Recent Apple Patents Suggest Upcoming Facial Recognition, Improved Videoconferencing Systems

Posted by:
Date: Friday, July 10th, 2009, 04:28
Category: Apple, Patents

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Recently-released filings from the United States Patent and Trademark Office reveal that Apple may be planning face-detection components for its Mac and iPhone operating systems, in addition to working on ways to netter the quality of video conferences conducted via iChat.

According to MacRumors, a current filing builds upon ways in which users may be able to passively interface with their Macs in the near future.

Apple notes that one problem with existing personal computing devices is that they’re not able to determine whether a non-active or passive user is present and, subsequently, unable to perform certain operations to accommodate the passive user.

“For example, a PC may automatically activate a screen saver every five minutes regardless of whether a user is viewing the PC’s display screen,” Apple wrote. “Thus, a passive user is often inconveniently required to actively perform an interaction with the PC at least every five minutes to prevent the initiation of the screen saver or to deactivate the screen save after it is initiated.”

Another problem is that conventional systems cannot efficiently determine whether certain users have the authority to perform certain functions without first forcing them to manually enter a password.

Remedies to both these problems may lie in face-detection software, according to the document. Using a Mac’s built-in iSight camera, face detection software may be based on a pattern recognition algorithm that includes a statistical model, the company says. The software that detects faces in the captured images could then associate them with an authorized, as well as inform the system that a user is present in situations when manual interaction has stopped for an extended period.

The document noted that in addition to a Mac, face detection can be applied a cellular telephone, a wireless communications device, a media player, an MP3 player, a video player, and a PDA.

Another filing proposes solutions to many common imaging problems, such as unevenly distributed illumination, shadows, white balance adjustment, colored ambient light and high dynamic range imaging. A recent Apple filing states that systems and methods can be provided through a Mac can take advantage of the computer’s processing power to provide functionality that goes beyond a typical camera.

In one odd example apparently aimed at improving video conferencing, the company proposes an iMac with embedded lights that retract into the system’s housing. The filing states that a processor in the iMac would be able to control the deployment and operation of the lights in combination with other sensors to provide the ideal lighting setting.

Apple Rumored to Buy Twitter

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, May 5th, 2009, 14:43
Category: Apple, Rumor

The latest pre-WWDC rumors don’t involve the iPhone, the Mac, or even Snow Leopard. The buzz making it’s way around the bloggosphere is that Apple has it’s eye on the social, micro-blogging service Twitter.

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The site TechCrunch has posted a report on the growing rumor of an Twitter buy-out:

Today, though, rumors popped up that Apple may be looking to buy Twitter. “Apple is in late stage negotiations to buy Twitter and is hoping to announce it at WWDC in June,” said a normally reliable source this evening, adding that the purchase price would be $700 million in cash.

The article goes on to remind readers that Twitter, and CEO Evan Williams, turned down a bid from Google earlier this year in favor of staying independent. Other news stories have reported that Twitter is looking at different revenue generating models such as a “Twitter Pro” account for businesses and power tweeters in the hopes of offsetting the cost maintaining the rapidly growing service. Twitter is hoping to bring on more investors rather than selling out.

It is interesting to note that Twitter’s offices in San Francisco are all Mac-based and supposedly has a very good relationship with Apple, so if anyone had a chance it might be the Cupertino computer appliance device maker. Personally, I don’t see why Apple would do this. Granted, Twitter is popular and could possibly be intergrated into MobileMe, but Apple doesn’t usually get involved in something unless it will sell more of their products, and even though there is no shortage of Twitter clients for the iPhone, I don’t see it being a selling point to move more hardware. Send us your thoughts in the forums!

New Snow Leopard Seed and Server Features for iPhone

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 28th, 2009, 14:08
Category: Apple, iPhone, Mac, Mobile, Server, Services, Software

Apple sent an announcement to developers last Thursday that the next seed for Snow Leopard was available for downloading. AppleInsider reported that this was the second beta of the software released this month and is labeled Mac OS X 10.6 build 10A335.

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The new download is reported to also include a new version of 10.6 Snow Leopard Server which incorporates a number of new features. Some of the features mentioned, “[…] new junk mail filters in Mail Server, better automated account creation in Calendar Server, and completely re-written certificate management code”.

One of the developments that may be of interest to businesses that have, or want to deploy, a fleet of iPhones to their employees is the addition of the secure Mobile Access Server. The first hints of the new mobile services comes as a listing on Apple’s Developer site as one of the sessions available at WWDC called Deploying Mobile Access Server. The session has the following description:

Secure remote access to your business network has never been more critical than in today’s increasingly mobile world. The Mobile Access Server provides a path through a corporate firewall for IMAP, SMTP, HTTP, and CalDAV without using VPN. Learn about the features of, and deployment tips for, this powerful new service in Snow Leopard Server.

This comes in addition to features already mentioned such as remote access and control of mobile devices as well as push notifications. This positions OS X Server as a means to deliver intranet web services to iPhone and iPod touch users far more cost effectively than Microsoft Windows Server, and takes advantage of the popularity of the iPhone.

Apple Opens 24/7 Live Chat Support for MobileMe Subscribers

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 28th, 2009, 07:44
Category: MobileMe

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On Monday, Apple announced that it would be complementing its MobileMe online service support with a new chat feature available to members. According to Macworld, the MobileMe live chat support will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for
English speaking customers. The real-time support is for “customers that encounter an issue while using MobileMe and would like to address it immediately,” according to Apple’s Web page.
The MobileMe live support chat is available immediately by visiting the company’s support web pages and clicking on the “Chat Now” button.

Apple Stores May Switch To iPhone Software for In-store Purchases

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, April 14th, 2009, 13:16
Category: Apple, Retail Store

With the release of iPhone 3.0 enabled hardware and software, Apple may be planning a switch from its EasyPay handheld devices to iPhones for checking out customers at their retail stores.

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An AppleInsider report speculates that Apple may be planning to move away from the current Windows Mobile-based PDAs in favor of iPhones or iPod Touches using credit card scanners enabled by the new 3.0 software which allows devices connected to the 30-pin dock connector to finally talk to applications.

Apple has reportedly had issues with the EasyPay system in the past, resulting in checkout delays and frustrated customers. Overall, however, the mobile checkout system has worked out well for the retail stores which were reported to average 3.6 million visits per week during Apple’s December financial conference call. Developing its own point of sale system around the iPhone could be costly, but would allow Apple Stores to show off the versatility of their mobile hardware.

It is interesting to note that in the current batch of Apple’s iPhone commercials, one of the highlighted apps is CCTerminal which allows you to process credit card transactions online using an iPhone or iPod Touch.

Thanks to Chuck Freedman for bringing this to my attention, although I’ve actually been musing about this possibility since the 3.0 sneak peek. Yes, I do spend too much time at the Apple Store.

Apple Discontinues .Mac Groups and Homepage…Again?

Posted by:
Date: Friday, April 10th, 2009, 01:25
Category: MobileMe

Apple today sent MobileMe subscribers notices informing them that their .Mac Groups and the HomePage web application would be discontinued as of July 7th, 2009. According to the email notices, “As of this date, all Groups features – including your group email address, group HomePage, message board, and iDisk “Groups” folder – will no longer be available.”
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The email also links to this FAQ regarding the discontinuation of services, which is the original FAQ created the first time the services were slated to close down except for the addition of the July 9th date. The original shutdown date was October 10, 2008. While the Groups and HomePage application were thought to have been shut down since last October, files were still accessible by members. There is no indication in the notices regarding the reason it is being sent out again, or why services may not have been completely shut down after the October date.
The messages do state that current web sites published with HomePage will still be available via the web indefinitely, but that changes will not be possible after July 7th. If you would like to speculate what is going on, discuss it in the forums.

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App Store Number Finally Reaches 77

Posted by:
Date: Monday, April 6th, 2009, 13:37
Category: App Store, Apple

On March 17, Apple announced that the App Store would be available for iPhone/iPod Touch customers in 77 countries. Through the end of March, the count stayed at 62, but finally over the April 4th weekend the additional 15 countries appeared on iTunes.

The 15 additional countries are as follows:

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  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • Estonia
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Kazakstan
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Macau
  • Malta
  • Moldova
  • Nicaragua
  • Paraguay
  • Uruguay

The Italian site setteB.IT reports that this works out to potentially 161.8 million new customers for Apple, the App Store, and software developers. Of the 15 countries, Kazakstan is the only one where the iPhone 3G is not available yet. The countries where the iPhone 3G is available but without an App Store are: Botswana, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Kenya, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Montenegro, Niger, Reunion (France) and Senegal.

The original article can be read (translated from Italian) here.