Apple looking into technologies to help improve iOS device typing speed/autocorrect

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, June 28th, 2012, 06:47
Category: News, Patents, Software

applelogo_silver

This could be useful.

Per AppleInsider, a trio of patent applications published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and discovered on Thursday show that Apple is looking into automatic typing and spelling correction, while a third application could indirectly relate to the feature.

Timing and Geometry:
Application No. 12/976834, titled “Combining timing and geometry information for typing correction,” describes a process for using keystroke geometry and timing to better detect a user’s intended input.

In one embodiment of the invention, a string of typed characters is timestamped and can be analyzed by a process for use in either autocorrection or autocompletion. The invention also suggests that “baseline typing speed data” could be gathered in order to determine whether double strikes, transpositions or other errors have occurred.

“For example, if the string “theere” is entered and the time between the keystrokes “ee” is less than an associated baseline by more than a threshold amount, the replacement candidate “there” may be assigned a higher score,” the application read.

Apple’s invention could start with a pre-determined typing speed that would be monitored and adjusted in case users type slower or faster than a “typical” user.

The system would also take into account the location of letters on the keyboard and the geometry of the typed words in order to catch mistakes.

“For example, a word that is similar to the typed text except for one or more errors associated potentially with keyboard geometry, such as differing by a letter where the correct letter is located adjacent to the typed incorrect letter on the keyboard, may be suggested,” Apple wrote.

Douglas Davidson and Karan Misra are named as the inventors of the patent, which Apple filed for in late 2010.

Parts of Speech:
A second autocorrect-related patent application (No. 12/976849) is entitled “Using parts-of-speech tagging and named entity recognition for spelling correction.” The proposed process involves understanding the context surrounding typed words in order to tag their parts of speech and identify named entities, such as differentiating between the company “Apple” and reference to the fruit.

The technical details for Apple’s invention are relatively advanced, as they involve a “statistical language model.” That process would involve parsing words, phrases and sentences and would make use of clues like capitalization, suffixes and prefixes and other “contextual features.”

Apple filed for the patent in December 2010. Brent Ramerth, Douglas Davidson and Jennifer Moore are listed as its inventors.

Contextual Lookup:
Apple’s application for “Using statistical language models for contextual lookup” (No. 12/976864), closely resembles the aforementioned parts-of-speech tagging application, but it describes a system for applying language processing to search queries.

According to the invention, a process for analyzing parts of speech could help make searching documents or the Internet more efficient. In its filing, Apple provided examples of phrases and words that could be interpreted different ways and would benefit from a process for forming specific and targeted searches.

Autocorrect Lawsuit:
Apple has put some of its autocorrect-related patents to work in its legal complaint against rival handset maker Samsung. In February, the compiled asserted a patent for a “Method, system, and graphical user interface for providing word recommendations” against the South Korean company.

Autocorrect on the iPhone has also entered popular culture by giving rise to several Websites documenting humorous or embarrassing instances of the feature, such as Damn You Auto Correct! and Autocorrect Fail.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recent patent application shows Apple’s interest in improving brightness controls on OLED screens

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, April 26th, 2012, 06:00
Category: News, Patents

applelogo_silver

It’s the patent applications that show where things might be going.

Per Free Patents Online, Apple has apparently proposed a way of improving brightness control on organic light emitting diode displays.

One of the key advantages of OLED is that, unlike LCD, it does not employ a backlight to illuminate the screen. While this can lead to superior picture quality and improved battery life, it can also make adjusting the brightness of the screen more difficult, Apple notes in a newly published patent application.

The filing, entitled “OLED Driving Technique,” explains that traditional LCD brightness is adjusted by simply increasing or decreasing the amount of light emitted by a backlight. But that’s not possible with an OLED display, as each pixel on an OLED screen emits light individually.

That means device makers must adjust the amount of power supplied to each OLED pixel, making it a far more complex endeavor to adjust brightness than an LCD display with a dedicated backlight.

“While increasing or decreasing the amount of power may increase or decrease the amount of light emitted by each OLED, the precise amount of light emitted by each OLED may vary according to nonlinear function,” Apple’s filing reads. “As such, many techniques for adjusting the brightness of OLED screens have conventionally involved performing complex calculations on image data to ensure that when a brightness-adjusted image id displayed on the OLED display, each pixel displays a proper color and brightness.”

In other words, the amount of light output by an individual OLED pixel varies nonlinearly with the amount of power supplied to the OLED pixel. As a result, increasing or decreasing the brightness does not directly correlate to simply increasing or decreasing the power supplied to each pixel.

Apple goes on to explain that dimming values must be extracted from image data on a system, and that data must then be converted to an analog OLED pixel brightness control signal. This complex method can consume system resources and reduce battery life, and it may also be incompatible with existing LCD brightness control mechanisms, requiring major changes to software that already drives LCD screens.

Apple’s proposed solutions aim to offer “efficient brightness control” with OLED screens. One described method would take image data and transform it into a “logarithmic domain,” from which a “dimming control value” could be subtracted.

“This resulting log-encoded dimmed image data may represent a darker version of the originally received image data,” the filing reads. “Thereafter, a pixel of the organic light emitting diode display may be driven based at least in part on the dimmed image data.”

In Apple’s method, image data could be converted in the data driver of an integrated circuit connected to the OLED screen. This data would be converted from a “framebuffer encoding” gamma-corrected color space to a logarithmic value.

“From this logarithmic value, a digital dimming control value may be subtracted rather than divided,” the filing states. “This dimmed logarithmic image data may be converted directly to an analog OLED pixel brightness control signal, without first being converted to a linear digital value, via a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) programmed to convert the logarithmic digital image data to the OLED pixel brightness control signal.”

Apple’s solution would enable simplified dimming of OLED, and would convert the data associated with adjusting brightness from digital to analog. But Apple’s method would do so with fewer bits, and would be less taxing on a mobile device like an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook.

The illustrations accompanying the application specifically show a MacBook Pro as a potential device that could utilize an OLED screen, although the filing notes that Apple’s method of controlling OLED brightness could be used on any device, from smartphones to television sets.

Apple has shown continued interest in OLED screens through patent filings, with one proposed invention last year that aimed to improve power efficiency of OLED screens. However, some industry watchers have said that OLED technology, and the production of OLED screens, are not yet mature enough to meet Apple’s standards and requirements.

The latest OLED filing, published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was originally submitted in October of 2010. It is credited to Ulrich T. Barnhoefer and Lee Yongman.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent describes effort to create smoother, “unibody” earbuds through ultrasonic bonding process

Posted by:
Date: Friday, April 13th, 2012, 07:58
Category: Hardware, Patents

applelogo_silver

Your Apple earbuds, they could get better through an ultrasonic bonding process.

Per FreePatentsOnline, a new patent application entitled “Ultrasonically Welded Structures and Methods for Making the Same,” describes how different components could be welded together for a seamless look for the Apple earbuds.

Apple describes the new headphones as having an appearance that they were constructed as “a seamless unibody structure,” even though the earbuds may include two different component pieces welded together.

Combining two different elements in this way may form a weld ring that can be cut, sanded, polished and cleaned. This allows the headphone to appear to be one piece, even though it may actually be a number of connected pieces.

Apple’s desire to build a better set of earbuds was also detailed in a separate application published this week, entitled “Curved Plastic Object and Systems and Methods for Deburring the Same.” It describes building curved plastic objects in the shape of a cap or grill of a headphone or earbud.

The filing notes that holes are needed in earbuds to allow sound to travel, but the creation of those holes can result in remnants in or around them that degrade both the appearance of the device and the acoustic properties of the headphones.

The solution presented in that application is a tool for “deburring” a curved plastic object. The tool could be coated in an abrasive material and would conform to the shape of the curved object, then polish it by vibrating while in contact with the plastic surface.

Both the inner and outer surfaces would be both “deburred” and polished, ensuring that no remnants remain in the holes or on any surface of the headphones.

The ultrasonic welding patent application is credited to Jeff Hayashida, Jonathan Aase, Rico Zorkendorfer, and Evans M. Hankey. Both Hayashida and Aase are also credited with the curved plastic patent application.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent hints at 3D photography on iOS devices

Posted by:
Date: Friday, March 30th, 2012, 06:46
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Patents

applelogo_silver

Your iOS may one day shoot 3D pictures.

Which would be a cool thing.

According to a recently published application discovered by Patently Apple on Thursday, Apple may be looking into a way in which cameras in iOS-based devices would snap 3D images. According to the blog, which tracks all Apple patents and applications, the technology would utilize “depth-detection sensors,” like radar and lidar, and use the latest and greatest luminance sensors to recreate an image’s color as accurately as possible. By the time the picture is taken, it’ll deliver a full 3D image.

The fact that Apple is thinking about 3D implementation on the iPhone and iPad isn’t necessarily a surprise, given the importance the third dimension has taken on across the industry. At this point, it’s hard to find a television that doesn’t come with 3D support. And across the mobile space, more and more companies are starting to integrate 3D features.

For years now, it’s been believed that Apple would bring some sort of 3D integration to the iPhone and iPad, but there hasn’t really been much talk of the camera on the devices handling the task.

Apple’s patent application, however, takes things further than just snapping an image. According to the patent, the technology can scan an object and create a 3D model on the device. It could also come with facial-gesture recognition that can detect smiling, grimacing, and frowning.

It’s just a patent application for the time being, but it could lead to something cool.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recently-released Apple patent discusses touch-based screen featuring haptic feedback

Posted by:
Date: Friday, March 23rd, 2012, 06:13
Category: News, Patents

applelogo_silver

When in doubt, make your touchscreens better.

Per FreePatentsOnline.com, in an effort to make touchscreens less static, Apple has proposed that future iPhones and iPads could feature actuators that would provide haptic feedback to users, and also include sensors that would measure the force at which a user touches the screen.

The concept was unveiled this week in a patent application entitled “Touch-Based User Interface with Haptic Feedback.” The use of actuators underneath a touchscreen could allow users to actually feel elements on the screen, such as buttons or controls.

The timing of the application being made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is interesting because one rumor from earlier this month incorrectly suggested Apple would introduce new haptic feedback technology in its third-generation iPad. That rumor was based on technology from the company Senseg, which creates an electric field on the surface of a touchscreen, allowing users to feel complex, context-sensitive textures, such as making a surface feel smooth or rough to the touch.

The concept described in Apple’s new patent application is quite different, relying on actuators to physically provide haptic feedback on a touchscreen, rather than giving sensations through an electric field. But it demonstrates Apple’s continued pursuit of providing users with some sort of physical feedback when using a touchscreen device.

“The user can typically only feel the rigid surface of the touch screen, making it difficult to find icons, hyperlinks, textboxes, or other user-selectable elements that are being displayed,” Apple’s filing reads. “A touch-based user interface may help a user navigate content displayed on the display screen by incorporating haptic feedback.”

Rather than simply vibrating the device when a button is tapped, as some touchscreen devices do, Apple’s solution could utilize piezoelectric actuators for “localized haptic feedback.” This would allow the user to feel a virtual button on their fingertips.

Specifically named as products that could benefit from haptic feedback in the application are the iPhone and iPad, as well as the Magic Mouse and Apple’s notebook trackpads.

The application describes a touchscreen with a “haptic feedback layer” that could include piezoelectric actuators aligned in a grid pattern. These actuators could be located below an external protective layer that the user would touch to interact with the device, or the haptic layer itself could be the outermost layer.

The actuators could be used to replace the mechanical “click” of a mouse, or would allow users to “feel” selectable buttons or icons displayed on a touchscreen device.

Another element described in the application is the use of “force sensors” in a touchscreen device. With these, an iPhone or iPad could determine how much force a user is applying to the touch-based user interface, and respond to just how hard the user is tapping the screen.

To allow this, the outer screen of the device would “flex minimally,” but enough that the force sensors would be able to detect any pushing or squeezing of the device by the user.

The application, made public this week, was first filed by Apple in September of 2010. The proposed invention is credited to Paul G. Puskarich and Michael Pilliod.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent shows effort to develop thinner keyboards

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, February 23rd, 2012, 07:51
Category: News, Patents

applelogo_silver

Remember your Apple keyboard?

It might just be about to go through a training montage and get thinner in the process.

Per Free Patents Online, Apple may be looking to make its notebook computers and keyboard accessories even thinner and lighter with a brand new take on the classic input method.

Apple’s interest in reinventing the keyboard was revealed in a new patent application entitled “Single Support Lever Keyboard Mechanism,” it describes a handful of ways that a keyboard could be shrunk in size without affecting its performance.

In the filing, Apple notes that the size of existing keyboards presents a challenge for the company as it attempts to design thinner, lighter and more attractive devices.

“It would be beneficial to provide a keyboard for a portable computing device that is aesthetically pleasing, yet still provides the stability for each key that users desire,” the application reads. “It would also be beneficial to provide methods for manufacturing the keyboard having an especially aesthetic design as well as functionality for the portable computing device.”

One of the most common keyboard types is the “dome switch,” in which the key pushes down on a rubber dome located beneath the key. Other types of keyboards include capacitive, mechanical switch, Hall-effect, membrane, and roll-up, and each offer their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of two important categories: response (positive feedback that the key has been pressed) and travel (the distance needed to push the key).

Apple’s solution is a single support lever keyboard mechanism, which the proposed invention says would allow the keyboard cap to be formed of almost any material, but would also provide stability to each key.

The application notes that the material chosen for the key caps is very important, not only for the appearance of the keyboard but also how it feels on users’ fingers. The application includes a number of potential off-the-wall materials that could be used, like glass, wood, stone, and even “polished meteorite.”

Regardless of the material, Apple’s keyboard key caps would be held in place by a rigid support lever. With its design, the keys could have a total travel range of as little as 0.2 millimeters.

In another method, Apple describes a support lever holding the key cap that would be made of a flexible material. This support lever could be made of spring steel that could allow good tactile feedback to the user when they are typing.

The key cap and support lever would have an “elastomeric spacer” between them and a metal dome positioned below. The spacer would be made of a material such as rubber or silicone that would “provide a desirable and distinctive feel to the user when pressed,” in addition to reducing rattling on the keyboard.

“The advantages of the invention are numerous,” the filing states, adding: “One advantage of the invention is that a low-travel keyboard may be provided for a thin-profile computing device without compromising the tactile feel of the keyboard.”

The filing, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed by Apple in August of 2010. It is credited to Patrick Kessier, Bradley Hamel, and James J. Niu.

Cool stuff if it happens and stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple universal remote patent points towards upcoming television set

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, January 26th, 2012, 05:26
Category: News, Patents

applelogo_silver

It’s the patent applications that provide the niftiest hints.

Per Free Patents Online, Apple has shown interest in building a new, simplified remote control that would automatically control a variety of devices while reducing setup and frustration for the user.

The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application entitled “Apparatus and Method to Facilitate Universal Remote Control,” it describes a touchscreen-based controller that would reduce the confusing clutter found on current universal remotes.

The filing notes that current remotes have a large number of buttons and switches to control the functions of a device, and while those buttons are necessary to control all of the functions, the average user typically only uses a handful of the buttons.

“The controls that are not normally used clutter the remote control and can cause confusion to the user when trying to locate a seldom-used feature,” the filing notes.

It also details how current universal remotes are even more complex to operate than the basic remotes that ship with specific devices, like a television set or receiver. And often times, those universal remotes cannot replicate some of the tasks found on the original remote.

“Hence, users must spend time learning a new remote control or programming an existing universal remote each time they purchase a new remotely controllable appliance, which detracts from the enjoyment of using the appliance after it is first purchased,” Apple’s application states. “What is needed is an apparatus and a method to provide remote control over multiple appliances without the difficulties described above.”

Apple’s proposed solution is a remote control with a dynamic touchscreen used for input. The remote would include a “discovery mechanism” that would discover available appliances for it to control, negating the need for users to enter complex codes and program individual devices.

The filing describes a remote controlling one or more of a television, video players, a stereo, a “smart home” control system, and even a Mac. The document notes that the controller could also be used beyond electronic appliances, and could control programs and functions on a computer, like allowing a user to play songs on iTunes on their Mac or PC.

Apple’s solution would simplify the user interface by having devices wirelessly transmit a specific interface for that device. The remote would receive this customized button layout, and dynamically present input options to the user without the clutter of a typical button-based universal remote.

The remote would also detect which appliances are within range of the controller. If, for example, a specific appliance could not be detected, the remote would gray that option out so the user would know it is not available.

The proposed invention, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed in September of 2011. It is credited to Albert Vidal.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent describes using 3D interface for iPhone

Posted by:
Date: Friday, January 13th, 2012, 08:57
Category: iPhone, News, Patents

applelogo_silver

This could definitely qualify as “nifty”.

Per AppleInsider, an Apple patent filing submitted in July of 2010 and made public this week by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), details a new iPhone interface concept in which the user relies on motion controls to interact with a 3D environment. However, this is not 3D in the sense of images springing off the screen; the patent filing refers to it as 3D images built with polygons.

According to the patent application, the interface “uses orientation data from onboard sensors, like a gyroscope and compass, to navigate the system.” A picture accompanying the patent filing shows a virtual room that the user could look around in by moving their device; a “snap to” feature would allow the user to automatically switch to a specific view through a preset action, such as shaking the iPhone.

Cool stuff if it comes to fruition.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent towards HDTV design with additional backlighting features

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, January 5th, 2012, 08:51
Category: News, Patents

applelogo_silver

This could turn into something pretty cool.

Per Free Patents Online, Apple is looking into building displays with dynamic backlight adaptation for better picture quality, particularly when watching letterboxed widescreen movies on a high-definition screen.

The concept was revealed this week in a new Apple patent application discovered by AppleInsider. The filing, entitled “Dynamic Backlight Adaptation for Black Bars with Subtitles,” focuses on improving picture quality when watching letterboxed content, like Hollywood movies, on an LCD display.

The application was filed just months ago, in September of 2011, and comes as rumors of a full-fledged Apple television set continue to build. One report this week claimed that Apple design chief Jonathan Ive has a 50-inch prototype set located in his secure work studio at the company’s corporate headquarters.

A common problem with LCD displays is the ability to show “true” black colors on the screen. This becomes amplified when black bars are included in a video, such as when watching a letterboxed film. The difficulty of adjusting the backlight properly when the black bars are present can result in poorer quality of the remainder of the video.

Even though modern television sets are built with widescreen 16-by-9 aspect ratios, Blu-ray and DVD films, as well as those sold on iTunes, often show movies in an even wider format, leaving black bars at the top and bottom. For example, many movies are shot in Panavision’s 2.35:1 ratio.

“Many video images are encoded with black bars, e.g., non-picture portions of the video images,” the filing reads. “These non-picture portions complicate the analysis of the brightness of the video images, and therefore can create problems when determining the trade-off between the brightness of the video signals and the intensity setting of the light source. Moreover, these non-picture portions can also produce visual artifacts, which can degrade the overall user experience.”

Further complicating picture quality and brightness is the fact that users can often view subtitles in the black bars located at the top and bottom of a widescreen film. This makes it even more difficult for the system to dynamically adjust and ensure the highest level of quality.

Apple’s solution is a complex processing system that could “spatially vary visual information” on a display. This would dynamically adjust the backlight source on a screen, like a high-definition television set, in a way that would improve the picture quality.

The display would have multiple brightness settings for its backlight based on the processing of the image. For example, the “picture portion” of the screen would be illuminated by LED backlighting to an appropriate level, whereas the “non-picture portion,” which would include the black bars, would have a different backlight setting.

The application describes an “extraction circuit” included in the display, which would calculate a brightness metric associated with the video signal. Then an “analysis circuit” would analyze and identify specific subsets of a video, like black bars that are shown when watching a movie.

The display would also include an “intensity circuit” that would determine the ideal intensity of the light source that illuminates the LCD display. The system could also employ a mapping function to determine optimum quality by using features like a “distortion metric” to limit image distortion.

Apple’s system could also process the video signal in advance and synchronize the intensity of the light source based on the image currently being displayed.

“The system determines the intensity setting of the light source on an image-by-image basis for the sequence of video images, where the intensity of the given video image is based on the brightness setting and/or brightness information contained in the video signals associated with the given image,” the filing reads. “Then, the system synchronizes the intensity of the setting of the light source with the current video image to be displayed.”

The filing, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is credited to inventors Ulrich T. Barnhoefer, Wei H. Yao, Wei Chen, Barry J. Corlett, and Jean-didier Allegrucci.

Though rumors of a full-fledged Apple television set have persisted for years, they picked up once again late last year, 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.

“It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine,” Jobs said, prompting speculation that an Apple-branded television would use Siri, Apple’s voice control software featured on the iPhone 4S, as its primary input method.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent for iOS device facial recognition goes live

Posted by:
Date: Friday, December 30th, 2011, 05:59
Category: iPhone, iPod, News, Patents

At least your iPad will remember who you are.

Per Free Patents Online, a recently published patent application shows how future iOS devices could use a forward-facing camera to recognize an individual user, whereupon the device could automatically customize applications, settings and features to a user’s personal preferences once they pick up the unit.

Entitled “Low Threshold Face Recognition,” the patent describes a low-computation solution for quickly and accurately recognizing a user.

The filing provides a simple way for multiple users to share a single device, like an iPad. Each user could customize their personal profile with unique wallpaper, applications and settings, and that profile would be immediately accessed once the iPad recognizes a user’s face.

Apple’s application notes that robust facial recognition systems that work in various lighting conditions and orientations can be taxing on an electronic device, requiring resources and draining battery life.

Its solution would reduce the impact of lighting conditions and biometric distortions on an image. The filing describes a “low-computation solution for reasonably effective (low threshold) face recognition that can be implemented on camera-equipped consumer portable appliances.”

Rather than aggressively analyzing a user’s entire face and using up time and resources, Apple’s concept would rely on a “high information portion” of a human face. Potential high information portions could include eyes, a mouth, or the tip of a user’s nose.

By recognizing the individual features on a user’s face, the system could scale the distance between someone’s eyes and their mouth. That distance could then be measured against the reference image originally captured by the user in order to confirm it is in fact the same person.

Apple’s application notes that its facial recognition capabilities could be constantly active due to lower power consumption. This means a user could simply point an iPhone or iPad at their face, without pressing a button, and have the screen automatically turn on and unlock the device.

This could be accomplished through an “orange-distance filter,” which would capture the “likely presence” of a human face in front of a camera. This filter would also be used to detect a person’s skin tone, and measure the distance of their face from the camera.

Once a user has been recognized, the facial recognition technology could not only grant them access to the device, but also customize its settings based on a unique user profile. Each user would be presented with a personalized configuration, as an iPhone or iPad would be able to “modify screen saver slide shows or other appliance non-security preferences,” the application reads.

The proposed invention, made public this week, was first filed by Apple in June of 2009. It is credited to Robert Mikio Free.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.