Apple publishes patent for practically-bulletproof composite laminate

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Date: Thursday, September 9th, 2010, 07:00
Category: News, Patents

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If you ever dropped your Apple device and rued gravity, this might help.

Per the mighty Patently Apple, Apple appears to be working on an improved composite laminate that could someday make future devices practically bulletproof.

The company has recently won the patent for an improved composite laminate, which the website claims “could consist of a wide range of materials including glass, synthetics, metals (such as aluminum or titanium) or even epoxy.” The patent doesn’t reveal exactly what Apple plans to do, but the website notes that such material is commonly used in “real-world products ranging from an iPad cover to all manner of sporting equipment such as golf clubs, baseball bats, canoes, bikes, skateboards and more.”

According to Wikipedia, the use of such materials could even be used to make a portable device literally bulletproof.

The article theorizes that “Apple could also be rethinking their use of polycarbonates in their MacBook for a much lighter material and using the sandwich method as shown above,” they propose. “Hmm, who knows — maybe the new Apple TV is already using one of the material variants. I haven’t been able to find out exactly what they’re using. Is it a thermosetting plastic as mentioned in this patent?”

As is often the case with patents such as this, only time will tell.

Two new Apple patents emerge pertaining to cloud-based sorting, syncing

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Date: Friday, September 3rd, 2010, 08:21
Category: Apple TV, News, Patents

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Two days after Apple’s media event unveiled a new cloud-based Apple TV, two patent applications from the company describe methods to improve the experience of over-the-air syncing, and browsing of Internet-based content.

Per AppleInsider, the documents describe wirelessly syncing data between a server in the “cloud,” and a client device owned by an individual user. They also detail methods that aim to improve the navigation, browsing, search and playback of digital media that is hosted on a remote server.

One patent application, entitled “Media and User Interface for Accessing Groups of Media Assets,” relates to browsing content through scrolling lists, searching for specific content, or viewing by category types. The other, named “Data Synchronization Protocol,” describes the syncing of data over the Internet to portable devices like the iPhone, and stationary ones like a Mac.

The timing of the publishing of the documents is noteworthy, as the new Apple TV focuses exclusively on streaming from external devices and over the Internet. Apple will allow TV episode rentals for 99 cents, and first-run HD movies for US$4.99 over the device, as well as access to other Internet-based content from Netflix, YouTube, Flickr and MobileMe.

The new Apple TV aims to simplify the browsing experience by relying solely on the cloud, and not saving data on the device itself. In addition to streaming video, the new Apple TV also helps users catch shows they may have missed by keeping viewed content synced with the cloud.

Wednesday’s Apple TV announcement is expected to be only the beginning for Apple’s cloud-based initiative, as the company is reportedly looking to offer an Internet-based iTunes service. Apple has reportedly been in talks with content providers and aims to obtain the necessary licenses to allow users to stream their content to their devices, even with limited or no storage like the Apple TV.

The new application related to data synchronization describes syncing across a number of devices, including Macs and iPhones. It describes allow over-the-air syncing of portable devices, like the iPhone, that currently must be tethered to a computer via USB to sync.

The described invention includes “fast,” “slow” and “reset” sync modes, determined based on a request received from the mobile device. The sync modes can be applied to different types of data classes with different file sizes (say, contacts vs. photos) to more efficiently conduct the cloud-based sync.

The application related to browsing on the Apple TV describes providing a list of information to users, and allowing them to expand that list or seek additional information via a remote control.

It describes methods for quickly sorting content that can be streamed from the cloud, based on criteria set by the user when they browse based on category, or conduct a search.

The application pertaining to syncing was filed on May 13, 2010 and is credited to Brendan A. McCarthy and Carsten Guenther. The application related to browsing of content was originally filed for on May 12, 2010, and is a continuation of a patent filed on May 28, 2007. It is credited to Rachel Clare Goldeen, Jeffrey Ma, Michael Margolis, Rainer Brodersen, Calin Pacuraiu, and Jeffrey L. Robbin.

Apple patent reveals consolidated headphone jacks for upcoming devices

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Date: Monday, August 30th, 2010, 05:59
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Patents

Per Patently Apple, Apple is looking to develop a new audio input port configuration for the iPod, iPhone and iPad devices. The effort seems to indicate that Apple is working to limit the amount of holes in its devices, because each ”breaches the barrier that protects components inside the housing.”

Apple’s answer is to reduce the hole count by making them multifunctional. It proposes removing the need for a separate microphone aperture by making it part of the socket the headphone jack plugs into. This adds only a couple of milllimetres to the socket length – the mic fits behind the tip of the jack plug. The result: “A microphone can be added to a mobile telephone without the need for an external aperture.”

According to the Apple Core, Apple appears to be considering combining multiple jacks into one smarter jack. It makes sense too. For starters, less holes mean less physical parts to manufacture (and potentially fail) and Apple is already heading down this road with the iPhone 4 which features two microphones and noise cancellation.

The first mic is for phone calls, voice commands and memos. The second mic is for FaceTime calls and for making your calls better.

The other potential direction could take is to use the new port for beamforming — where the audio input of the two microphones is used as an amiable directional input. Patently Apple thinks this could be advantageous for the iPhone in speakerphone mode or video camera mode when projecting or recording a sound source at some distance from the device.

Apple could even do away with invasive “breach” type ports altogether and convert its audio/microphone ports into surface contact ports that attach via a magnet — like the popular MagSafe power adapter found on its MacBook Pro notebooks. I just hope that Apple retains backward compatibility with the millions of 3.5mm stereo headsets that are out there, changing to a new jack entirely would alienate too many customers in one fell swoop.

The patent is credited to Apple employees Shaohai Chen, Phillip Tamchina, Richard Dinh, Jae Lee, Michelle Yu and Adam Mittleman as the inventors of patent application 20100216526.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Patent describes how future iPhones could recognize, adjust for individual users

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Date: Thursday, August 19th, 2010, 06:00
Category: iPhone, Patents

Since patents make life interesting, a recently published patent describes a technology that could rely on a user’s picture or the sound of their voice which future portable devices from Apple could recognize and use as login information.

Per AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week revealed a patent application from Apple entitled “Systems and Methods for Identifying Unauthorized Users of an Electronic Device.” The security-centric invention describes methods to identify users through a picture, the sound of their voice, or even their unique heartbeat.

“The photograph, recording, or heartbeat can be compared, respectively, to a photograph, recording or heartbeat of authorized users of the electronic device to determine whether they match,” the application reads. “If they do not match, the current user can be detected as an unauthorized user.”

If an unauthorized user were to attempt to access an iPhone or another device, the owner of the handset could be notified in a variety of manners, including a phone call, text message or e-mail. The technology could also send the owner or the police a picture of the unauthorized user, or other information specific to the potential thief, such as the current location.

The handset could also recognize an unauthorized user if they do certain uncharacteristic activities with the phone. Specifically named are hacking, jailbreaking, unlocking, or removing a SIM card.

But beyond security, such technology could also be used to identify individual users and allow users who share a product, like an iPad, to customize it to their liking. Apple has shown interest in such capabilities for some time.

Prior to the iPad’s release, The Wall Street Journal revealed that an early prototype of the device would use a camera to recognize users’ faces, allowing it to be one device easily shared by the entire family. Apple reportedly experimented with the ability to customize the device, and have it automatically switch to a user’s personal settings once they picked it up.

One early feature included virtual “sticky notes” that one user could leave for another, and would be read the next time they picked up the iPad.

Apple’s security-centric patent application was first filed on Feb. 19, 2009. It is credited to Taido Nakajima, Pareet Rahul and Gloria Lin.

The invention is also not the first time Apple has explored recognizing users by their heartbeat. One patent application revealed in May dealt specifically with that technology, describing a heart rate monitor seamlessly built in to the exterior of an iPhone. Reading a user’s unique biometric data, the iPhone could then recognize them.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recently published patent hints at deeper iPhone/Facebook integration

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Date: Tuesday, May 18th, 2010, 03:06
Category: iPhone, News, Patents

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A newly published Apple patent hints at the company’s plans for including improved Facebook integration into the iPhone at the device level.

The document, discovered by Patently Apple, was approved until April 1st, 2010 and filed in September 2008 and focuses on creating device-to-device workflows.

Apple has essentially patented the ability to sync actions between two or more devices. This could be something as simple as adding a to-do on your Mac’s calendar application and having it automatically sent to the iPhone.

The patent also includes provisions in the patent for device proximity. For instance, an iPhone and iMac set to synchronize a schedule could be activated by Bluetooth connections on both devices that will automatically initiate a calendar synchronization once the devices are within a certain range of each other.

The Facebook element of the patent comes into play with contact syncing. For example, say you meet a colleague or friend out somewhere and realize you haven’t friended her or him on Facebook. When you initiate an “add contact” on your phone, it can first pull in all the vCard information from your friend’s phone, send your info back (if you are exchanging information), offer to take a photo of your friend to add to your address book and then, if you so choose, add your friend to Facebook.

Your friend will then get a notification on her device of the pending friend request and can then approve or ignore it.

There are some third-party solutions available for the iPhone (like Bump) and for Android and BlackBerry devices that can do similar things, but having a scripting workflow engine built into the device itself is a unique idea unto itself.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recent Apple Patent Filing Discusses Walkie-Talkie Features for iPhone

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Date: Thursday, March 18th, 2010, 04:10
Category: iPhone, Patents

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Apple has been looking into a new feature that could allow iPhone users to transmit data such as simple text messages to each other over voice channels, forgoing a reliance wireless carriers’ backend servers, in a manner similar to Nextel’s classic walkie-talkie feature.

According to AppleInsider, the concept is detailed in a company patent filing made this past November. As Apple explains, conventional text messaging systems require the use of what is referred to as a backend server that may be limited in the amount of information that can be handled at a particular time and is therefore capacity limited.

Furthermore, the company notes that reading of text messages can be troublesome due to in part to the small size of the typical display screen on a handheld device, especially in situations where the recipient is impaired or preoccupied with another task, such as driving.

“With the rapid deployment, proliferation, and technical advancement of mobile personal communication devices, such as cell phones, a user of these devices is presented with any number of ways to communicate with another user,” Apple wrote in the filing.

“For example, a user can send type a text message using, for example, Short Message Service-Point to Point (SMS-PP) protocol as defined in GSM recommendation 03.40 where messages are sent via a store-and forward mechanism to a Short Message Service Center (SMSC), which will attempt to send the message to the recipient and possibly retry if the user is not reachable at a given moment. Therefore, SMS-PP requires the use of a backend server to provide the necessary support for transmission of data between sender and receiver.”

As such, the iPhone maker calls for a new mechanism whereby data is passed between a sender and receiver unit by way of voice channel only, bypassing use of the data channel used in conventional arrangements.

“In this way, a sender can select that data which he/she desires to send to a receiver unit using by first converting the data into an appropriate vocal/voice format which is then forwarded to a receiver unit by way of the voice channel,” Apple said. “Once received at the receiver unit, the vocalized data can be converted to an audio signal, which is then output by way of an audio output device (such as a speaker, earphone, etc.).”

The filing suggests that a sender would be able to vocalize any textual data on their display screen (such as a phone number) in order to pass it by way of a voice channel to another iPhone or any number of other iPhones or compatible personal communication devices. Once received by the recipient, processing of the vocalized data would be performed based upon a prompted user request or based upon a pre-selected protocol.

“For example, once received [by an iPhone], the vocalized phone number can be passed to an audio output device that (in the case of a speaker) generates an audible rendition of the vocalized phone number,” Apple wrote. “In another case, the vocalized phone number is forwarded to a voice mail server where the receiver records the vocalized phone number as a voice mail message for subsequent playback.”

In the latter case, Apple notes that the user can pre-select the option that forces the generated audio message to stored in the receiver’s voice mail server. Alternatively, the company said additional processing can be performed whereby any vocalized multimedia data received is automatically converted back to text and displayed and/or converted to an audible message.

The filing, made November 23, 2009 is credited to iPod grandfather and former Apple vice president Anthony Fadell.

iPhone “Electronic Key” Patent Surfaces

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Date: Tuesday, March 9th, 2010, 06:49
Category: iPhone, Patents

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The Daily Telegraph is reporting that a new Apple patent has recently been published which describes a method in which the iPhone, or another Apple portable, could act as a sort of electronic key. The technique could be used for cars, offices, homes, or lockers and almost anything that could have an electronic receiver mounted to it in place of a metal tumbler-style lock could then use an iPhone as a key.

The patent application itself describes a means by which almost “any suitable electronic device such as a portable media player, personal data assistant or electronic lock” that could open up any number of physical lock types just by communicating wirelessly.

Electronic key fobs already exist for certain models of cars, most notably the Toyota Prius, which not only allow keyless entry but also allow you to start the car without a traditional metal key. If Apple actually implements this patent and allows iPhones and iPods to act as an “iKey,” carrying a ring of metal keys and fobs around in your pocket could eventually seem as passé as a pocketwatch or pager seems today.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recently Released Patent Application Describes Using Finger Swipes Over iPhone Camera as Function Control Scheme

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Date: Friday, February 26th, 2010, 05:13
Category: iPhone, Patents

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It’s Apple’s patents and forthcoming technologies that make things interesting and a recently released patent application entitled “Camera as Input Interface” has revealed something cool. Per AppleInsider, the document describes finger swipes over the iPhone’s camera could at some point allow in-call control of functions such as fast forwarding or rewinding a voicemail.

In addition to a camera detecting the direction of a finger swipe, the phone’s accelerometer could also be used to interpret a user tapping the iPhone, allowing control of the handset while on a call without taking the phone away from one’s ear.

The technology would work to make it easier to control a phone by utilizing the camera at times when it is typically idle.

“These actions allow the user to control functions of voicemail review without removing the device from over his ear,” the application reads.

The functionality could potentially extend beyond voicemail, allowing users to merge calls, place calls on hold, or switch between multiple simultaneous calls by simply tapping the device. Such controls could be customized by the user to their liking.

Apple could also choose to adopt the control method for traditional phone use, in addition to in-call controls.

“Furthermore, a user may navigate a document being shown on a display screen of the device by guiding his finger over the camera lens,” the application reads. “While viewing the display screen, the user holds the device in the palm of his hand in a supine position. Rather than pressing or sliding directional buttons next to the screen or touching a touch screen to navigate a webpage document or contacts list, the user may move his finger over the camera lens in the direction he wishes to navigate the page.”

Apple has filed similar patent applications describing mobile devices with touch panels on the reverse side, allowing users to control a device without obscuring the screen with their fingers. In January, a rumor even alleged that the next-generation iPhone would have a Magic Mouse-like touch panel for its plastic back casing.

The application was originally filed for on Aug. 21, 2008 and is credited to Chad Seguin, Justin Gregg and Michael Lee.

Apple Patent Applications Discovered for iPhone Stylus, Contextual User Interfaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recently Published Apple Patent Reveals Possible Tablet Interface

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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