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.

Apple Files Patent for iPhone Theft Prevention Technology

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Date: Friday, September 11th, 2009, 05:58
Category: iPhone 3GS, Patents, security

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A recently published patent application filed this week by Apple suggests the company is looking to use the device’s accelerometer to detect possible theft of the hardware. Per AppleInsider, in a application entitled “Acceleration-Based Theft Detection System for Portable Electronic Devices,” Apple describes a system that would analyze movement via a device’s accelerometer to determine whether a theft is present. If the system were to interpret fast movement as a theft, it would initiate an alarm.

“The drive toward miniaturization of electronics has resulted in computer-based systems that are becoming much more portable,” the application reads. “Current portable electronic devices such as laptop computers, hand-held devices such as cellular telephones and personal media devices, such as the iPod from Apple Computer, Inc., and even devices such as compact disc players, are sufficiently compact and lightweight as to make them easily movable. Unfortunately, such ease of transport also implies ease of theft. While the rightful owner of a portable electronic device may conveniently transport it almost anywhere, so can a thief. ”

The patent application goes on to state that traditional theft-prevention methods like mechanical locks are bulky and tether the device, eliminating portability and convenience. In the proposed system, the accelerometer would be used to determine whether the device is currently in a likely theft condition.

“Typically, theft or other large-scale movement of the device results in an acceleration signal having characteristics different from other events such as shock, impact, nearby machinery, etc,” the application reads. “The detected acceleration as a function of time is thus analyzed to determine whether it corresponds to such large-scale movement of the device, rather than an innocuous event such as the impact of a book dropped nearby. If so, an alarm is produced in order to alert others to the theft.”

The described system would have methods to prevent false alarms through “signal conditioning,” which could filter out events such as shock or impact associated with an iPhone being dropped. The system would also allow the phone owner to display a “visual warning” for potential would-be thieves. Such a warning would warn potential thieves that the device “has an active theft detection system protecting it.”

The patent was filed by Apple on May 20th, 2009 and is credited to Paul J. Wehrenberg of Palo Alto, Calif.

Recent Apple Patents Suggest Upcoming Facial Recognition, Improved Videoconferencing Systems

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Date: Friday, July 10th, 2009, 04:28
Category: Apple, Patents

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Recently-released filings from the United States Patent and Trademark Office reveal that Apple may be planning face-detection components for its Mac and iPhone operating systems, in addition to working on ways to netter the quality of video conferences conducted via iChat.

According to MacRumors, a current filing builds upon ways in which users may be able to passively interface with their Macs in the near future.

Apple notes that one problem with existing personal computing devices is that they’re not able to determine whether a non-active or passive user is present and, subsequently, unable to perform certain operations to accommodate the passive user.

“For example, a PC may automatically activate a screen saver every five minutes regardless of whether a user is viewing the PC’s display screen,” Apple wrote. “Thus, a passive user is often inconveniently required to actively perform an interaction with the PC at least every five minutes to prevent the initiation of the screen saver or to deactivate the screen save after it is initiated.”

Another problem is that conventional systems cannot efficiently determine whether certain users have the authority to perform certain functions without first forcing them to manually enter a password.

Remedies to both these problems may lie in face-detection software, according to the document. Using a Mac’s built-in iSight camera, face detection software may be based on a pattern recognition algorithm that includes a statistical model, the company says. The software that detects faces in the captured images could then associate them with an authorized, as well as inform the system that a user is present in situations when manual interaction has stopped for an extended period.

The document noted that in addition to a Mac, face detection can be applied a cellular telephone, a wireless communications device, a media player, an MP3 player, a video player, and a PDA.

Another filing proposes solutions to many common imaging problems, such as unevenly distributed illumination, shadows, white balance adjustment, colored ambient light and high dynamic range imaging. A recent Apple filing states that systems and methods can be provided through a Mac can take advantage of the computer’s processing power to provide functionality that goes beyond a typical camera.

In one odd example apparently aimed at improving video conferencing, the company proposes an iMac with embedded lights that retract into the system’s housing. The filing states that a processor in the iMac would be able to control the deployment and operation of the lights in combination with other sensors to provide the ideal lighting setting.

Apple Files Patent for Motion-Adaptive iPhone Software

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Date: Thursday, April 16th, 2009, 08:56
Category: iPhone, Patents, Software

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Apple may be looking into creating a version of its iPhone with a front-facing camera as well as a software interface capable of adjusting itself for more precise interaction when the user carrying the phone is in motion.
While the front-facing camera idea hints towards the inevitable adoption of video conference capabilities by the iPhone in the coming years, the adaptive software interface concept could become a reality that much sooner, improving a user’s accuracy in making touch selections by increasing the size of user interface elements on the touch-screen when its determined that the user is operating the device while jogging or participation in some other kind of motion-based activity.
According to AppleInsider, Apple has filed a patent that proposes an updated version of its iPhone OS software that can detect when the device is in motion and then compare the detected degree of motion to one or more predetermined “signatures of motion.” The iPhone software could then adjust itself by enlarging selection areas on the screen to a degree suitable for the current motion of the device and user.
“For example, if the user wishes to view the contact information for ‘John Adams,’ the user touches the display over the area of the row for the contact ‘John Adams,” Apple says. “While the device is moving, the motion of the device can be detected. The device can change the size of the rows of the contacts in the contact list application to give the user a larger target area for each contact. For example, the height of a row can be increased. This gives the user a larger touch area with which to select a contact. In some implementations, the height of the toolbar can be increased as well.”
The 16-page patent filing made back in November of 2007 also suggests that interface elements, such as an array of home screen icons, could shift their position on the screen based on predictions of where the user may touch the screen. Oddly enough, the need for such adjustments isn’t entirely clear from Apple’s description.
“The shift moves the target touch areas of the display objects to a different position. In some implementations, the new position is a predetermined distance from the original position,” the company says. “In some other implementations, the new position is determined by the device based on a prediction of where the user will touch the touch-sensitive display if the user wanted to select the user interface element while the device is in motion.”
The filing is credited to Apple employee John Louch.

Apple Publishes Five New Patents, Three Relating to Wi-Fi iPod Systems

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Date: Thursday, August 30th, 2007, 12:50
Category: Patents

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On Thursday, the United States Patent and Trademark Office published five new Apple patents under the titles “Methods and apparatuses for pixel transformations, Interface for defining aperture”, “Power management in a portable media delivery system”, “Dynamic power management in a portable media delivery system” and “Media delivery system with improved interaction.”
According to MacNN, the final three patents focus on Wi-Fi functionality in an iPod. Such a feature has been anticipated for some time and may come to light with the new iPods due out on September 5th.
Patent details are as follows:
“iPod Wi-Fi: Power management in a portable media delivery system”
Click the jump for the full story…

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