More than 30 patent applications assigned to California’s Apple Inc. were published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on Thursday. Many of the patent applications published this week describe upgrades to handheld devices manufactured by the electronics firm. A new hearing aid detection system may make iPhone use much easier for the hearing impaired. New security measures for handheld devices, including image-based user authentication, are also outlined.
Hearing Aid Detection
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130034234
Innovations to mobile phone technologies have already made it easier for hearing aid wearers to tune out background noise using telecoil induction amplification. Before hearing aid compatible (HAC) phones and T-coil hearing aids were available, microphone hearing aids would often amplify background noise as well as the telephone speaker. However, hearing aid wearers must manually engage the T-coil mode of phone operation whenever they need to place a call.
Apple’s invention consists of a proximity sensor that can detect when a T-coil hearing aid is close to the phone speaker. This sensor triggers a data processor that automatically enables the T-coil playback mode on the phone speaker. When the sensor no longer detects the hearing aid, the speaker reverts to its typical playback state.
As claim 1 of this patent application states, Apple is seeking protection for:
“A portable audio device suitable for use by a user wearing a hearing aid, comprising: a proximity sensor to detect a measure of distance of the device to an external object; a magnetic field sensor to detect a measure of external magnetic field; data processing circuitry coupled to the proximity sensor and the magnetic field sensor to compute a change in the distance of the external object and a change in the external magnetic field, and select between a normal audio mode of operation and a hearing aid compatible mode of operation, based on the computed changes in distance and magnetic field; audio processing circuitry to process an audio signal according to the selected mode of operation; and a speaker coupled to receive the processed audio signal.”
Graphical User Interface for Tracking and Displaying Views of an Application
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130036380
One of the innovations laid out in an Apple patent application published this week aims to make document and presentation software more responsive to complex sets of data. Many of these programs already include graphics to render data in different visual representations, like pie charts or bar graphs. However, software users can only typically display one view per representation method.
The system described in this patent application creates an interface element that a user interacts with to pull up a menu of graph thumbnails. In this way, a user can render one set of data in multiple ways using the same representation method and easily pull it up during a presentation. This will improve data organization for those who need to produce electronic documents or presentations for business or scientific purposes.
Claim 1 of this patent application describes:
“A method comprising: generating a graphical user interface (GUI) for displaying a selected view of an application; and generating a user interface element of the GUI, the user interface element configured for displaying groups of one or more visual representations of views of the application, where the groups of views are in a compressed or expanded display format based on whether a member of the group corresponds to the selected view, where the method is performed by one or more hardware processors.”
Debugging a Memory Subsystem
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130036254
Apple is hoping that the system and methods of debugging in this patent application will help its computer systems better monitor the status of flash memory connecting to the system. Flash devices containing non-volatile memory that stores files can connect with a computer through any number of communication ports, often the USB port. This invention would help a computer debug a flash device and test its internal connectivity, among other functions.
This intellectual property application describes a joint test action group (JTAG) interface installed on the host device that is designed to let the computer process these functions on the flash device. The JTAG can also perform boundary scans to test communication between the device and the computer, and provides other status information.
Claim 1 of Apple’s patent application protects:
“A memory subsystem comprising: non-volatile memory; a memory controller that is communicatively connected to the non-volatile memory over a first bus; a host interface through which the memory controller communicates with a host controller over a second bus; and a joint test action group (JTAG) interface that provides the host controller with access to state information associated with the memory controller; wherein the memory subsystem is configured to be coupled to a board-level memory device that includes the host controller.”
Flexible Codec Switching
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130034151
Errors in video file decompression or playback are likely to occur when a file contains video clips that have been coded into different bit rates or compression styles. These different codes can all be played on a media player if a computer contains the proper codecs to process each coded stream. However, the current system of switching between codecs is inefficient and causes buffering delays while wasting system resources.
The system Apple is hoping to legally protect provides for a more efficient switching between codecs during media playback. A controller monitors the playback stream and looks for indications that a different codec is needed. Instead of waiting for the new coded stream to arrive in playback before starting the codec, the controller would initialize the codec prior to the switch and transfer the feed seamlessly.
Claim 1 of this patent application seeks protection for:
“A system for encoding video data comprising: a plurality of encoders wherein a first encoder is implemented to code source video data; a controller configured to: monitor at least one performance measure of the system; detect an encoder switch condition; upon detecting the encoder switch condition, initialize a second encoder, wherein initializing the second encoder includes updating state information of the second encoder; and once the second encoder has been initialized, switch the coding operations from the first encoder to the second encoder.”
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130036461
Practices of image-based authentication already exist for laptops and desktop computers, but this patent application would bring that technology to the iPad and iPhone as well. Current modes of user authentication for these devices are based on a short passcode, often four digits in length, that can be easily discovered by a thief.
This system uses the handheld device’s camera to capture an image of the user attempting to log into the device. If the image doesn’t match a picture attached to any of the device’s user profiles, that user cannot gain access to the device. This security enhancement is very practical as tablet device and smartphone usage are much more ubiquitous now and theft can occur without attracting attention.
As claim 1 states, Apples wishes to protect:
“A method comprising: causing an image, that is stored on a computing device, to be displayed by the computing device, wherein the image depicts one or more objects; after the image is displayed, receiving input from a user at the computing device; in response to receiving the input, determining, at the computing device, whether the input matches authentication data associated with the image; and in response to determining that the input matches the authentication data associated with the image, allowing the user to access the computing device; wherein the method is performed by the computing device.”