Apple received 37 patents in the third week of February from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. These awarded patents include three design patents and a few motion detection sensing systems that allow individuals to interact with devices without having to touch the device. Other patents protect improvements to shock sensors within electronic devices and electronic contacts within jacks.
What follows is a sampling of some of the patents that particularly caught my attention for one reason or another.
Proximity Detector in Handheld Device
U.S. Patent No. 8381135
Manufacturers of all kinds of electronic devices have always been interested in improving a user’s experience with a computer system. A user’s ability to interact seamlessly with the computer software contained within the device has always been a large part of that user experience. From keyboards to computer mice and then touch screens, computer technology manufacturers have continued to come up with new and quicker modes of communication between user and computer.
This Apple patent protects a system of proximity detection that includes a sensor installed in a handheld electronic device. This sensor detects the presence of an object spaced a certain distance away from the device. Once the object is detected, the sensor becomes an input device that allows the object to interact directly with the graphical user interface. Schematic drawings from this patent document seem to indicate that a person could interact with their handheld device by moving their hand above the screen to scroll through lists and other such actions.
Claim 1 of this Apple patent describes:
“A method of interfacing with a device, comprising: detecting an object in space in a position above a display associated with the device; selecting, based on at least a particular set of x and y components of the position of the object above the display, a particular defined user interface mode from a plurality of defined user interface modes when the object is detected in the space, each of the plurality of defined user interface modes corresponding to a different set of x and y components; displaying and enabling one or more GUI elements based on the selected user interface mode, the one or more GUI elements being virtual control devices for receiving touch input for controlling an application, and appearing in addition to any application graphics being displayed on the display, wherein the selected user interface mode is a defined data entry mode where the GUI element is a virtual keyboard, a defined edit mode where the GUI element is a tool bar or virtual keyboard, a defined control mode where the GUI element is a control panel, and a defined information mode where the GUI element is a window; and automatically transitioning between different user interface modes and causing GUI elements to be activated and displayed, or deactivated, as the object is detected as moving over different portions of the display.”
Mounted Shock Sensor
U.S. Patent No. 8375767
Shock sensors are used in handheld devices for use in diagnostic procedures or warranty guidelines. There are two classifications of shock sensors: active and passive. The typical active sensor is an accelerometer that can determine the speed of a falling device and detect an impact threshold. A passive sensor is a component within a device that shows physical evidence of an impact; often, devices use an ink capsule that cracks within an enclosed tube upon impact. A technician can dismantle the device and see if the ink has filled the tube to check for signs of impact.
Apple’s new version of a shock sensor melds characteristics of both styles while accounting for shortcomings in either. The active style of shock sensor can fail if the device loses power or the circuitry required to read the accelerometer breaks. Passive sensors will always register a fall, but once an ink tube breaks it cannot be reset. This version of shock sensor from Apple includes some detection circuitry that registers a passive sensor impact, which can help technicians diagnose repair issues without dismantling the device.
Claim 1 of this intellectual property patent protects:
“A shock sensor for actively and passively indicating the occurrence of a shock event, comprising: a component operative to move from a first position to a second position in response to a shock event, wherein: the component, when in the second position, changes a state of an electrical circuit to provide an active indication of the shock event; and the component can be observed in the second position to provide a passive indication of the shock event.”
Jack Assemblies with Cylindrical Contacts
U.S. Patent No. 8376789
Electronic devices have very sophisticated component jacks that interact with internal circuitry to transmit and/or receive information from peripheral equipment. For instance, a headset may be able to send and receive audio signals through conductive electronic contacts within a single jack. Often, these electronic contacts take the form of cantilever beams that extend into the jack cavity.
This new jack assembly devised by Apple is designed to save space within the jack cavity by utilizing cylindrical contacts that fit around the plug rather than cantilever beams that extend into the cavity. The cylindrical contacts provide more surface area for electronic signal transmission, and can be twisted at the end to increase surface contact with the plug.
Claim 1 of this Apple patent document protects:
“An electrical connector comprising: an enclosure defining a cavity with a longitudinal axis operative to receive an electrical plug; and a jack contact positioned in the cavity, the jack contact comprising: at least a first end region extending about at least a first portion of the axis; and a contact region extending towards the axis from the first end region to a free end of the contact region, wherein the contact region is operative to contact a first conductive region of the plug and deflect away from the axis when the plug is inserted into the cavity, wherein the free end of the contact region is operative to deflect towards a portion of the first end region when the contact region deflects away from the axis; and wherein the free end of the contact region is operative to contact the portion of the first end region when the contact region deflects away from the axis.”
Methods and Apparatuses to Arbitrarily Transform Windows
U.S. Patent No. 8379058
This patent protects an aesthetic upgrade on the graphical user interface for computer operating systems. Software developers often create transitional effects that occur when users trigger certain actions. For instance, a recycling bin icon may look empty when it contains no files, but the digital garbage can icon fills with trash when a user deletes an item.
The design upgrade here involves the minimizing of windows. Most windows that appear on a computer screen have a minimize button that a user can press to remove the window from the main screen. Instead, the window appears as an icon on the start bar running along the bottom of the screen; users can press the bar icon to bring the window back up. This transitional effect protected by Apple transforms the window into the icon by narrowing the window into an icon bar as it travels down the screen.
As claim 1 of this patent describes, Apple is protecting:
“A machine-implemented method, comprising: obtaining first data associated with a first transformation to a first window, the first transformation relates a first texture point of the first window to a first arbitrary point; and creating a second transformation for a second window based on matching the second window to the first transformation, the second transformation relates a second texture point of the second window to a second arbitrary point, wherein the creating the second transformation comprises: determining a relative location between a second untransformed screen point of the second window and one or more first structure points of the first transformation; and generating, based on the determination, a second structure point for the second transformation.”
Real Time Video Process Control Using Gesture
U.S. Patent No. 8379098
Camcorders and other video capture devices allow users to playback video in real time on a screen to help a user see exactly what is being recorded by the lens. However, the screen doesn’t typically have enough functionality to allow a user to process the video. To do this, the video file must be uploaded from the video capture device to a computer.
Apple has created a gesture-based system of video processing that allows users to process video in real time directly from the capture device. Each process is tied to a specific gesture; when the capture device senses the gesture, it triggers the processing control that affects the video display on the device’s screen.
Claim 1 of this Apple patent protects:
“A method, comprising: providing an unprocessed digital video stream from a digital video source; directly presenting at least some of the unprocessed digital video stream in real time at a display; sensing a first gesture, the first gesture being associated with a first video process; sensing a second gesture in conjunction with the first gesture, the second gesture associated with a second video process; interpreting the first and the second gestures as a third gesture, the third gesture being associated with a third video process; modifying at least a portion of the unprocessed digital video stream presented at the display in real time in accordance with the third video process; storing at least the modified portion of the digital video stream in a memory device as modified digital video, wherein when the third video process is explicitly associating a first object image and a second object image in the unprocessed digital video stream, modifying only those portions of the unprocessed digital video stream that include the associated first and second object image; and when the third video process is implicitly associating the first object image and the second object image in the digital video stream, modifying only those portions of the unprocessed digital video stream that include the implicitly associated first and second object images.”