PayPal has an idea for augmented reality payment glasses — here's how it could work

  • With tech giants like Apple planning their product release, PayPal could be putting its patent to use in payment-enabled glasses sooner rather than later.
  • A shopper looking at an item on the storefront shelves would see a hovering, virtual description including price, payment options and return policy.
  • The glasses could also walk shoppers through the steps to purchase items online, with vendor and purchaser information already stored in the system.
Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal
Mark Neuling | CNBC
Dan Schulman, CEO of PayPal

PayPal this past week refreshed a years-old patent for an augmented reality shopping experience that would layer virtual information over physical products.

With tech giants like Apple reportedly planning similar products, PayPal could be putting this idea to use in payment-enabled glasses sooner rather than later.

The software as imagined could overlay product information and purchasing options onto physical objects, according to the patent — originally filed in 2016 but extended earlier this week.

A shopper looking at an item on the storefront shelves would see a hovering, virtual description including price, payment options and return policy.

The glasses could also walk shoppers through the steps to purchase items online, with vendor and purchaser information already stored in the system.

PayPal was not immediately available to comment on the development of such a system.

AR glasses could serve as another digital payment solution for a company that's led the space for years, according to Ramsey El-Assal, senior vice president and fintech analyst at Jefferies.

El-Assal doesn't expect PayPal to roll out the product anytime soon, but said it's likely it'll have the solution ready if it ever becomes practical.

"As the physical and digital commerce kind of merge together, this patent makes it feel like PayPal continues to plan for that," he said.

PayPal has been broadening the applications of its PayPal and Venmo checkout options.

It's long allowed customers at online retailers to pay with the funds in their PayPal accounts. But the company more recently enabled that function at brick-and-mortar retailers, too, through specially designed hardware and mobile systems.

An augmented reality look-and-buy payment system would likely raise security concerns and come with bugs to work out. But it could also seal PayPal as an early practical entrant to the budding virtual reality space.