O'Grady's PowerPage » Patents

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 patents look into improved hydrogen fuel cells

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


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


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


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


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.

Apple files patent for flat keyboard technology that would rely on acoustic pulses rather than physical key taps

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Date: Thursday, July 28th, 2011, 02:19
Category: News, Patents


This could be weird.

But also spiffy.

Per a patent application files with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple has looked into a flat keyboard that would detect acoustic pulses from users’ taps instead of relying on physical key presses.

The patent, entitled “Piezo-based acoustic and capacitive detection,” was published last week and describes an effort solve an issue with touch-sensitive input devices.

“In general, touch-sensitive surface or related input devices may be less reliable in determining a pressed command or intended input when compared with a traditional mechanical keyboard,” the filing read. “For example, some touch screens often require that a user tap on the screen several times before detecting the command.

The Mac maker’s proposed solution is to couple a capacitive touch sensor with a piezoelectric sensor that can detect an “acoustic signature” from user input. That acoustic signature would then be compared to a database of reference acoustic signatures in order to determine where the input occurred.

One embodiment of the invention would entail multiple piezoelectric sensors to track more than one acoustic pulse. Apple also proposes that “tuning features,” such as openings on the surface of the keyboard, could help distinguish various keys by distorting or altering the acoustic signature of taps.

According to the filing, pressure switches and proximity devices could also be utilized to help ensure accurate detection.

Apple suggests that “it may be useful to provide an input device that is flat and has few to no moving pieces, as this may yield a more robust product.” The company also noted that the invention could “take any form of a input-surface input device for a computing system, not just a traditional keyboard layout.

The filing provides for several materials for the keys, such as metal, glass and plastic. In the case of metal or plastic, the keys could be “machined, stamped or micro-perforated” into the surface. For a glass solution, keys can be painted on the surface or “provided as graphics on a display screen located below the glass surface.”

Additionally, keys could be indented or have textural differences that would help users distinguish between keys. Apple suggests that the flat keyboard could include a “haptic or tactile feedback mechanism” that would provide “force, vibration and/or motion” to a user’s fingers or hands in response to pressing on the keyboard surface. The company has, in the past, expressed interest in haptic feedback for touch screens.

Apple filed for the patent on Jan. 20, 2010.

Mushtaq A. Sarwar, Omar Sze Leung, Aleksandar Pance, Brett Bilbrey and Andew Ross Richardson are credited as the inventors.

Apple patent describes simpler networking, use of RFID/new proprietary technology

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Date: Friday, July 1st, 2011, 04:55
Category: News, Patents


Because patents are important and show nifty things that may be down the road…

According to AppleInsider, Apple has shown interest in improving device discoverability and local networking using existing technology like RFID, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, or even a new proprietary wireless method.

The details come from Apple’s latest patent application, entitled “Local Device Awareness,” which describe a number of electronic devices within close proximity being able to automatically communicate with each other and share information with minimal to no user input.

Apple notes in its patent application that while networked devices can communicate with each other over great distances, communicative proximity is not equal to physical proximity.

The Mac maker’s solution would not only make device discoverability simpler, but could strip away some of the current requirements, such as the need for devices be located on the same Wi-Fi network. Devices could communicate through a unique protocol that would constantly be on the lookout for new hardware to connect to.

Networking capable devices like Macs or iPhones, as well as other hardware like specially equipped printers, could communicate with one another over existing standards like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to allow discoverability. Another technology repeatedly mentioned in Apple’s application is radio-frequency identification, or RFID, which is a short-range wireless standard that is currently found in a limited number of devices.

The application notes that Apple could also adopt a new, unique wireless technology that would allow devices to communicate without tying up services that are often used for other purposes, like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The system could even use GPS to locate the exact position of a piece of hardware and display it on a map, like letting a user know where a printer or projector are located.

With this greater level of connectivity, Apple could also offer simpler interactivity. The application makes note of a unique user interface for sending tasks to certain devices. For example, using a touchscreen device like an iPad, a user could drag and drop a document onto a projector icon to have that document displayed on the device.

In addition to more practical functions like connecting to a printer, Apple’s application notes that this method could also be used for playing multiplayer games. It describes a game where users might shake an accelerometer-equipped device like an iPhone or an iPad to roll a set of virtual dice, or even use physical dice equipped with RFID.

The proposed invention is credited to Brett Bilbrey, Aleksander Pance, Nicholas King and Todd Benjamin. It was originally filed with the USPTO on Dec. 31, 2009.

Apple patent application for dock concept discusses location-based profiles

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Date: Friday, July 1st, 2011, 03:24
Category: News, Patents


It’s the patent applications that make life interesting.

That or love.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has shown interest in a new location-based docking system that would dynamically change the interface and settings of a portable device for different activities like working or driving a car.

The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled “Location-Based Dock for a Computing Device.” The proposed invention notes that while docking stations are typically passive devices, these described docks would take on a more active role.

“It is often left to the user to configure the computing device for use at different locations by accessing or selecting the proper software applications and security measures for the computing device…” the application reads. “However, such configuration of the device may be both time-consuming and confusing to a non-sophisticated user.”

Apple’s idea could apply to any portable device, whether it be a MacBook, an iPhone or an iPad. Each docking station would, when coupled with the appropriate portable computing device, recognize its location and allow the user to operate the device accordingly.

For example, an iPhone plugged into a moving car could automatically become optimized for use through voice control, as a user driving would not be able to operate the touchscreen.

For someone who uses the same hardware both at home and at the office, a system could automatically be reconfigured to offer the best of both worlds. For example, while at work, a docked system would access work-related e-mails and calendar entries, while at home the device would switch to personal e-mail and calendars.

Apple’s concept also extends to other docking ideas, including one meant to be used while watching television, or another that would have a device act as a digital picture frame while docked.

The location-based element could allow the settings to change based on the physical location of the hardware. In this method, if a user were to have only one docking station, they could use it both at work and at home and the appropriate settings would be implemented

And while location could play an important role in each docking station, Apple’s concept also notes that settings could be tied to a particular dock regardless of its location. For example, a user could have two or more docking stations at a single location, allowing them to use them for different computing configurations.

The patent application is credited to Nicholas Vincent King, Aleksandar Pance and Brett Bilbrey. It was first filed on New Years Eve in 2009.

Apple patent describes additional security/data scrambling features for lost iPhone handsets

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Date: Thursday, June 16th, 2011, 05:11
Category: iPhone, News, Patents


If you’re hunting for your lost iPhone, you might have some additional features to work with before long.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has shown interest in giving users the ability to scramble or delete specific data, or even record audio or visual information in the event that an iPhone is lost.

Apple’s new potential security options are detailed in a patent application made public this week. Entitled “Proactive Security for Mobile Devices,” the feature would offer extremely flexible, custom options for security measures on an iPhone.

For example, with specific data such as e-mail, contacts and stored passwords, users could selectively choose to either scramble, delete or ignore the information if the handset is reported stolen or missing.

Users could even choose to deny a potential thief access to certain features of the iPhone, including the ability to make phone calls or access Wi-Fi. Users could also prevent a security breach to a corporate network by having their iPhone automatically change VPN settings once a security risk has been detected.

But a user may also decide to continue to allow some features on a missing device, such as Wi-Fi or GPS, to help track down the handset and identify its location. Keeping that functionality active allows the rightful owner of the device to determine its place on a map.

In one example included in the application, the missing iPhone displays an alert that a secure password must be entered within 60 seconds or location data associated with the handset will be transmitted back to the owner.

If a correct password is not entered in time, the location data will be sent, and the device can also be locked and restricted only to the functionality chosen by the original owner. For example, the device could become password locked, and the only available activity would be to contact the original owner of the iPhone.

Apple’s solution could also utilize the sensors inside of an iPhone to record unusual activity, and alert users that their handset is at security risk, potentially preventing it from being lost forever. Such a system could detect suspicious activities like calls or texts to an unknown number.

If an iPhone is reported stolen, the device could record images and ambient audio. This data could be provided to investigative authorities to help track down the hardware.

These options are more powerful and flexible than the existing Find My iPhone functionality, which late last year Apple made free for all iOS devices. The current service allows users to identify the location of their device, display a message on it, set a passcode lock, or remotely wipe it.

But in its patent application, Apple notes that features like the remote wipe command are an all-or-nothing approach that can be frustrating for users. If a remote wipe is conducted, the user is forced to restore all of the deleted information, which can be inconvenient and time consuming.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.