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Apple patent points out company’s exploration of 3D gestures/input controls for devices

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Date: Thursday, October 27th, 2011, 06:15
Category: News, Patents


Per the cool cats at Free Patents Online, Apple is apparently investigating new ways of interacting with devices, such as using hand gestures to navigate and control a video recording system without touching anything.

Apple’s interest in hands-off control of a device like an iPhone, iPad or Mac was revealed this week in a new patent application made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Entitled “Real Time Video Process Control Using Gestures,” the filing, discovered by AppleInsider, is related to remotely controlling and editing video recordings on a mobile device.

Such editing could be done with gestures on a touchscreen, much like is already available on the iPhone and iPad. But within the application, Apple also makes mention of hand gestures that can be performed without touching the device.

The filing notes that a device could be controlled with hand gestures accomplished in either two or three dimensions, and these could be interpreted through infrared sensors, optical sensors, or other methods. These gestures could be used as a replacement for, or even in concert with, traditional touchscreen-based gestures.

“As with the touch based gestures applied on or near the touch sensitive input device, the hand gestures can be interpreted to provide instructions for real time processing of the video by the video capture device,” the filing reads.

Apple’s goal is to simplify and minimize the need for user input partially because the size of recording devices, like an iPhone or iPad, has become so small. The filing notes that placing a finger on a touch-sensitive display can cause a video capture device to move, and that movement is then translated to the video recording.

With Apple’s method, a remote camera could be controlled wirelessly from a second, separate device. An iPhone or iPad are specifically mentioned in the filing as potential options for a “control device.”

One image accompanying the application shows a video being recorded on an iPhone. That video is then transmitted wirelessly, via Bluetooth, to an iPad, where the user can view the video in real-time and make adjustments.

Given the volume of data that must be wirelessly transmitted, Apple’s solution is to automate real-time video processing as much as possible, identifying objects and individual people’s faces captured in a video. The filing even states that a system could help to determine how entities captured in the video relate to one other.

In one example provided, a video of two tennis players playing against each other could be analyzed to have a “negative correlation,” as one player is hitting the ball while the other is not.

“Therefore, by determining the relative correlation between these two players, an implicit association can be assigned to each,” the application reads.

Using this kind of data, the image could be framed according to user specifications. For example, after recognizing a specific face, a video capture device could zoom in and track that individual in real time, with minimal or no input from the user.

Apple’s proposed invention, published this week by the USPTO, was originally filed in April of 2010. It is credited to Benjamin A. Rottler and Michael Ingrassia Jr. I.

Apple releases Thunderbolt Software Update 1.1 firmware upgrade

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Date: Thursday, October 27th, 2011, 04:39
Category: News, Software

Late Tuesday, Apple released its Thunderbolt Software Update 1.1 firmware upgrade for its Thunderbolt-equipped Macs running Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”). The update, a 72.53 megabyte download, provides support for the Apple Thunderbolt Display and bug fixes for Thunderbolt device compatibility.

In addition to the direct download, Thunderbolt Software Update 1.1 is available through Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature. The update requires a Thunderbolt-equipped Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases iPhoto 9.2.1 update

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Date: Thursday, October 27th, 2011, 03:27
Category: News, Software


Along with almost everything else, Apple released iPhoto 9.2.1 on Thursday, the latest version of its image organization and editing application. The update, a 357 megabyte download which can be be snagged directly or via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature, offers the following major fix:

– Addresses an issue that could cause iPhoto to quit unexpectedly on Macs with the 3ivxVideoCodec plug-in installed.

iPhoto 9.2.1 retails for US$49 as part of iLife ’11 and requires Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any changes, please let us know.

iPhone 4S reservation/pickup program launches in San Francisco

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Date: Wednesday, October 26th, 2011, 10:06
Category: iPhone, News, retail

Reservations are preferred.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Wednesday began offering customers in San Francisco the ability to order a product online and pick it up in a local retail store.

When checking out from Apple’s online store, a new “Pick up” option is available, from which users can select a store in San Francisco, Calif. It also states that the in-store pickup option is “coming soon to a U.S. Apple Store near you.”

The “Select an Apple Store” feature allows users to enter their zip code and find a local Apple Store, though for now the program is limited to San Francisco. Users who pick up their order at an Apple Retail Store get Personal Setup for any new Apple product.

Products listed as “Available now” at the store can be picked up within an hour. Customers can also designate someone other than themselves to pick up an order.

Word first surfaced on Monday that Apple was planning to launch its in-store pickup option in its online store. The pilot program was tested internally at the company under the codename “Sherwood.”

In addition to in-store pickup, Apple’s retail stores are also expected to begin accepting returns of online orders. By doing this, customers can avoid shipping an item back to Apple for the return process.

Apple began offering an in-store pickup option in a limited capacity in 2009, with a Christmastime “Reserve and Pick Up” program. That was restricted to specific products: the iPhone, iPod and MacBook lineups, Mac mini, iMac and Mac Pro. It did not include accessories.

But Apple’s new in-store pickup option applies to any product available in Apple’s online store, including accessories such as iPhone and iPad cases.

Apple’s retail operations has become a very important part of the company’s business model. The company revealed in its last quarterly earnings report that it plans to expand many of its retail locations in the U.S., as officials believe the current stores are now “too constrained” to properly serve the high volume of customers they experience.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve tried the iPhone 4S reservation system and have any feedback to offer, let us know.

Catcher unibody plant may reopen as early as next week

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Date: Wednesday, October 26th, 2011, 06:08
Category: MacBook Pro, News


Maybe the problems weren’t as bad as they said they were.

Per Reuters, Apple supplier Catcher Technology said Wednesday that its China plant that builds unibody MacBook cases will fully reopen at the end of October.

The new details from Taipei, Taiwan are an indication that any supply constraints experienced by Apple could be relatively short-lived. The company was ordered to shut down a factory that builds unibody enclosures for Apple on Oct. 16.

That plant in Eastern China was said to produce 60 percent of Apple’s unibody enclosures for its MacBook Pro and MacBook Air products. The plant has also been responsible for casings for Apple’s all-in-one iMac desktop.

Catcher had previously said that a partial production halt at the factory would slash shipments in October by 20 percent. That number could have grown to as much as 40 percent in November if the local government refused to allow the plant to resume production.

But with Wednesday’s announcement that the plan will open at the end of the month, any concerns about November production appear to be assuaged. Last week, Catcher had originally said it hoped to reopen its plant at some time in November.

The Catcher facility was closed due to “strange odors” said to have been emanating from the plant. The shutdown came just as Apple reported its best quarter ever for Mac sales, reaching 4.9 million units.

Apple quietly updated its MacBook Pro lineup on Monday, with slightly faster Intel processors and updated graphics, while some models gained larger hard drives. The design of the notebooks remains unchanged, featuring Apple’s signature unibody look.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

64-bit MacBook Pro notebooks may take up to 16GB of RAM

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Date: Wednesday, October 26th, 2011, 06:12
Category: MacBook Pro, News


In a somewhat surprising discovery, the cool cats at CNET, have discovered that despite the specified amount of RAM your MacBook Pro can max out at, the machine will still recognize and use more RAM if it’s available. With that in mind, the article recommends using the System Profile utility.

It gets interesting from there:

“These days all of Apple’s Macs are 64-bit machines, which means that theoretically they can access terabytes upon terabytes of memory; however, despite this there is a physical hardware limit on the amount of RAM a system can contain. This is true both in terms of physical capability but also in a built-in limit in the system’s memory controllers on how much RAM it can recognize. As a result, despite having 64-bit capability, many systems are built with limitations that allow them to hold a maximum of 4 or 8GB of RAM.

Even though they are 64-bit capable, Apple’s MacBook Pro systems have been offered with 8GB RAM as the maximum configuration. More recent models, including those released in 2011, have been built with a higher RAM limit, so even though Apple only offers 8GB RAM and mentions this as the maximum amount of RAM the systems can hold, in reality they can recognize up to 16GB if you add it.

These systems are the ones with the model number series of MacBookPro8,x or later, which include the following:
– MacBook Pro 13-inch 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5

– MacBook Pro 13-inch 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5

– MacBook Pro 13-inch 2.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i7

– MacBook Pro 13-inch 2.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i7

– MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

– MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

– MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

– MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

– MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

– MacBook Pro 17-inch 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

– MacBook Pro 17-inch 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

– MacBook Pro 17-inch 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

– MacBook Pro 17-inch 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i7

If you have one of these systems, then you should be able to install up to 16GB of RAM if needed, which can be purchased from vendors such as Crucial or Other World Computing.”

While this upgrade is possible, do keep in mind that it will not be cheap. Even though memory prices are very low these days because low PC demand has resulted in a surplus of components, the low prices are only for relatively common RAM modules, which include the 4GB and 8GB modules. The 16GB upgrades are not as common for laptop systems, so expect to pay around US$600 if you want 16GB of RAM in a laptop system.

If you’ve tried this on your MacBook Pro, please let us know how it went and how much you paid for the RAM. Beyond that, have fun and let us know what your notebook’s true maxed out RAM capacity is.

Google Chrome updated to 15.0.874.102, moves beyond beta version in 15.x version

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Date: Wednesday, October 26th, 2011, 05:46
Category: News, Software


Google Chrome, Google’s new web browser, just reached version 15.0.874.102 for the Mac. The new version, a 34.9 megabyte download, offers the following change:

– Crash fix.

The release is also significant in that this is the first version of Google 15.x that moves beyond the beta stage and is now classified as stable.

Google Chrome 15.0.874.102 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the feedback and comments.

Apple cites iPhone 4S, MacBook Air and Mac mini products as “Bluetooth Smart Ready”

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Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, 11:32
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Mac mini, MacBook Air, News

No one ever said wireless communication with devices was a bad thing.

Per AppleInsider, Apple’s latest products, including the iPhone 4S and updated Mac mini and MacBook Air, are among a group of low-power Bluetooth devices now branded as “Bluetooth Smart Ready.”

Bluetooth Smart is a new brand extension given by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group to devices that implement Bluetooth 4.0. Compatible devices include phones, tablets, PCs and TVs.

“Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready devices will revolutionize the way we collect, share and use information,” said Michael Foley, Ph.D., executive director of the Bluetooth SIG. “In order to ensure consumers know what these extraordinary devices have to offer, we created the Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready marks. These new logos will help consumers manage compatibility, and encourage manufacturers to build their best Bluetooth devices yet.”

Bluetooth Smart devices are sensor-type devices like heart-rate monitors or pedometers. They run on button-cell batteries and were created to collect only a specific piece of information.

Bluetooth Smart Ready devices can connect to traditional Bluetooth devices, as well as new Bluetooth Smart devices that are just starting to enter the market. But Bluetooth Smart devices, because of their lower power consumption, will only connect with products labeled as Bluetooth Smart Ready.

Packages will now carry three potential logos created by the Bluetooth SIG to help consumers identify what their device offers, whether it be traditional Bluetooth, Bluetooth Smart, or Bluetooth Smart Ready.

“Consumers can look at new Bluetooth Smart Ready devices the same way they would a 3D ready TV — having the TV is just the first part of the puzzle, you need glasses and content in order to really experience 3D,” said Suke Jawanda, CMO of the Bluetooth SIG. “Once consumers have a Bluetooth Smart Ready device, like the new iPhone 4S, they can continue connecting to existing Bluetooth devices and are also ready to experience the new world of Bluetooth Smart peripheral devices that will carry the Bluetooth Smart logo.”

Bluetooth 4.0 support first appeared in Apple’s products in July, when the MacBook Air lineup and Mac mini were refreshed. Other Macs released this year — new iMacs and MacBook Pros — only support Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate), but Bluetooth 4.0 also came to the new iPhone 4S released earlier this month.

Apple joined the Bluetooth SIG board of directors in June, and now takes part in overseeing the development of standards and licensing for the short-range wireless technology. When Apple joined, the special interest group said the iPhone maker would provide insight on platform development, as the company understands that technology is now driven by “hub devices” that capture data, utilize data at the application layer, and even upload it to the cloud.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Apple TV 4.4.2, MacBook Pro Video Update 1.0 firmware fixes

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Date: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011, 05:02
Category: Apple TV, MacBook Pro, News, Software


You’ve got to love firmware updates, as they tend to put things back on the right path again.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Monday issued Apple TV software update 4.4.2 to resolve issues with recent versions of the set-top box’s software, as well as Video Update 1.0 for mid-2010 15-inch MacBook Pros.

Regarding the Apple TV 4.4.2 update, Apple advised users to first reset all settings if they are already running versions 4.4 or 4.4.1.

“Apple TV devices with software version 4.4 and 4.4.1 have an issue with updating software to later versions,” Apple wrote in a support note for the update. “We recognize that this is an inconvenience and apologize.”

Last week, Apple released Apple TV Software Update 4.4.1 to fix minor bugs in version 4.4, but quickly took it down after users reported problems with it.

Released earlier this month, Apple TV software version 4.4 added Photo Stream compatibility, Trailers, Wall Street Journal Live and National Hockey League content. The update also added support for subtitles in Netflix and three new slideshow themes.

The MacBook Pro Video Update 1.0 addresses an issue where 15-inch mid-2010 models would intermittently freeze or stop displaying video. The 70.97MB download requires Mac OS X Lion 10.7.2 to install and run.

Apple had previously identified the problem as occurring in 15-inch MacBook Pros manufactured between April 2010 and February 2011. The bug caused both built-in and external displays on some machines to turn black or gray before freezing up or ceasing to display video.

If you’ve tried either update and noticed any changes, please let us know what you make of them in the comments section.

Rumor: Apple creating HDTV prototypes for late 2012 launch

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Date: Monday, October 24th, 2011, 08:08
Category: Hardware, News, Rumor


Prior to his passing away, Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs stated that he wanted to capture the television market.

This might be the first step towards that goal.

Per AppleInsider, analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray revealed in a note to investors on Monday that a source close to an Asian component supplier claimed in September that Apple was building prototype models of its rumored high-definition television set.

Munster has long been a believer that Apple will enter the television market, saying as far back as February 2009 that he believed the company was working on a major entrance into the living room. He sees Apple building an all-in-one, Internet-connected television set with access to the App Store and iTunes content.

If Apple were to launch a TV set in late 2012, he believes it would add about 3 percent to the company’s revenue in 2013. With a projected 220 million flat panel TVs to be sold in 2012, 48 percent, or 106 million, will be Internet-connected devices, and he sees Apple selling 1.4 million of those.

With the addition of iCloud and Siri voice control, Munster believes Apple is even more prepared to launch an HDTV in the coming years. With iCloud, users could access TV shows, pictures, and potentially moves, while Siri could “simplify the chore of inputting information like show titles, or actor names, into a TV.”

Munster also met with sources in Asia in January of this year, where he heard word that Apple is investing in manufacturing facilities and securing supply for LCD displays. The company is said to have invested in screen sizes of up to 50 inches for a potential television set.

Rumors of an Apple-built HDTV began to pick up steam once again last week, when it was revealed that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told his biographer that he had “cracked’ the secret to building an integrated, easy-to-use television set. He said the device “will have the simplest user interface you could imagine.”

Apple is currently in the set-top box market with its US$99 Apple TV, but the company has famously referred to its interest in that market as a “hobby.” The Apple TV allows users to purchase content from iTunes, while new features like wireless AirPlay mirroring have been added with recent software updates.

Stay tune for additional details as they become available and if you have any features you’d love to see on an Apple-branded HDTV, let us know what they might be in the comments.