Thursday, October 2, 2014

Apples Patents For Future Technologies

What Apple patents say about Apple Television

One of the most recent patents that could well relate to Apple's future venture into the living room is a patent that described a "desk-free computer" that uses a super-intelligent projector.
The computer's projector contains an accelerometer, ambient light sensor and depth sensor to ensure the optimum image is projected onto any surface you choose. These qualities combined with the fact that it's wireless make it completely portable.
Speculation suggests that, if paired with a suitable controller, this patent could be used for the rumoured Apple television.

What Apple patents say about Apple accessories

Apple doesn't just patent technology that relate to its main hardware. The company also has several patents covering accessories and other gadgets.

Health-tracking headphones

In February 2014, Apple was granted a patent for health monitoring headphones that can detect body temperature, heart rate and perspiration levels. This "sports monitoring system for headphones, earbuds and/or headsets" adds evidence to the theory that Apple has a keen interest in the fitness and health industry.

Siri Smart Dock 

An intriguing patent filed by Apple describes a "smart dock" that would always be listening for spoken commands. Ideal for use with Siri, the "smart dock for activating a voice recognition modes of a portable electronic device" patent covers an accessory that could include a speaker, microphone and built-in screen as well as the ability to integrate Siri into your home.
When an iPad or iPhone is paired with the unit, Siri would constantly listen out for prompts, such as play a song or skip, for example.

iPen smart stylus

Apple actually has a total of 22 'iPen' patents under its belt, according to Patently Apple.
The iPen described in the patents is effectively a smart stylus. It could have sensors that enable the pen to recognise the orientation it's being held in relative to the touchscreen of the device being used. This would improve the accuracy and experience of using a stylus. It could also have a camera, audio recorder, laser pointer and projector built in.
A new patent published in March describes a stylus that comes complete with an extendable nib that may help to replicate multiple tools such as pens, paintbrushes and pencils. In addition to being able to extend the nib, Apple's patent also suggests that the stylus nib could be swapped out for a variety of different nibs for different purposes (above).

Solar charging iPhone, MacBook accessory

Apple's future portable devices could benefit from a portable solar panel accessory that Appleappears to be investigating. A patent published by the US Patent & Trademark Office in October 2013 describes a power management system that would provide energy for an iOS device or MacBook until the battery is fully charged.
Apple is certainly interested in solar power. The majority of power generated at its iCloud datacenter in North Carolina is generated from on-site solar panels that could power 17,600 homes for a year, according to Reuters. Just this week, Apple has announced plans to build a components plant in Arizona that will run entirely on renewable energy, including solar energy.

Self-adjusting earphones

In July 2013, USPTO published an Apple patent application covering earphones that can automatically adjust audio output based on the quality of the seal detected by a built-in microphone or by measuring electrical currents.
The patent describes earbuds that can measure how well they are sealed to user's ears in order to adjust the audio to provide the optimum listening experience. 

Advanced Smart Cover/ Smart Case

Apple has published several patents relating to its Smart Cover and Smart Case designs for the iPad. Each patent adds advanced functionality to the cases.
In June 2014, USPTO published an Apple patent filing for an "Integrated visual notification system in an accessory device," which describes an iPad case or cover that can protect thescreen while also providing illuminated alerts when the iPad gets a notification, for example.
An Apple patent that emerged in March describes an iPad Smart Cover that acts as an inductive charging point to provide wireless power to the iPad and other devices.
When Apple sent out the invitations for its iPad Air launch, it was widely expected that Apple was about to launch such accessory, as the company hinted "We still have a lot to cover."
Another Smart Cover that Apple's been investigating features an integrated multitouch keyboard. The keyboard, while part of the Smart Cover, can be detached for more comfortable use.

What Apple patents say about future tech

While many of Apple's patents can be related to current Apple products, some are extra advanced and seem quite futuristic. Here's a peek of what the future could hold if the technology listed in Apple's patents ever becomes a reality.

Siri-controlled home

Apple has been granted patents for a system of sensors that could allow Siri to take over your house. Together, the network of sensors could be used to detect motion, time, light and more to help Siri provide relevant information and carry out actions.
One example used in the patent filings is that Siri could remind you to take your medicine when it detects that it is 8am and you're in the kitchen (presumably where your pills and water are).
This patent was actually filed back in 2005, before the first iPhone had even launched (the original iPhone came later in 2007). The patent references other patents that date all the way back to the 1970s, so it's clear that voice control has been a keen interest for Apple for years.

Virtual reality head mounted display

Apple has been awarded two patents by USPTO that cover head mounted displays, one that would work in a similar way to the Oculus Rift, allowing users to play immersive games wearing the goggles, and another that takes a more Google Glass approach with a smaller design.
The first of the two head mounted displays described in a patent filed in 2006 is designed to provide optimum image quality using a laser light engine. The second patent, filed in 2008, describes Apple goggles with two adjustable screens that can be aligned with your eyes and adjusted for those who wear glasses.
Further still, the patent suggests that the goggles could identify users by tracking eyeballs, voice and fingerprints.
Do new augmented reality patents hint at Apple's answer to Google Glass?

Virtual keyboard

In February 2013, USPTO published a patent that describes a new depth perception technology that could be used to introduce virtual keyboards.
The application covers a "Depth perception device and system" which can determine the distance to an object or the depth of an object using a combination of image capturing sensors and lasers.
The technology could be used in combination with a projected control panel such as a keyboard to create a virtual keyboard. The technology would be able to determine the selection of a particular button or input of the control panel by determining the depth of a user's finger, a stylus or other input mechanism.

Advanced Sensor UI & the “pull” gesture 

Apple seems keen to replace, or at least augment touch screen technology with advanced hand sensing. This will detect hand movements surrounding the device.
Patent 8,514,221 shows that Apple isn’t just looking to patent the physical system, but gestures as well. One gesture that is looking to join pinch to zoom, swipe and tap, could be the “pull” gesture. This is where you have your fingers on the screen, and then move them up and away, pulling an object from the screen. What feature this gesture could implement is still in the secret lab, but it will enable an interesting new level of interaction with iOS.
Pull gesture

Haptic feedback

Apple hasn’t given up on Haptic feedback. No siree! What seemed a bit of a buzz technology for other companies a few years ago is still being developed inside the Apple labs. Haptic feedback systems put a low level voltage through a display to recreate the physical sensation of touching buttons on a flat piece of glass.
Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,378,797 for a "Method and apparatus for localization of haptic feedback" shows that Apple is looking to develop a more accurate haptic feedback system. It is clear that haptics can move far beyond the ‘buzzy’ screens of older smartphones, and could enable apple to create a virtual home button, and on-screen keys that feel similar to the real thing.
Haptics

Pressure sensitive display

An additional patent relating to the way we use the iPad describes a pressure sensitive display. USPTO in January published a patent that covers a device such as an iPad with a display that uses built-in pressure sensors to enhance navigation.
The patent, titled "Gesture and touch input detection through force sensing," suggests future iPads could have at least three force sensors beneath the screen.

Vibrate feature

Future iPads could have the vibrate feature built in thanks to an audio codec chip that could allow the iPad to set up vibration alerts for notifications like we can for the iPhone.

What Apple patents say about the future of iOS

iOS 8 was previewed by Apple during WWDC in June, and is set to arrive on our devices in September, but there are some features that Apple has patents for but has not yet implimented. Perhaps these features will come to iOS in a future version of the software.

Clearer contacts in Messages app

Apple hopes to help prevent those embarrassing misdirected text messages with this next patent, which suggests that we could soon see our friends' faces as the background to our conversations in the Messages app.
Apple describes an invention that simply uses the contact's picture as the background image for conversations with that contact. When there's more than one person in a conversation, Apple adds text and multiple images to the conversation.

Driver lock-out

Apple has been granted a patent that relates to the dangerous activity of texting while driving. Apple has invented a lock-out mechanism for drivers, which would prevent drivers from being able to text while behind the wheel.
One embodiment of Apple's invention uses a motion analyser, a scenery analyser and a lock-out mechanism to determine how fast the device is moving (indicating that it's in a car) and where the holder of the device is located (driver's seat or passenger seat). If the device then determines that the holder of the device is also the driver of a vehicle, the lock-out mechanism will disable some functions of the phone, such as the messages app.
Other embodiments involve slight modification of the vehicle itself to send out signals to tell the device to lock-out, which could hint that the technology may come with a future version of CarPlay.
Apple's "Auto-station tuning" patent suggests Apple is looking into the ability to automatically switch between radio stations and TV stations depending on user preferences. This could be used to for iOS devices, but it's possible we could see this technology used in the Apple TV, too.

Transparent text messages

Apple could be planning to introduce transparent text messages with future iPhones or iOS iterations, according to a patent filed in late March 2014.
The system revolves around the background of an application being modified to display a live feed of whatever the rear camera is looking at – creating an effect like the iPhone itself (or at least the portion covered by the screen) is transparent.
The system can be activated via a button inside the app button which then transforms the interface from the regular background to a live video version.

Battery-saving mode

Several of Apple's competitors have already got a battery-saving mode in their devices, butApple has yet to introduce such feature in iOS. However, that could soon change if patents published in March are anything to go by.
Apple appears to be investigating a way to save iPhone battery power by learning the user's behaviour. Its patents describe a system that can learn patterns in behaviour to figure out when the user is less likely to be using their device, during which time it can automatically reduce performance and disable some features, for example.

Age-monitoring

As gadgets age, the performance of those gadgets worsens. Apple has acknowledged this in apatent issued in March that aims to help the aging process of a device happen slower, by monitoring the condition of the device and modifying parameters to maximise its performance, battery efficiency and user experience. The aim is to help the device meet its life expectancy

About the Author

Prejeesh Sreedharan

Author & Editor

I am a Biotechnologist very much interested in #SciTech (Science And Technology). I closely follow the developments in medical science and life science. I am also very enthusiast in the world of electronics, information technology and robotics. I always looks for ways to make complicated things simpler. And I always believes simplest thing is the most complicated ones.

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