laser light – has been used by several companies wanting to make a daylight-visible UI. Another alternative, and possibly a more likely one, is laser eye-tracking. That relies on using lasers to monitor eye movement in real-time, so that the wearer’s direction of gaze can be calculated. Such a system would be able to figure out what the user was looking at and potentially control a user-interface that way.”

From Gizmodo and SlashGear