O'Grady's PowerPage » Patents

Apple Patent Applications Discovered for iPhone Stylus, Contextual User Interfaces

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, January 14th, 2010, 06:03
Category: Patents

3gs.jpg

A series of recently published patent applications shows that Apple has been looking into creating a stylus for use on a touch-sensitive panel like the iPhone, and creating dynamic user interfaces for mobile devices that would adapt to location and use.

Per AppleInsider, the first patent application addresses the idea of a conductive tip for a stylus that would be recognized by such a screen.

“A metallic or otherwise conductive disk may be attached to one end of the stylus,” the application reads. “The disk may be sized so as to guarantee sufficient electrical interaction with at least one sensory element of the touch sensor panel.”

The application also presents the option of a powered stylus that would provide the stimulus signal required by a capacitive touch screen. A powered stylus could also include sensors that would measure elements like force and angle that would transmit additional information to the device.

“This additional data can be used for selecting various features in an application executing on the host device (e.g., selecting various colors, brushes, shading, line widths, etc.),” the application reads.

The invention is credited to John G. Elias, an Apple employee and co-founder of FingerWorks, the firm acquired by Apple during the development of the original iPhone. The application is titled “Stylus Adapted For Low Resolution Touch Sensor Panels.” It was submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on July 11th, 2008.

The other application focuses on the idea that future portable devices could have different input methods and user interfaces depending on where they are located.

For example, using the device in the car or in the gym could show a different design on the screen. Devices could also be controlled in different fashions when they are docked and less portable, and a different design and input method might make more sense.

“Each mode may define different features and content that are customized for a particular mode,” the application reads. “Based a selected mode, the media player may provide access to only content, features, hardware, user interface elements, and the like that the user wishes to have access to when the mode is enabled. The media player may provide the user different experiences, looks, and feels for each mode.”

Users would be able to customize each of the different GUIs available. The goal, the application states, is to create a “cleaner, more focused user experience.”

Custom layouts and playlists could be created for use at the gym or while driving, which would automatically be reconfigured when a particular mode is enabled.

“The mode may further specify how applications relevant to the mode may be displayed, such as backgrounds, icons, style information, themes, or other information that provides a visual indicator of the active mode,” the document reads.

The application, entitled “Multi-Model Modes of One Device,” is credited to William Bull and Ben Rottler. It was submitted on Sept. 9th, 2008.

Recently Published Apple Patent Reveals Possible Tablet Interface

Posted by:
Date: Friday, October 2nd, 2009, 03:19
Category: Patents

applelogo1.jpg

Via a recently published patent application, Apple has again disclosed plans for a multi-touch surface that could accommodate two full hands and distinguish between palms and individual fingers for typing, gestures and more. According to AppleInsider, the application, filed by Morrison and Foerster LLP in Los Angeles in June 2009 on behalf of Apple, expands on information made available last year. The massive document details a hand-based system that would allow “unprecedented integration of typing, resting, pointing, scrolling, 3D manipulation, and handwriting into a versatile, ergonomic computer input device.”

The document notes that input with a stylus, mouse, keyboard and voice recognition are all options that work well in specific circumstances, but are not dynamic enough to address the many needs of users. But, it states, many of those needs can be met with touch-sensitive technology that can recognize a number of hand configurations.

“Many attempts have been made to embed pointing devices in a keyboard so the hands do not have to leave typing position to access the pointing device… The limited movement range and resolution of these devices, leads to poorer pointing speed and accuracy than a mouse, and they add mechanical complexity to keyboard construction,” the application reads. “Thus there exists a need in the art for pointing methods with higher resolution, larger movement range, and more degrees of freedom yet which are easily accessible from typing hand positions.”

The described system in the patent application would individually detect all ten fingers and separate palms on a person’s hand, giving the ability to type, write, draw and interact with a device large enough to support multiple hands. Examples of the touchscreen’s capabilities include resting of hands, measuring when a hand or fingers touches and leaves the surface, interpreting taps from one finger as mouse button clicks, but disregarding a tap from two fingers, and more. Activities done with multiple fingers are referred to as “chords.”

Such a system could adapt to individual hand sizes, eliminate the need for a stylus and mouse and would require minimal typing force. The application notes that there are other patents for touchscreen devices that negate the need for a keyboard or mouse, but states that Apple’s method is unique because it addresses both needs.

Typing is a large part of the lengthy application. The document goes into great detail about how a multi-touch interface could distinguish what keys a set of hands intend to type on the surface. It discusses pressure on the sides or center of individual fingers and palms, and how to interpret those various signals.

Key points of the invention, as described in the application, include:

-Integrating and distinguishing different types of input, such as typing, multiple degree-of-freedom manipulation, and handwriting, via different hand configurations that are easy to use and recognize.

-Includes an electronic system which minimizes the number of sensing electrodes to allow easier understanding of a variety of hand configurations.

-Provide a multi-touch surface that is contoured to be comfortable and ergonomic under extended use.

-Provide tactile key or hand position feedback without interfering with a hand resting on the smooth touch-sensitive surface.

-Provide images of “flesh proximity” to a variety of sensors that can distinguish hand configuration.

-Understand when the user wants cursor motion, and ignore commands when deceleration by the user is detected.

-Understand the movement of two or more hands to allow manipulation of two-dimensional electronic documents, like rotation and scaling of photos.

The application is partially credited to Wayne Westerman of Fingerworks, a company absorbed by Apple several years ago as part of its quest to deliver iPhone and a new generation of input devices.

Apple has reportedly been at work on the tablet project for several years, and the hardware has seen numerous internal iterations. The current device is believed to have a 10″ screen, 3G connectivity, and sport a custom-made chip from P.A. Semi.

Apple Files Patent for iPhone Theft Prevention Technology

Posted by:
Date: Friday, September 11th, 2009, 05:58
Category: iPhone 3GS, Patents, security

3gs.jpg

A recently published patent application filed this week by Apple suggests the company is looking to use the device’s accelerometer to detect possible theft of the hardware. Per AppleInsider, in a application entitled “Acceleration-Based Theft Detection System for Portable Electronic Devices,” Apple describes a system that would analyze movement via a device’s accelerometer to determine whether a theft is present. If the system were to interpret fast movement as a theft, it would initiate an alarm.

“The drive toward miniaturization of electronics has resulted in computer-based systems that are becoming much more portable,” the application reads. “Current portable electronic devices such as laptop computers, hand-held devices such as cellular telephones and personal media devices, such as the iPod from Apple Computer, Inc., and even devices such as compact disc players, are sufficiently compact and lightweight as to make them easily movable. Unfortunately, such ease of transport also implies ease of theft. While the rightful owner of a portable electronic device may conveniently transport it almost anywhere, so can a thief. ”

The patent application goes on to state that traditional theft-prevention methods like mechanical locks are bulky and tether the device, eliminating portability and convenience. In the proposed system, the accelerometer would be used to determine whether the device is currently in a likely theft condition.

“Typically, theft or other large-scale movement of the device results in an acceleration signal having characteristics different from other events such as shock, impact, nearby machinery, etc,” the application reads. “The detected acceleration as a function of time is thus analyzed to determine whether it corresponds to such large-scale movement of the device, rather than an innocuous event such as the impact of a book dropped nearby. If so, an alarm is produced in order to alert others to the theft.”

The described system would have methods to prevent false alarms through “signal conditioning,” which could filter out events such as shock or impact associated with an iPhone being dropped. The system would also allow the phone owner to display a “visual warning” for potential would-be thieves. Such a warning would warn potential thieves that the device “has an active theft detection system protecting it.”

The patent was filed by Apple on May 20th, 2009 and is credited to Paul J. Wehrenberg of Palo Alto, Calif.

Recent Apple Patents Suggest Upcoming Facial Recognition, Improved Videoconferencing Systems

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

applelogo_silver

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 Files Patent for Motion-Adaptive iPhone Software

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, April 16th, 2009, 08:56
Category: iPhone, Patents, Software

3giphone.jpg
Apple may be looking into creating a version of its iPhone with a front-facing camera as well as a software interface capable of adjusting itself for more precise interaction when the user carrying the phone is in motion.
While the front-facing camera idea hints towards the inevitable adoption of video conference capabilities by the iPhone in the coming years, the adaptive software interface concept could become a reality that much sooner, improving a user’s accuracy in making touch selections by increasing the size of user interface elements on the touch-screen when its determined that the user is operating the device while jogging or participation in some other kind of motion-based activity.
According to AppleInsider, Apple has filed a patent that proposes an updated version of its iPhone OS software that can detect when the device is in motion and then compare the detected degree of motion to one or more predetermined “signatures of motion.” The iPhone software could then adjust itself by enlarging selection areas on the screen to a degree suitable for the current motion of the device and user.
“For example, if the user wishes to view the contact information for ‘John Adams,’ the user touches the display over the area of the row for the contact ‘John Adams,” Apple says. “While the device is moving, the motion of the device can be detected. The device can change the size of the rows of the contacts in the contact list application to give the user a larger target area for each contact. For example, the height of a row can be increased. This gives the user a larger touch area with which to select a contact. In some implementations, the height of the toolbar can be increased as well.”
The 16-page patent filing made back in November of 2007 also suggests that interface elements, such as an array of home screen icons, could shift their position on the screen based on predictions of where the user may touch the screen. Oddly enough, the need for such adjustments isn’t entirely clear from Apple’s description.
“The shift moves the target touch areas of the display objects to a different position. In some implementations, the new position is a predetermined distance from the original position,” the company says. “In some other implementations, the new position is determined by the device based on a prediction of where the user will touch the touch-sensitive display if the user wanted to select the user interface element while the device is in motion.”
The filing is credited to Apple employee John Louch.

Apple Publishes Five New Patents, Three Relating to Wi-Fi iPod Systems

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, August 30th, 2007, 12:50
Category: Patents

fruitlogo1.jpg
On Thursday, the United States Patent and Trademark Office published five new Apple patents under the titles “Methods and apparatuses for pixel transformations, Interface for defining aperture”, “Power management in a portable media delivery system”, “Dynamic power management in a portable media delivery system” and “Media delivery system with improved interaction.”
According to MacNN, the final three patents focus on Wi-Fi functionality in an iPod. Such a feature has been anticipated for some time and may come to light with the new iPods due out on September 5th.
Patent details are as follows:
“iPod Wi-Fi: Power management in a portable media delivery system”
Click the jump for the full story…

(more…)

Apple Files Movable-Interface Patent for iPhone

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, August 28th, 2007, 16:35
Category: Patents

iphone.jpg
Even if you’re not currently blown away with the iPhone, there’s more to come.
According to MacNN, Apple has reportedly filed a patent with the World Intellectual Property Organization covering a user interface on portable devices with touchscreen interface that would allow for quick, tactile reconfiguration of on-screen elements such as icons.
In this case, a user could drag an icon to a desired location, such as with a widget under Dashboard. The method would allow for easy reconfiguration of icons as well as allow them to be automatically displaced by other icons.
The patent is currently filed under application number 60,755,368, was filed on December 30th of 2005 and credits Marcel Van Os, Freddy A. Anzures, Scott, Forstall, Greg Christie, Bas Ording, Imran Chaudhri and Stephen Lemay as inventors of the patent.
Stay tuned to the PowerPage for further details and if you have any thoughts or ideas on this, let us know in the comments or forums.

(more…)

Apple Files Patent for Retractable Port Technology

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, August 16th, 2007, 14:19
Category: Patents

retractports1.jpg
Opera’s been updated and the Skype network is apparently barfing on itself, but there’s still some cool news today. According to MacNN, Apple may be planning to offer a retractable set of ports on its future laptops.
A recently discovered patent submitted to the United States Patent and Trademark Office outlines a “Connection System” in which various ports located toward the rear of an Apple laptop would flip down to provide access when needed.
The patent also describes an alternate system in which access points to each port would open and close individually. Such a system might allow Apple to save space by recessing the connection points into the laptop and allow the company to create a tapered edge around the laptop when the ports were in a closed position.
No word has been given as to when this might make its way into a future Apple laptop and whether this would be focused on the consumer-oriented MacBook, the professionally-oriented MacBook Pro or Apple’s long-awaited sub-notebook, which has been in the rumor mill for some time now.
If you have any thoughts or ideas on this, let us know in the comments or forums.

(more…)