Apple patent points out company’s exploration of 3D gestures/input controls for devices

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Date: Thursday, October 27th, 2011, 06:15
Category: News, Patents

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Per the cool cats at Free Patents Online, Apple is apparently investigating new ways of interacting with devices, such as using hand gestures to navigate and control a video recording system without touching anything.

Apple’s interest in hands-off control of a device like an iPhone, iPad or Mac was revealed this week in a new patent application made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Entitled “Real Time Video Process Control Using Gestures,” the filing, discovered by AppleInsider, is related to remotely controlling and editing video recordings on a mobile device.

Such editing could be done with gestures on a touchscreen, much like is already available on the iPhone and iPad. But within the application, Apple also makes mention of hand gestures that can be performed without touching the device.

The filing notes that a device could be controlled with hand gestures accomplished in either two or three dimensions, and these could be interpreted through infrared sensors, optical sensors, or other methods. These gestures could be used as a replacement for, or even in concert with, traditional touchscreen-based gestures.

“As with the touch based gestures applied on or near the touch sensitive input device, the hand gestures can be interpreted to provide instructions for real time processing of the video by the video capture device,” the filing reads.

Apple’s goal is to simplify and minimize the need for user input partially because the size of recording devices, like an iPhone or iPad, has become so small. The filing notes that placing a finger on a touch-sensitive display can cause a video capture device to move, and that movement is then translated to the video recording.

With Apple’s method, a remote camera could be controlled wirelessly from a second, separate device. An iPhone or iPad are specifically mentioned in the filing as potential options for a “control device.”

One image accompanying the application shows a video being recorded on an iPhone. That video is then transmitted wirelessly, via Bluetooth, to an iPad, where the user can view the video in real-time and make adjustments.

Given the volume of data that must be wirelessly transmitted, Apple’s solution is to automate real-time video processing as much as possible, identifying objects and individual people’s faces captured in a video. The filing even states that a system could help to determine how entities captured in the video relate to one other.

In one example provided, a video of two tennis players playing against each other could be analyzed to have a “negative correlation,” as one player is hitting the ball while the other is not.

“Therefore, by determining the relative correlation between these two players, an implicit association can be assigned to each,” the application reads.

Using this kind of data, the image could be framed according to user specifications. For example, after recognizing a specific face, a video capture device could zoom in and track that individual in real time, with minimal or no input from the user.

Apple’s proposed invention, published this week by the USPTO, was originally filed in April of 2010. It is credited to Benjamin A. Rottler and Michael Ingrassia Jr. I.

“iPhone 4S” device name located in iTunes beta reference, points toward possible upcoming product release

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Date: Monday, October 3rd, 2011, 05:54
Category: iPhone, News, Software

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With all of one day to go prior to its much-anticipated iPhone media announcement, an iTunes beta is telling more than it should about Apple’s forthcoming product line.

Per AppleInsider, references to the much-used “iPhone 4S” moniker could be found in the Info.plist file of the MobileDevices bundle that was included with the ninth beta of iTune 10.5 released on Friday.

Specifically, device preferences for Item 7 and Item 8 in the Info.plist file describe a black and white iPhone 4S whose display icons (below) depict models that look identical to the existing black and white CDMA iPhone 4 introduced earlier this year.

The discovery can be seen as further evidence that Apple is gearing up to introduce iPhones next Tuesday, Oct. 4th that bundle an 8MP camera, 512MB of RAM, support for HSPA+ and the iPad 2′s A5 processor and dual graphics, but do so in a the current CMDA iPhone 4 design.

However, the new iPhone 4S is expected to be a dual-mode phone, meaning the same iPhone 4S can be used on either CDMA or GSM networks. Currently, Apple markets separate iPhone 4 models for CDMA and GSM networks.

Talk of Apple taking a dual-route strategy this year by releasing both an iPhone 4S and a more advanced iPhone 5 began to cool off this week, with leaked parts and casings all pointing to a product dubbed iPhone 4S.

In addition, insider Ming-Chi Kuo reported that his industry checks turned up no sign of a redesigned iPhone 5 in the pipeline. Instead, he stated that Apple was manufacturing a model that looks largely the same as the current iPhone 4, only with an improved antenna design.

Dubbed “N94,” the new iPhone model will reportedly also use the same Gorilla glass for its back panel. Kuo also said it will be available in both black and white models at launch, and 60 percent of units assembled so far have been of the black variety.

Echoing a report from earlier this month, he also said that Foxconn will be responsible for manufacturing 85 percent of Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone units. The other 15 percent will reportedly be assembled by Pegatron.

Each will run iOS 5, which is rumored to bundle new voice recognition technology in the form of a new application dubbed Assistant, which will allow users to speak to their iPhone and accomplish a number of tasks through natural language, like sending text messages, looking up information, or scheduling an appointment.

The functionality is believed to stem from Siri, a “personal assistant” application for the iPhone that Apple purchased in April of 2010.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Intel quietly mentions 4K support, could introduce higher screen resolutions under upcoming Ivy Bridge architecture

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Date: Tuesday, September 20th, 2011, 06:48
Category: Hardware, News, Software

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The Retina Display: it’s never been a bad thing.

Per VR-Zone, Intel quietly revealed last week that its next-generation Ivy Bridge processors will support the 4K display resolution, with up to 4096 x 4096 pixels per monitor, potentially paving the way for Apple to introduce high-resolution “Retina Display” Macs.

The company announced the news during a technical session at its Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco last week, as noted by VR-Zone. Ivy Bridge chips will rival competing discrete GPUs by including support for the 4K resolution when they arrive next year.

The company also highlighted a Multi Format Codec (MFX) engine that is capable of playing multiple 4K videos at once. The codec is also capable of handling video processing for 4K QuadHD video, a standard that YouTube began supporting last year.

A set of performance enhancements, with special attention to graphics, should give Ivy Bridge as much as a 60 percent performance boost over the current generation of Sandy Bridge chips, according to Intel.

Intel also revealed last week that Ivy Bridge chips will include support for Apple’s OpenCL standard, which should give a performance boost to next-generation MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro models when they arrive in 2012.

If Apple were to introduce a 4K resolution display with the 16:9 ratio currently used in its Thunderbolt Display, iMac and MacBook Air products, the resulting resolution would be 4096 x 2304. A 27-inch display with 4K resolution would sport a pixel density of 174 pixels per inch. Assuming a working distance of 24 inches and 20/20 vision for the calculations, a 4K 27-inch iMac or Thunderbolt display would count as a “Retina Display.”

Apple first began using the “Retina Display” marketing term with the iPhone 4 last year. Then CEO Steve Jobs touted the 326ppi display as being beyond the capabilities of the human retina when used at a distance of 12 or more inches from the eyes.

In September 2010, the company released a Retina Display iPod touch. Rumors have also swirled that Apple will follow suit with a high-resolution version of the third-generation iPad, doubling the resolution of the tablet to 2048 x 1536.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple posts two security-related job openings, looks to be closing holes where present

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Date: Tuesday, September 6th, 2011, 04:53
Category: iPhone, News, security

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If you keep losing an incredibly valuable intellectual property, it might be time to give your security a once-over.

Per PCmag.com, Apple posted two job openings on Thursday for managers of “New Product Security.” While it might be a coincidence that the positions opened up when they did, the job descriptions certainly sound like a response to Apple’s troubles of late for losing test gadgets:

“The candidate will be responsible for overseeing the protection of, and managing risks to, Apple’s unreleased products and related intellectual property,” said the post.

Apple representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Recently, an iPhone was taken into a San Francisco tequila bar in July by an unidentified Apple employee who somehow lost control of the device. The circumstances were strangely similar to an incident in April 2010, when another Apple employee lost an iPhone 4 prototype in a Bay Area beer garden.

San Francisco Police confirmed last Friday that they assisted an Apple security team to search a home in the city’s Bernal Heights neighborhood where Apple had electronically tracked the phone. The device wasn’t found there.

While it was easy to draw parallels between those two events, there were other signs that Apple’s problems went beyond iPhones. Apple is also apparently working to retrieve a prototype laptop that is in the possession of Carl Frega, a North Carolina resident who said he acquired the unreleased device via a Craigslist ad. He bought the machine thinking it was only good for spare parts.

On the same day that Apple posted the job openings, an Apple store customer was given internal company media and documents by accident after taking his computer in for service in Stamford, Conn. The customer said he was given a hard drive in addition to a computer that was being repaired with the spare drive containing a backup of the store’s internal file server.

This is significant because this is Apple, a company that has forged quite a reputation over the years for effectively keeping its secrets and sticking close to its message.

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.

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

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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.

Rumor: Apple to manufacture Thunderbolt, Sandy Bridge-equipped Mac Pro, Mac mini units in August

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Date: Monday, June 20th, 2011, 05:57
Category: Mac mini, Mac Pro, Rumor

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In spite of a current lack of native devices for the mighty Thunderbolt port, a new rumor places Apple as manufacturing new Mac Pro and Mac mini systems with Thunderbolt this August.

Per a Twitter post from CNET’s Brian Tong on Sunday, the “all new” next-generation Mac Pros and Mac Minis will launch “either end of July (or) first week of August.”

He then followed up with a second post, in which he said that August is “more likely.” He also suggested that Sandy Bridge and Thunderbolt would appear on both machines, as expected, though he added that “no details for specs or configurations were given.”

Tong in March correctly pointed to the launch of new iMacs, also with Thunderbolt ports and Sandy Bridge processors. He said the updated all-in-one desktops would arrive by early May, and they went on sale right on schedule.

The Mac Pro was last updated in late July of 2010. The tower was upgraded to 12 processing cores with Intel Xeon processors, making them up to 50% faster than their predecessors.

Just a month before, a redesigned Mac mini was released in June adding an HDMI port for easy connectivity to a high-definition television. The Mac mini also sports a built-in SD card slot for grabbing photos and videos from a digital camera, all in a size just 7.7 inches square and 1.4 inches thin starting at US$699.

The MacBook Air is also expected to receive an upgrade in the near future to be outfitted with Sandy Bridge processors and a Thunderbolt port. Last week, it was reported that Apple is expected to hold off on releasing any new Mac hardware until its next-generation operating system, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, goes on sale in July.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

VMWare releases Fusion 3.1.3 update

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Date: Wednesday, June 1st, 2011, 04:41
Category: News, Software

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Late Friday, virtualization softare maker VMWare released version 3.1.3 of its Fusion software for the Mac.

Similar to other virtualization software packages, VMWare allows users to run alternate operating systems such as Windows and Linux distributions on Intel-based Macs at native speeds. Other features, such as Unity, allow users to run and minimize Windows applications from the Mac OS X Dock.

The new version, a 150 megabyte download via MacUpdate, can be found here, offers the following new features and fixes:

- Microsoft Windows 7 Service Pack 1: Support for Windows 7 SP1 32-bit & 64-bit.

- Ubuntu: Support for Ubuntu 10.10 and 11.04 32-bit & 64-bit.

- Microsoft Office: Fixed a problem opening attachments in Outlook 2010.

- Video: Updated Windows WDDM driver with stability improvements.

- File access: Improved reliability accessing shared files on the Mac.

- Internet: Fixed slow first page loading in Internet Explorer 8.

- USB: Improved handling of smartphones including the Nokia N8.

Fusion 3.1.3 requires Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run and retails for US$79.99.

Apple launches MacBook bottom case replacement program for Unibody MacBooks shipped between October, 2009 and April, 2011

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Date: Tuesday, May 31st, 2011, 04:27
Category: MacBook, News

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Over the past couple days, Apple has initiated a case replacement program for MacBooks shipped between October 2009 and April 2011 to resolve an issue where the rubber separates from the bottom of the case.

Per AppleInsider, the MacBook Bottom Case Replacement Program is available to owners with affected MacBooks, regardless of current warranty status.

Apple offers three options for replacing the case: set up an appointment with an Apple Genius and visit an Apple Retail Store; visit an Apple Authorized Service Provider; and self service by ordering a replacement case kit online. Do It Yourself kits include a new bottom case, screws, a Phillips head screwdriver and instructions for removal of the old case and installation of the new one.

Customers who have paid for a repair or replacement because of the issue can also contact Apple regarding a refund. The note advises that no action is required for owners who aren’t currently experiencing the issue.

The program will be offered worldwide and will cover affected MacBooks for two years from the original purchase date, though it does not extend standard warranty coverage. Further extensions of the program may come as Apple continues to “evaluate service data.”

Apple introduced the redesigned polycarbonate unibody MacBook with a unique non-skid rubber bottom in October 2009. The entry-level notebook line received a quiet update in May 2010, adding Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics.

According to Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu’s checks with suppliers, the Mac maker will update the MacBook line in a matter of months. Wu estimates the white MacBook accounts for roughly one-third of Apple’s portable business, which makes up 73% of all Mac sales.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end, let us know.

Apple Store iPhone app updated to version 1.3, allows build-to-order Mac purchases

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Date: Tuesday, May 24th, 2011, 02:22
Category: iPhone, News, retail, Software

Apple on Monday updated its “Apple Store” application for the iPhone, offering the ability to order a custom Mac, and also more quickly receive help when at a retail store.

Per AppleInsider, the free application is currently available on the App Store. Version 1.3 is a 3.2MB download, and is available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. The app requires iOS 4.0 or later to install and run.

The release of the software coincides with the debut of Apple’s improved retail stores, which were upgraded on Sunday. The company now makes use of interactive iPad displays to provide product information, pricing and features.

According to Apple, new features of Apple Store 1.3 are:
- Enhanced in-store mode lets you get help and support quickly when you’re at an Apple Retail Store.

- The ability to custom-configure a new Mac with the options you want.

Using the new application, users can make modifications and upgrades to a Mac order placed from their iPhone. For example, users can add more RAM or upgrade the hard drive of a Mac before they finalize their order — features that were previously only available on Apple’s website.

The software is still only written for the iPhone and iPod touch, prompting some initial negative reviews from users in the App Store. Though the application can be run on an iPad, as all iOS software can, it is not optimized for the screen size and resolution of the touchscreen tablet.

Rumors of the updated iPhone application first surfaced on Saturday, revealing that the software was set to debut as part of Apple’s retail revamp. Apple’s online store went offline on Friday to also prepare for the changes.

The Apple Store application was first released in June of 2010. With it, users can view products, read customer reviews, locate a nearby Apple Retail Store, and buy or reserve devices like the iPhone.

If you tinkered with the new app and have any opinions on it, let us know in the comments.