Recent Apple patent points towards shatter-proof, shock mounted iPhone glass

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Date: Monday, November 21st, 2011, 07:58
Category: iPhone, News, Patents

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You can’t knock Apple for trying to make a sturdier product.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a recent Apple patent applications shows the company looking to create a “shock mounting cover glass in consumer electronic devices,” the invention claims a tunable shock mount sandwiched between the phone’s glass and other hardware. There’s also plans for a sensor that can distinguish a “drop event” from normal phone movements and an actuator to prepare the shock mount for impact. Given that it’s only at the application stage, we won’t be seeing bombproof iPhone displays any time soon, but here’s hoping it’ll become a product reality someday.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple looks into universal power adapter to charge MacBook, iOS devices

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Date: Thursday, November 17th, 2011, 07:58
Category: News, Patents

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It’s the patents that make things interesting.

Per freepatentsonline, Apple has shown interest in building a new universal power adapter compatible with different DC voltage levels, allowing portable devices like a MacBook Pro, iPhone and iPad to be charged at the same time with just one wall plug.

The proposed invention was revealed this week in a new Apple patent application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing, entitled “Multi-Output Power Supply,” notes that most commercially available adapters do not include multiple outputs for supplying different DC voltage levels.

“As such, users may often purchase a device-specific adapter for powering a device,” it states. “However, this requires that the user carry a separate adapter for each device, which can be cumbersome when a user is traveling, as many users forget to bring all of the associated adapters required for various devices.”

Those adapters can also be relatively bulky, Apple notes, making them less than ideal to carry while traveling. The company also said that it can be confusing to users when multiple adapters are at use in a stationary location, like a home or office.

Apple’s solution is a new universal power supply that would connect to multiple electronic devices. This would make it unnecessary for users to carry multiple power adapters while traveling with multiple portable devices.

The filing describes a single power adapter that includes a DC-to-DC converter, allowing it to meet the different voltage requirements of unique devices. The adapter could also intelligently control power supplied through its outlets to ensure that the correct voltage is sent out to appropriate devices.

In addition to iPods, iPhones and iPads, the application specifically notes that such a system could also be compatible with Apple’s patented MagSafe technology, used to supply power to the company’s MacBook line of notebooks.

The charging cable could include a power “brick” similar to the ones currently used with a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. That brick would include the necessary voltage converter, and could allow another portable device like an iPhone to be plugged in to charge.

The proposed invention was first filed by Apple in May of 2010, and was made public this week. It is credited to Aleksandar Pance, Nicholas Alan Rundle, and John Douglas Field.

The latest application is not the first time Apple has shown interest in redesigning its power adapters to allow charging of multiple devices. In September, another filing showed the company is interested in building a universal charger that would allow portable devices to not only recharge their batteries, but also sync data while plugged in to the same adapter.

Apple patent points towards clip-on iPod nano, iPod shuffle devices with integrated speakers

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Date: Thursday, November 10th, 2011, 08:30
Category: iPod, News, Patents

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It’s the patents that make tech interesting.

Per freepatentsonline, Apple has shown interest in building a clip-on iPod with the same wearable form factor as the current iPod nano or iPod shuffle, but with a new integrated speaker built directly into the rear clip.

The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled, “Speaker Clip.”

The text of the proposed invention makes no specific mention of the iPod nano, or even the similarly shaped iPod shuffle. In fact, it doesn’t even include Apple’s iPod brand name. But the accompanying images show a device that looks like the current clip-on iPod nano and iPod shuffle, only with the new inclusion of an integrated speaker.

The new iPod would feature the same clip on the back that is found on the current wearable models, but that new clip would have a cavity in the middle. Filling that hole would be an “acoustical device,” or speaker.

That speaker could simply be used for user-interface feedback, providing simple sounds such as clicks to create a more intuitive experience for users when utilizing the multi-touch screen on the front of an iPod nano. Or it could also be used as a more full-featured — albeit tiny — speaker to listen to music tracks, or perhaps even do something new, like play games.

The speaker located on the attachment clip would be wired back to the main housing of the device through a “conduit” in the spring-loaded hinge that attaches the clip to the device. The speaker could also be protected by a cover that could shield the speaker from the elements, but also allow sound to pass through.

The filing notes that any kind of acoustic speaker could be used in this device, but one example given is a piezoelectric speaker. The conduit that connects the speaker to the main housing and processor could be a coaxial cable, flex microstrip, or fine gauge wire.

The protective cover layer could be a solid surface with numerous perforations, allowing sound to pass through. A mesh layer atop the speaker, woven from either plastic, metal or natural fibers, could be attached with an adhesive to the protective cover layer.

The iPod nano gained its touchscreen-driven design in September 2010 with its sixth-generation hardware revision. The small, wearable device is 46 percent smaller and 42 percent lighter than its predecessor, yet it still manages to include up to 16GB of storage, a 30-pin dock connector, hardware volume buttons and a lock button, an FM radio, and even Nike+ integration with a pedometer.

There has been some previous evidence that Apple plans to expand the functionality of its diminutive iPod nano even further while retaining its current form factor. One alleged prototype reveled in a picture this May claimed to show a rear-facing camera placed on the device. But this week’s filing is the first suggestion of an integrated speaker.

The proposed invention, made public this week, was first filed with the USPTO in May of 2010. It is credited to John Benjamin Filson, Eugene Whang, and Matthew Rohrbach.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent points towards improved OLED displays in future iOS devices

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Date: Thursday, November 3rd, 2011, 08:08
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Patents

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Uncertain about what’s coming down the pipe? Just check the recent patent applications.

Per freepatentsonline, Apple has shown interest in improving the technology behind organic light emitting diodes, or OLED displays, to provide even better battery life for devices like the iPhone and iPad.

Apple’s pursuit of better OLED technology was revealed this week in a new patent application that went public. Entitled “Power Efficient Organic Light Emitting Diode Display,” it describes ways in which an OLED screen could offer improved battery life, particularly when displaying the color white.

The filing notes that OLED screens can operate at lower voltages than traditional displays, like the LCD screens currently found on the iPhone and iPad. This is possible because OLED technology is light emissive rather than light transmissive.

But while OLED can offer some advantages over LCD — including darker blacks, higher contrast ratios, and improved power efficiency — those perks are diminished when an OLED display is used to generate large amounts of white display area.

In order to display a screen that is largely the color white, an OLED panel has to utilize a range of color channels for every pixel on the display. Doing this can be power intensive and make the device inefficient.

“The relative power inefficiency in display white spaces using an OLED display may be particularly problematic in certain contexts,” the filing notes. “For example, certain applications, such as word processing, spreadsheet design and use, database design and use, e-mail, and other business or productivity applications, typically utilize dark or black alphanumeric characters on a white background, such as to simulate writing or printing on a sheet of paper.

“As a result, these applications may cause the display of large expanses of white background with relatively little area devoted to the non-white alphanumeric characters. Such applications, therefore, may make the use of OLED displays unsuitable or undesirably power intensive for battery powered and/or portable electronic devices, such as handheld devices.”

Apple’s proposed solution to this problem would include a transparent OLED display panel positioned in front of a solid white background layer, like a white transflective sheet. The display would also feature an opacity switchable layer located between the OLED panel and the background layer.

“The switchable layer may be switched, in whole or in part, from an opaque or semi-opaque state to a transparent or semi-transparent state,” the application reads. “For example, in one embodiment, the switchable layer may be opaque, e.g. black, in the absence of a current. However, upon application of a current all or part of the switchable layer may be come transparent so that the underlying background layer is visible.”

The combination of a solid white background and an opaque layer that could be made transparent would allow a transparent OLED panel to avoid displaying the color white. By instead utilizing the white background, this could produce the color when appropriate, such as when reading black text on a white background, without consuming battery life to turn the individual OLED pixels white.

The white background could even be used for smaller elements on a screen, and applied even in situations where the entire background isn’t white. In one illustration, Apple shows a list of calendar events on an iPhone, with one tiny element — the selected “List” view — displayed against a white background.

Apple’s proposed invention, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed in April of 2010. It is credited to Daniel William Jarvis, Albert John Golko, and Felix Jose Alvarez Rivera.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

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

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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 patents look into improved hydrogen fuel cells

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Date: Thursday, October 20th, 2011, 16:13
Category: battery, News, Patents

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It’s the patents that show where the nifty stuff might come from.

Per AppleInsider, a pair of new patent applications published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office demonstrate the work Apple has done internally on fuel cells. The filings describe how Apple could build the power sources smaller and lighter for portable devices.

The first application, entitled “Parallel Fuel Stack Architecture,” describes how Apple could arrange a set of fuel cells into a fuel stack. In the second filing, named “Reduced-Weight Fuel Cell Plate,” Apple describes how it could use lightweight electrically conductive and corrosion-resistant material to build a fuel cell.

The applications explain that fuel cells provide electrical power by converting a fuel, such as hydrogen or a hydrogen-containing compound, into an electric current. Fuel cells contain an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte between them.

In a fuel cell, a catalyst at the anode oxidizes the fuel and produces positively charged ions and electronics. Ions from the oxidization process then pass through to the cathode while blocking the passage of electrons, and the electrons then drive a load connected to the fuel cell.

For a waste product, the ions recombine with a negatively charged atom, such as oxygen, at the cathode. Any waste from a fuel cell escapes as carbon dioxide and/or water.

A fuel cell typically produces low voltages between 0.5 and 0.7 volts, requiring multiple fuel cells to be combined to create a fuel cell stack. But these stacks come with a number of inherent issues.

For starters, fuel cell stack architectures can have a single point of failure in a connected series. Fuel cells may also fail for a number of reasons, including accumulation of nitrogen in the anode, degradation of the electrolyte, or water flooding in the anode or cathode. Because of this, the reliability of a fuel cell stack can decrease as the number of cells in the stack grows.

Apple’s solution for this issue is to build multiple fuel cells connected in a parallel configuration by a power bus, along with a voltage-multiplying circuit to increase the voltage of the stack. In this way, the reliability of the stack would be increased while the fuel cells could also potentially power devices with higher operating voltages.

Another problem with fuel cells detailed by Apple is their bipolar plates are typically built with conductive and corrosion-resistant materials, such as stainless steel, that are high in density and add weight to the fuel cells. A stack of cells, all made of stainless steel, can create a power source and portable device that are too heavy to be used practically.

To address this problem, Apple proposes arranging the fuel cells in a monopolar configuration to enable sharing of electrodes between adjacent fuel cells in the fuel stack. This sharing of electrodes could significantly reduce the number of electrodes in the fuel stack, and also enable the use of monopolar plates that are lighter and thinner.

In this method, Apple believes it could build a monopolar fuel cell stack that is both lighter and cheaper than a typical bipolar fuel cell stack. Even with the reduction in weight and cost, the filing says the stack could contain the same number of fuel cells, or even be more powerful than a traditional bipolar fuel cell stack of the same size.

Both patent applications, made public this week, were first filed with the USPTO in April of 2010. The parallel architecture filing is credited to Steven. C. Michalske and Bradley L. Spare, while the reduced weight application is credited to Vijay M. Iyer, Jean L. Lee and Gregory L. Tice.

Apple has frequently explored the possible use of alternative energy sources in its devices to make them more efficient and environmentally friendly. While the mention of fuel cells in an application from Apple is unique, the company has repeatedly explored the option of solar power in its portable electronics.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent application points to voice recognition/voice command technology in future versions of iOS

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Date: Thursday, August 25th, 2011, 13:18
Category: iPhone, News, Patents

You’ve gotta love forthcoming versions of iOS.

Per freepatentsonline, future iPhone software could use the sound of someone’s voice to identify the person themselves, allowing the system to enact custom-tailored settings and access to personal content.

The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Entitled “User Profiling for Voice Input Processing,” it describes a system that would identify individual users when they speak aloud.

Apple’s application notes that voice control already exists in some forms on a number of portable devices. These systems are accompanied by word libraries, which offer a range of options for users to speak aloud and interact with the device.

But these libraries can become so large that they can be prohibitive to processing voice inputs. In particular, long voice inputs can be time prohibitive for users, and resource taxing for a device.

Apple proposes to resolve these issues with a system that would identify users by the sound of their voice, and identify corresponding instructions based on that user’s identity. By identifying the user of a device, an iPhone would be able to allow that user to more efficiently navigate handsfree and accomplish tasks.

The application includes examples of highly specific voice commands that a complex system might be able to interpret. Saying aloud, “call John’s cell phone,” includes the keyword “call,” as well as the variables “John” and “cell phone,” for example.

In a more detailed example, a lengthy command is cited as a possibility: “Find my most played song with a 4-star rating and create a Genius playlist using it as a seed.” Also included is natural language voice input, with the command: “Pick a good song to add to a party mix.”

“The voice input provided to the electronic device can therefore be complex, and require significant processing to first identify the individual words of input before extracting an instruction from the input and executing a corresponding device operation,” the application reads.

To simplify this, an iPhone would have words that relate specifically to the user of a device. For example, certain media or contacts could be made specific to a particular user of a device, allowing two individuals to share an iPhone or iPad with distinct personal settings and content.

In recognizing a user’s voice, the system could also become dynamically tailored to their needs and interests. In one example, a user’s musical preferences would be tracked, and simply asking the system aloud to recommend a song would identify the user and their interests.

The proposed invention made public this week was first filed in February of 2010. It is credited to Allen P. Haughay.

Recent Apple patent shows move to build wireless antennas into Mac keyboards

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Date: Wednesday, August 17th, 2011, 03:46
Category: News, Patents

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The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office granted Apple a batch of 20 patents on Tuesday, including one for an invention that describes integrating wireless antennas into a keyboard.

Per AppleInsider, the filing entitled “Antennas for electronic devices,” describes “key antennas,” or radio-frequency transmitters mounted inside individual keys of a keyboard, for devices such as a laptop computer. Apple suggests that fitting a key with an antenna resonating element, such as a flex circuit containing a strip of conductor, a piece of stamped metal foil and a length of wire, could serve as an improved antenna design.

Possible advantages from the invention include a more pleasing appearance by avoiding protruding antennas and reduced risk of damage to the antenna. According to the application, the antenna would function better when the key was not being pressed because of an “increase in separation” between the antenna and the conductive housing of the device.

Apple also suggests that the key antenna could include an indicator light, such as the one found on the “caps lock” key.

One embodiment of the invention would utilize the keyboard to add wireless functionality to a non-wireless device by way of a wired connection. The keyboard could also be used to extend wireless capabilities of another device after being wirelessly coupled with it.

The invention lists Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as possible communications methods, though it also references the use of the patent with “other types of communications links,” such as GPS and 3G data.

Apple filed for the patent on Apr. 2, 2008. Chris Ligtenberg, Brett William Degner and Douglas Blake Kough are credited as the inventors.

Recently published Apple patents describe steps towards driverless printing for Mac OS X, iOS devices

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Date: Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, 03:27
Category: Patents, Rumor, Software

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In a pair of recent filings, Apple proposed methods that would eliminate the necessity of printer drivers in order to streamline the printing process for users of its Mac OS X and iOS devices.

The first of the two patent applications, entitled “Walk-Up Printing Without Drivers,” reveals methods of circumventing the printer driver requirement when such a driver is absent from Apple mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, as well as Macs.

According to ConceivablyTech, Apple describes a new printing process for such mobile computing devices that would allow them to wirelessly detect a printer and determine whether a printer driver is installed.

The user would then be able to continue the printing job even without a driver by employing a series of APIs based on a discovery protocol such as Bonjour, an Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) and the PostScript Printer Description (PPD) file, which is used to detect the printer.

In the event that the device still fails to pair up with the printer, the user would have a third way of completing the print job — by sending the documents to the cloud and using cloud-specific printing technology to communicate with the printer.

The second patent, filed on the same day as the first one, September 14, 2010 according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office and entitled “Data Formats to Support Driverless Printing,” shows a different driverless and wireless printing concept also explored by Apple.

The company suggests a new way for mobile devices to bypass the printer driver requirement by storing a specific data structure that would be able to specify the following printing characteristics when detecting a printer: “resolutions, color spaces, bit depths, input slots, face-up/face-down input orientation, output bins, face-up/face-down output orientation, duplex printing support, media types, copy support, supported finishings, and print quality.”

A new “URF-supported key,” part of discovery and transport protocols, is also mentioned by the second patent. Its purpose would be to offer a “standardized set of capabilities that are supported by a printer” that would let the user “generate printer data for any type of printer” without actually storing any printer-specific details on the computing device in question.

The new wireless and driverless technologies described by these two new patents would complement Apple’s existing AirPrint capabilities for iOS devices and could lead to a future driver-free printing experience for most Mac OS X computers.

Apple has high hopes for AirPrint, but has run into a few snags in the transition to driverless printing. Late last year, one rumor suggested that Apple had run into intellectual property issues with the AirPrint architecture, a problem that could potentially be alleviated should the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office grant the above patents to Apple.

Meanwhile, printer makers such as HP and EFI have been steadily adding support for the feature to their printer offerings.

If you have any thoughts on this, let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Two Apple patents surface, company looking into inductive charging solutions

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Date: Thursday, August 4th, 2011, 10:09
Category: iOS, Patents

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It’s the patents that make things interesting.

According to Patently Apple, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple patent application on Thursday detailing two specific plans for an “Inductive Charging System” for iOS devices.

Inductive charging is a wireless method using the electromagnetic field to transfer energy over short distances between two objects. In theory, a charging station would send energy through inductive coupling to an electrical device which would store the energy in batteries.

The first Apple solution uses a charging tower in which a user would wrap their earphone cables around the tower and place a new conductive metal mesh earphone on their device to begin charging.

The second Apple solution uses an acoustic charging mechanism, and no tower of doom. In this system, an earphone is fitted into a recess in an acoustic charger. Then, a speaker within the acoustic charger produces an acoustic signal which causes a corresponding speaker in earphone to vibrate. These vibrations generate a current in earphone, and this current could be used to charge the battery of the attached device.

The article points out that, “Instead of creating separate inductive chargers for various media players and tablets as others have done, Apple is trying to create a single inductive charger that would fit the needs of multiple devices.”

Cool stuff if it happens and check back here for additional details as they become available.