O'Grady's PowerPage » iPhone

Apple patent for iOS device facial recognition goes live

Posted by:
Date: Friday, December 30th, 2011, 05:59
Category: iPhone, iPod, News, Patents

At least your iPad will remember who you are.

Per Free Patents Online, a recently published patent application shows how future iOS devices could use a forward-facing camera to recognize an individual user, whereupon the device could automatically customize applications, settings and features to a user’s personal preferences once they pick up the unit.

Entitled “Low Threshold Face Recognition,” the patent describes a low-computation solution for quickly and accurately recognizing a user.

The filing provides a simple way for multiple users to share a single device, like an iPad. Each user could customize their personal profile with unique wallpaper, applications and settings, and that profile would be immediately accessed once the iPad recognizes a user’s face.

Apple’s application notes that robust facial recognition systems that work in various lighting conditions and orientations can be taxing on an electronic device, requiring resources and draining battery life.

Its solution would reduce the impact of lighting conditions and biometric distortions on an image. The filing describes a “low-computation solution for reasonably effective (low threshold) face recognition that can be implemented on camera-equipped consumer portable appliances.”

Rather than aggressively analyzing a user’s entire face and using up time and resources, Apple’s concept would rely on a “high information portion” of a human face. Potential high information portions could include eyes, a mouth, or the tip of a user’s nose.

By recognizing the individual features on a user’s face, the system could scale the distance between someone’s eyes and their mouth. That distance could then be measured against the reference image originally captured by the user in order to confirm it is in fact the same person.

Apple’s application notes that its facial recognition capabilities could be constantly active due to lower power consumption. This means a user could simply point an iPhone or iPad at their face, without pressing a button, and have the screen automatically turn on and unlock the device.

This could be accomplished through an “orange-distance filter,” which would capture the “likely presence” of a human face in front of a camera. This filter would also be used to detect a person’s skin tone, and measure the distance of their face from the camera.

Once a user has been recognized, the facial recognition technology could not only grant them access to the device, but also customize its settings based on a unique user profile. Each user would be presented with a personalized configuration, as an iPhone or iPad would be able to “modify screen saver slide shows or other appliance non-security preferences,” the application reads.

The proposed invention, made public this week, was first filed by Apple in June of 2009. It is credited to Robert Mikio Free.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Argentina enacts ban on iPhone, BlackBerry imports as part of effort to boost local production

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 29th, 2011, 07:10
Category: iPhone, News

If you were planning on hitting up Argentina any time soon, snagging an iPhone there just got that much harder.

In an attempt to rectify issues with Argentina’s economy, the South American country placed a temporary ban on imports of foreign-made electronics. Two of the most well-known of those electronics are the iPhone and BlackBerry devices. Apple and RIM collectively account for 60 percent of Argentina’s smartphone market, so the ban is going to have a substantial impact on its mobile industry.

According to Electronista, Neither of the operating systems nor the hardware manufacturers were affected because they — Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Microsoft, etc. — have manufacturing facilities within Argentina. Android and Windows Phone will very quickly see a boost in sales, while iPhone and BlackBerry sales will drop to zero, unless of course Apple and RIM open up local plants or partner with other manufacturers.

In all actuality, the iPhone and BlackBerry markets have been struggling in Argentina for a while. A law was already in place that added a 20.48 percent tax on electronic imports on top of the standard 21 percent sales tax.

The government of Argentina says they will lift the ban on iPhones and BlackBerrys when the economy shows significant signs of stabilization, but there’s no telling just when that will happen.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Rumor: Apple developing specialized CPUs for HDTV units

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011, 09:17
Category: Hardware, News, Processors

When in doubt, roll your own.

Per DigiTimes, rather than utilize off-the-shelf chips from a company such as Intel, Apple is expected to use its own custom-built chips like in the iPhone and iPad for its anticipated television set.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Advanced Semiconductor Engineering and Siliconware Precision Industries are three companies expected to bid on orders with Apple. The companies could build custom ARM-based chips to power an Apple television, much like the A4 CPU, first released in the iPad in 2010, is found in the current Apple TV set-top box.

Apple is said to have already signed a foundry agreement with TSMC earlier this year, utilizing its 28nm and 20nm process technologies. That deal was said to be for next-generation “A6” and “A7” processors for the iPhone and iPad, but it’s possible an Apple television could also utilize the advanced chips.

In addition to featuring custom chips, the Apple television is also expected to be assembled by Foxconn Electronics, industry sources reportedly said. Foxconn already builds most of Apple’s devices, including the iPhone and iPad.

The report said Apple is expected to finalize the hardware standards for its television set at the end of the second quarter of 2012. After that, it will place orders for customized chips and other components directly with its contract manufacturers. That’s the same approach Apple uses to build its iPad and iPhone lineups.

The Taiwan electronics industry publication once again pegged the Apple television for launch by the end of 2012. On Tuesday, DigiTimes also said that suppliers are expected to begin preparing components for the anticipated HDTV in the first quarter of 2012, and that it will have screen sizes of 32 and 37 inches.

Earlier reports also claimed that Apple will buy chips from Samsung for its television set, while Sharp is expected to manufacture displays. As for content, analyst Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee said earlier Wednesday that Apple is hoping to offer Internet-based content subscriptions that will allow customers to choose their own custom channel lineups, offering an experience very different from current cable and satellite plans.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple awarded key multitouch technology patent, able to cite wider legal defense regarding oscillating signal technologies

Posted by:
Date: Wednesday, December 28th, 2011, 05:06
Category: News, Patents


Patent: It’s good to have ’em.

According to Patently Apple, Apple won a core multitouch patent regarding oscillating signals that was alluded to when Steve Jobs first announced the original iPhone in 2007, and adds to the company’s already formidable legal arsenal.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office published on Tuesday that the Cupertino, Calif. company now owns a crucial patent that describes how touch events are recognized by a touchscreen device, and was one of the “200+ Patents for new inventions” Jobs lauded when the iPhone first debuted.

The newly granted patent focuses on the oscillator signal and circuit of a touchscreen-equipped device, an integral invention directly related to how users interact with their multitouch products.

Apple states in the filing:
“In general, multi-touch panels may be able to detect multiple touches (touch events or contact points) that occur at or about the same time, and identify and track their locations.”

Previous to the iPhone’s introduction in 2007, most touch-capable devices relied on single-touch input like resistive touchscreens. The legacy technology “senses” a touch when two electrically resistive sheets separated by a small gap are connected by the push of a finger or stylus, which in turn creates a voltage division that is detected by a device controller that records the change along the x and y axes.

Resistive displays are limited in that they can only recognize single inputs no matter how many objects are touching the screen.

One way to record multiple touches at a time is to generate an oscillating signal circuit that can power and clock inputs over a substrate as in a capacitive touchscreen display, however it is difficult to create a precise circuit-based oscillator.

Apple’s patent provides a solution to capacitive touchscreen problem by using calibration logic circuitry which compares the signal oscillation against a reference signal and tunes the clock frequency accordingly. The invention provides for an accurate capacitive display that can not only sense multiple touches, but also detect hover or near touches which are also recognized as “touch events.”

The patent wording states that the invention could apply to computing devices such as desktops, laptops, tablets or handhelds, including digital music and video players and mobile telephones. Also mentioned are public computing systems like kiosks and ATMs.

The news follows a Dec. 19 U.S. International Trade Commission decision which resulted in an import ban on HTC Android handsets that infringe on Apple’s Data Detectors patent. The injunction will take take effect on April 19, 2012, however HTC CEO Peter Chou said the Taiwanese company is already testing workarounds to bypass the ITC ruling.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Spire hack allows Siri to operate on jailbroken iPhones, requires proxy server

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, December 27th, 2011, 10:38
Category: Hack, iPhone

One day, Siri will run on everything (the toaster included).

Per The Mac Observer, pre-iPhone 4S owners that like to jailbreak can add Siri to their combo smartphone and iPod thanks to a new tool called Spire from chpwn. The hack apparently works around copyright concerns by letting users install the Siri files from Apple’s own servers instead of copying them from an iPhone 4S.

While Spire may side step some copyright issues, it doesn’t necessarily make it easy to keep Siri running on your jailbroken iPhone.

“Spire is not a complete solution. Apple still requires authorization to use Siri, so information from an iPhone 4S is still required,” chpwn said on his blog. “To insert this information, Spire allows you to enter your own proxy server address.”

The trick to keeping Siri running on a jailbroken iPhone is to set up a proxy server, and then to connect an iPhone 4S to it on a regular basis since the needed authentication keys change often.

Spire isn’t a perfect solution for hackers wanting to try Siri on an older iPhone, but it tends to be easier than previous methods. For now, however, this looks like an option for more tech savvy iPhone owners.

Spire is available as a free download through the Cydia app only on jailbroken iPhones.

If you’ve tried the Spire hack and have any feedback about the process or its results, please let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

iPhone 4S to arrive in mainland China come January

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, December 27th, 2011, 10:52
Category: iPhone, News

The iPhone 4S is en route to the easy…just wait about a month.

Per Chinese web site People’s Daily, Apple has met all of the requirements for the iPhone 4S to launch in mainland China, and the handset will reportedly debut before the Chinese New Year in late January.

The web site reported this week that the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology granted China Compulsory Certification for the iPhone 4S on Dec. 22. That means Apple has met all of the requirements necessary to launch its latest smartphone in mainland China.

The report said the handset will debut “at the beginning of January 2012,” and will hit the market before the Chinese New Year. That takes place on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012.

Filings with the Chinese government show a WCDMA phone manufactured by Apple was granted approval. Though it does not specifically reveal that the device is the iPhone 4S, it is listed as model number A1431, which is the same number Apple used to obtain a network entry permit for the iPhone 4S.

The approval process and anticipated release of the iPhone 4S has dragged out in China as Apple has quickly launched its latest smartphone in other major markets around the world. It’s been the fastest rollout ever for a new iPhone model.

The iPhone 4S did debut in Hong Kong in the first week of November, and sold out within minutes. Some regional branches of China Unicom in mainland China have been taking advance bookings for the iPhone 4S for weeks in anticipation of the device’s launch as it goes through China’s approval process.

One of the major selling points of the iPhone 4S is Siri, Apple’s voice-controlled personal assistant application. Rumors have suggested that Siri will gain support for Mandarin, the most popular form of the Chinese language, by March of 2012.

If you have two cents to hurl in on this, let us know what’s on your mind in the comments.

Apple may be paving way for Siri to be used by other devices, says hacker

Posted by:
Date: Friday, December 16th, 2011, 05:59
Category: News, Software

This is kind of interesting.

Following yesterday’s update to iOS 5.0.1 for the iPhone 4S handset and its apparent lack of specific changes, Cult Of Mac and well-known jailbreak hacker MuscleNerd revealed on Thursday that the update allowed a user to collect the files needed for a Siri port without having to break Apple’s copyright, the report noted.

“It’s the first public 4S ipsw where the main filesystem keys are obtainable (due to non-encrypted ramdisks),” said MuscleNerd.

But, given that Siri requires communication with Apple’s servers to function, it’s not immediately clear whether a port of the virtual voice assistant would fit within all applicable terms of service and license agreements for the device in question.

A number of members of the jailbreak community have been hard at work trying to port Siri to other devices. In late October, two hackers claimed to have gotten a limited functionality version of Siri working on a jailbroken iPhone 4 and iPod touch. Doing so, however, required custom information from an iPhone 4S device. Also, Apple has warned that jailbreaking an iOS device may void its warranty.

Apple released Siri as an exclusive feature for the iPhone 4S after acquiring the app last April. The Siri team has since grown to become one of the largest development teams at the company.

Full Siri functionality may also require minor hardware modifications. A teardown of the iPhone 4S revealed that the proximity sensor on the handset has a new infrared component built to work with Siri’s raise-to-speak feature.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases Apple TV 4.4.4, iOS 5.0.1 update for iPhone 4S model

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, December 15th, 2011, 12:57
Category: Apple TV, iPhone, News, Software

Firmware: It’s nifty and it makes a difference.

Per MacNN, Apple has released two minor firmware updates for iOS devices. The first is v4.4.4 for the Apple TV, which implements what Apple terms as “general performance and stability improvements, including a fix for an issue that displayed an error when playing some video content.” The update can be installed automatically via an Apple TV’s normal update functions, or manually by technically savvy users with access to the IPSW file.

Unusually, Apple has also published a slightly different version of iOS 5.0.1 for the iPhone 4S. The new build is listed as 9A406. Why Apple would push out such an update is unknown, although any changes are likely to be extremely small given the same version number, and the need for compatibility with apps.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and if you’ve seen any changes in your device(s) after installing the updates, please let us know in the comments.

Microsoft releases SkyDrive app for iPhone, offers free cloud storage in process

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Date: Wednesday, December 14th, 2011, 06:43
Category: iPhone, News, Software

It’s surprising but it could be useful.

Per the cool cats at The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Microsoft has just released an iPhone app for access to the free Microsoft SkyDrive cloud storage service. SkyDrive for iPhone should make Windows users who have documents stored in the cloud happy.

Users can upload videos or photos created on the iPhone to SkyDrive using the app, which takes up about 4.4 MB on the device. SkyDrive users can access all of their content, including files that someone has shared with them. Likewise, any file can be shared by sending a link via email.

The app also provides a way to create and delete folders from the iPhone. Users of Hotmail, Microsoft Messenger, and Xbox LIVE already have SkyDrive accounts and anyone else who’d like to give it a try can sign up for a new account at SkyDrive.com.

The SkyDrive app is available for free and requires iOS 4.0 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the app and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to purchase Israeli flash memory company Anobit

Posted by:
Date: Tuesday, December 13th, 2011, 06:49
Category: Finance, Rumor


When Apple ponders buying something, it’s worth paying attention to.

Per TechCrunch, Apple is planning to spend between US$400 million and US$500 million to buy Anobit, an Israel-based flash memory company, according to a new report.

Citing a Hebrew-language report, TechCrunch relayed on Tuesday that Apple plans to acquire the 200-employee Israeli fabless semiconductor company that specializes in flash storage. If the deal comes to pass, it’s believed to be the first acquisition for Apple with Tim Cook at the helm as CEO.

“Anobit provides flash storage solutions for enterprise and mobile markets, based on its proprietary MSP (which stands for ‘Memory Signal Processing’) technology,” the report said. “Its solutions are designed to improve the speed, endurance and performance of flash systems while driving down the cost. Anobit’s technology is comprised of signal processing algorithms that compensate for physical limitations of NAND flash, the company claims.”

Apple is believed to already rely on Anobit’s solutions for its flash-based products, including the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air. Of the most interest to Apple is said to be Anobit’s MSP20xx embedded flash controllers for mobile devices.

Apple has used its massive cash hoard to strategically invest in components and acquire companies that will give it a leg up on the competition. In 2005, Apple inked a major flash memory deal with Samsung, allowing Apple to build products with NAND flash including the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air.

The company made a similar deal earlier this year, when Cook revealed that Apple had committed US$3.9 billion to secret, long-term component contracts. Cook said the deals were a “fantastic” use of the company’s cash reserves, but declined to say what components Apple had secured, citing competitive reasons.

If Tuesday’s report is accurate, it would be a rare hardware-based acquisition for Apple. The company’s last major buyout of a hardware company came in 2008, when Apple bought P.A. Semi for US$278 million, paving the way for it to build custom ARM-based chips for the iPhone and iPad.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.