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Apple Patents on Audio Production & On-Hold Call Management


Written by Steve Brachmann
Posted: February 4, 2013 @ 8:30 am
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Every week, Apple Inc. is awarded a number of patents from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Last week, the USPTO released a whopping 47 patents, about twice as many as Apple had received in the previous few weeks. These patents include a number of efficiency improvements to notification and on-hold call management. Apple was also awarded a patent protecting audio production technology that can help simulate different recording environments for musicians. Also patented was a fan inlet calibrated specifically to the static air flow occurring around a laptop.

 

On-Hold Call Monitoring Systems and Methods
U.S. Patent No. 8363818

Apple’s making sure that lengthy on-hold times will never again affect your ability to play Angry Birds. This patent notes that current iPhone functions don’t support the ability to access and interact with apps while waiting to be taken off hold by the user on the other end of the line. Apple hopes that this patented system will allow users to keep utilizing their smartphone functions while on hold, allowing them to conduct important business or fit in another round or two of Temple Run.

Once placed on hold, an iPhone user would have the ability to place the call in a background status and be able to access apps and utilities. The system would include a live monitor that uses a speech processor to detect when a live operator has returned or is about to return to the phone call. This monitor sends an alert to the iPhone user, who can easily switch back from the app to the phone call.

As claim 1 describes, Apple’s intellectual property patent protects:

“A user electronic device for monitoring on-hold calls with a call center, comprising: communications circuitry that receives telephone data from a telephone call with the call center; a speech processor that detects hold status information from the telephone data when the telephone call is placed on hold, wherein the hold status information comprises at least one keyword indicating at least one of a place in a hold queue and an estimated amount of time until a live operator is expected; and control circuitry that: determines, from the hold status information, whether an estimated wait-time is below a predetermined threshold; and provides an alert responsive to the determining.”

Fan Inlet and Method
U.S. Patent No. 8360718

The cooling systems found within laptop housings are incredibly important as a processor works best within a very specific range of temperatures. Typically, the best method of cooling off central processing units (CPUs) and other components has been through the use of air circulation fans to wick heat away and out of the laptop housing through an air outlet. However, the sizes of laptop housings continue to decrease while hardware developers are using ever more powerful processors, requiring the development of even more effective fan assemblies.

One way to improve the air flow within the fan assembly is to create a fan inlet calibrated specifically to the static air flow occurring around a laptop, as this Apple patent protects. Simply creating a larger inlet could actually hinder smooth air flow, according to the patent’s description section. The size of the inlet can instead be configured exactly based on calculations of static air pressure to maximize the air flow traveling through the hardware.

Claim 1 of this intellectual property patent describes:

“A method for forming an inlet opening in a housing of a fan assembly, the method comprising: (a) calculating a static air pressure profile along a top portion of the housing of the fan assembly configured to operate in an enclosure, the fan assembly including an impeller mounted on a bottom portion of the housing of the fan assembly, a housing sidewall perpendicular to the bottom portion of the housing and enclosing the fan assembly to form an outlet opening along one side, and the top portion of the housing of the fan assembly having an inlet opening perpendicular to the outlet opening and positioned over the impeller; and (b) changing the shape of a section of the inlet opening in the top portion of the housing of the fan assembly based on a pressure contour of the calculated static air pressure profile.”

 

Methods, Modules, and Computer-Readable Recording Media for Providing a Multi-Channel Convolution Reverb
U.S. Patent No. 8363843

Advances in software technologies involving audio recording and production give users the ability to create studio-quality audio recordings without needing a mixing console and other expensive equipment. Many audio production programs can create audio effects for recorded tracks that simulate real-life echo effects for spaces like cathedrals or music stages. Using this function, known as a convolution reverb, those producing audio tracks can simulate different recording environments for their finished product.

The system protected in this patent for Apple improves the ability for production software to simulate actual spaces by creating a multi-channel convolution reverb. This would allow the software to adjust the impulse response for multiple channels independently, creating a more authentic sound. It appears that Apple intends this invention to provide enough processing power to complete real-time multi-channel convolution reverb effects for streaming music, according to the patent’s description section.

Claim 1 for this Apple intellectual property patent protects:

“A method of generating, on a computer system, a multi-channel audio convolution reverb, said method comprising: providing a plurality of impulse responses corresponding to a desired room to be simulated; receiving, in input, multi-channel audio sample data; for each respective audio channel performing a same-channel convolution operation on said respective audio channel sample data with a corresponding same channel impulse response; for audio channels other than said respective audio channel, performing a plurality of cross-channel convolution operations on said other audio channels sample data with corresponding cross-channel impulse responses respectively; combining results of the same-channel convolution operation and the plurality of cross-channel convolution operations; and outputting a result of the combining on an output audio channel; wherein at least one of the plurality of cross-channel convolution operations is performed over a first number of samples of a corresponding cross-channel impulse response, and the same-channel convolution operation is performed over a second number of samples of the corresponding same channel impulse response, wherein the first number is smaller than the second number.”

 

USB Device
U.S. Patent No. D675215

Apple was awarded a couple of design patents on Tuesday, protecting the physical composition of a few products. Other Apple design patents include updates to the iPhone, a rugged iPhone cover and earbuds that appear to be occluding in nature, which means that it creates a seal with the ear canal to block out outside noise.

This particular design patent is for a USB device that would store data readable by different hardware that supports USB ports. The design being patented pertains to the protective housing covering the USB connector. This assembly is rectangular with rounded corners on the flat top edge and a rounded bottom edge where the USB connector resides. Claim 1 for this patent simply states that Apple is protecting “the ornamental design for a USB device, as shown and described.”

 

Managing Notification Messages
U.S. Patent No. 8364123

When an iPhone isn’t in use but is still on, it will enter sleep mode to conserve processor resources and battery life. However, when the device receives notifications from applications, the processor will operate to display the notification, bringing the iPhone out of sleep mode. When this happens continuously because of constant notifications from multiple apps, this can create a serious drain on the smartphone’s resources.

The notification management system protected by this patent gives users the ability to set certain applications on a blacklist. The blacklist designation creates an attribute that is readable by couriers that transmit notifications to devices. If the app has been placed on the blacklist, the courier drops the notification, keeping the iPhone in sleep mode. Alternatively, this system also includes a “whitelist” that tells the courier to always forward notifications for designated apps.

As claim 1 describes, Apple is protecting:

“A mobile device, comprising: a processor to execute instructions; and a memory coupled with the processor, the memory having instructions that, when executed, cause the processor to perform operations including, maintaining a whitelist that represents one or more of a plurality of applications installed on the mobile device that may receive notification messages from a courier coupled to the mobile device, wherein the whitelist includes one or more application identifiers for each of the one or more of the plurality of applications respectively; maintaining a blacklist that represents another one of the plurality of applications installed on the mobile device that may not receive notification messages from the courier, wherein the blacklist includes one or more application identifiers for the another one of the plurality of applications respectively; and transmitting a representation of the whitelist and the blacklist to the couriers that controls the transmission of notification messages to the mobile device, wherein the courier uses the representation to determine whether to forward notification messages received by the courier from a plurality of application servers and the received notification messages are directed to the mobile device.”


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