Two Apple patents surface, company looking into inductive charging solutions

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

applelogo_silver

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

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

applelogo_silver

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

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

applelogo_silver

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

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

applelogo_silver

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

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

applelogo_silver

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.

Apple patent reveals efforts to create application that combines movie times with calendar scheduling

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, June 9th, 2011, 06:27
Category: News, Patents

applelogo_silver

If you’re looking for a movie ticket application that checks against your calendar and tries to find showings that are convenient for you, Apple may already be working on it.

Per AppleInsider, a patent application that went public this week proposes an idea that would link with the calendar data stored on a user’s iPhone, as well as location-based data for nearby theaters. The proposed invention was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in a patent application entitled “Systems and Methods for Providing Context-Based Movie Information.”

Apple’s solution would obtain showtimes from multiple theaters, but would take care not to inundate the user with too many showtimes. Instead, movie times would be presented in time slots, and user would be presented with a series of time intervals that fit their schedule and location.

Even if a user were to manually select an unavailable time slot, the movie application could prompt the user to view information associated with a scheduled calendar event. From there, users could be presented with the option to cancel the event listed on their calendar, and the application would adjust accordingly, presenting new available showtimes.

In addition to showtimes and calendar conflicts, movie times and locations could also be recommended based on current traffic conditions. With this, users could determine which theater and showtime would be ideal after a scheduled event, like dinner at a restaurant.

Apple’s proposed iPhone software also has social elements integrated. The movie application could access a user’s list of contacts, and shared contacts would be able to see when and where their friends are seeing a movie.

Users could also choose to actively send their movie plans to friends. For example, if a calendar entry were to include the names and contact information of dinner participants, once tickets are ordered the appropriate information could be sent to those contacts.

The movie application could also include links to purchase tickets, as well as movie trailers. Apple already offers a similar set of features on its website, with movie locations and showtimes provided in an iOS-friendly HTML5 site.

Apple’s patent application, made public this week, was first filed with the USPTO in December of 2009. The proposed invention is credited to John Louch and Todd Ditchendorf.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple looking to create outdoor, sunglasses-friendly LCD screens

Posted by:
Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 02:35
Category: News, Patents

applelogo_silver

It’s Friday, additional Apple patent applications have emerged and Apple has apparently shown interest in creating an improved LCD display for devices like the iPhone and iPad that is not distorted when viewed by a user wearing polarized sunglasses outdoors.

Per AppleInsider, the proposed new technology was revealed in a new patent application made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week. Entitled “Display that Emits Circularly-Polarized Light,” the proposed invention describes a liquid-crystal display that reduces perceived distortion when viewed through linearly polarizing filters, such as sunglasses.

In the application, Apple notes that current LCDs are based on polarization optics, and typically utilize linear polarizers on their front surfaces. The problem is that the light from LCDs typically has an electric field that only vibrates in one direction, while polarized sunglasses only allow through light with an electric field that vibrates in the vertical direction.

“Hence a user looking at the LCD display of a portable device… may see a distorted image in the display when viewed through polarized sunglasses, due to the polarized filters in the sunglasses blocking the light when the display is viewed at some angles,” the application reads.

When an LCD display is seen through polarized sunglasses, at certain angles the screen may be completely dark or somewhat obscured. The issue can be made even worse when a lens cover is placed in front of a display for protection or industrial design, as these plastics can compound the issue with color and gray artifacts.

Apple’s solution is a display that emits circularly polarized light by placing a layer in the path of linearly polarized light.

“The layer receives the linearly-polarized light on one surface, converts the linearly-polarized light to circularly-polarized light, and then emits the circularly-polarized light from another surface,” the application reads. “By emitting circularly-polarized light, the display reduces the perceived distortion found at some angles when the display is viewed through a linearly-polarizing filter.”

The invention would allow for superior outdoor viewing of displays, like iPhone or iPad screens, by reducing perceived distortion created when a user wears sunglasses.

Apple’s adoption of glass screen covers and glossy displays has been a point of criticism against the company, as some have complained they make viewing of devices in sunlight near impossible. The company has even brought back antiglare matte screens to some of its MacBook Pro options as an optional US$150 upgrade.

By creating a screen that could accommodate sunglasses, Apple would craft a new LCD that would allow a reduced amount of light to reach a user’s eye without distorting the screen. This could improve the ability to use devices like an iPhone, iPad or MacBook Pro outdoors on a sunny day.

Apple first filed for the proposed invention in January of this year. It is credited to John Z. Zhong, Wei Chen, Cheng Chen, Victor H.E. Yin, and Shawn R. Gettemy.

Recently published patent shows Apple’s interest in adding camera, games to iPod nano

Posted by:
Date: Friday, May 13th, 2011, 04:12
Category: iPod Nano, Patents

A newly released patent application shows that Apple has interest in improving its multi-touch iPod nano with a camera and support for new software such as games.

Per AppleInsider, potential features of a future touchscreen iPod nano were revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled “Environment Sensitive Display Tags.” The document describes adding new sensors to the iPod nano, including a camera, to add new functionality.

The application concentrates on software features like screen savers, allowing information or content to be displayed on the device. Apple’s proposed invention would use sensors that would display unique content, or change the manner in which it is displayed.

But even more interesting are the illustrations shown in the application that include references to a camera and games. Currently, the sixth-generation iPod nano does not feature a camera, and cannot run software outside of what is preinstalled on the device.

In addition to a camera, the application also makes mention of the inclusion of a motion sensor, temperature gauge, and a microphone. Each of these sensors could be used to dynamically alter the way a screensaver would be played on an iPod nano.

While the application itself makes no mention of the iPod nano model in its text, the images show a small device with no physical buttons with an appearance similar to the multi-touch model Apple released last September.

The mention of a camera in the patent filing comes just days after a new photo claimed to show a seventh-generation iPod nano with a rear-facing camera, and without the built-in clip featured on the sixth-generation model. Another picture, also suggesting Apple could add a camera to its tiny media player surfaced in early April.

A camera was previously featured on the iPod nano in its larger fifth-generation model, released in 2009 and featuring the classic-style click wheel for input. Previous version of the device also supported iPod Click Wheel Games, but no games are available for the touchscreen sixth-generation iPod nano.

While the iPod nano operating system is designed to look and feel like iOS, which powers the iPod touch and iPhone, it is actually a different, unique operating system. In December, hackers managed to crack the software, but have not yet released any useful hacks aside from removing icons.

Apple’s patent application was first filed in November of 2009. It is credited to Duncan Kerr, Nicholas King, and Michael B. Victor.

Apple patent describes keyboards with sensors, tactile feedback

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, May 12th, 2011, 20:47
Category: Patents

applelogo_silver

This could be nifty.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has shown interest in creating an advanced keyboard that could provide tactile feedback to users through the inclusion of numerous proximity sensors and air vents on individual keys.

The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing, entitled “Input Devices and Methods of Operation,” notes that as physical keyboards get smaller and more compact, they may not offer the same typing experience users prefer.

A smaller keyboard might limit the tactile feedback a user feels on their fingertips while typing. This is as a result of keys that do not travel as far when pressed on, say, a much thinner keyboard.

Apple proposes addressing this issue by placing proximity sensors in each key on a keyboard. These sensors could be used to detect when user input on a key is imminent.

The patent filing describes a system that would “flow air from the input device,” perhaps through openings in the surface of an individual key on a keyboard. This would provide tactile feedback to the user before they make physical contact with the key surface.

This air pressure could be used to apply air pressure against a user’s fingertips, giving tactile feedback even though the key may not move as much as a key on a more traditional keyboard.

In another example, Apple describes a pneumatic system that would be used to “advance the selected key in a direction of actuation in response to detecting user selection.” Through this method, the key would be “pulled away from the user.”

Apple also proposes combining these two methods in a keyboard that would provide initial air resistance to movement of a user’s fingers, and then withdraw a key from the user’s touch.

The application, made public this week, was first filed in November of 2009. The proposed invention is credited to Aleksandar Pance, Michael Sinclair, and Brett Bilbrey.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple receives RFID tag reader patent, iPhone 5 possibilities seen on horizon

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, April 20th, 2011, 07:25
Category: iPhone, Patents

If it’s not the rumors that keep things interesting, it’s the patents for stuff that might be coming down the line…

Per AppleInsider, a patent recently granted to Apple detailing a method of incorporating a Radio Frequency Identification tag reader into the screen of a portable touchscreen device in order to save space has furthered speculation that Apple plans to add RFID features to the iPhone.

The patent, entitled “Touch Screen RFID Tag Reader,” describes “the efficient incorporation of RFID circuitry within touch sensor panel circuitry. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published the filing on Tuesday.

RFID allows devices to sense embedded chips in nearby objects without the requirement of contact or a visible line of sight.

In the filing, Apple documents a process by which the touch sensor panel of a device can be modified to double as an “RFID transponder,” thereby eliminating the need for a “space-consuming RFID antenna.”

According to the invention, loops for the antenna of the RFID circuit can be formed from “metal on the same layer as metal traces form in the borders of a substrate” without requiring a separate metal layer.

Apple’s method for employing RFID tag reader technology within a touchscreen joins a growing collection of RFID patent applications, which include the invention of a mobile “ID App” for reading RFID tags and a method of using RFID to sense and connect to WiFi networks.

The proposed “ID App” would utilize an RFID reader, camera and an IR image capture device to identify objects, such as a painting in a museum, and search a set of databases to gather more information.

Last August, rumors emerged that Apple was planning to bring near field communications technology, such as RFID, to the next-generation iPhone. Further evidence of Apple’s alleged plans for an RFID-capable iPhone came in October of last year when reports suggested that an Apple partnership with chip manufacturer Gemalto could pave the way for contactless transactions on the iPhone via RFID.

In January, Apple web site visitors discovered a job listing for an iPhone hardware engineer with RFID experience. It has been suggested that Apple will implement an e-wallet feature to take advantage of the rumored NFC-capabilities in future iOS devices.

Analyst Brian White with Ticonderoga Securities claimed in February that the next iPhone will utilize NFC for a ‘unique’ twist that would go beyond just e-wallet functionality. After a suprising contrary report suggested that NFC would not make it into the next iPhone, Forbes reported in March that, according to a trustworthy source in the NFC market, the iPhone 5 will indeed have NFC contactless capabilities.

Michael Nathaniel Rosenblatt and Steve Porter Hotelling are listed as inventors of the patent.