Electronic device developer and manufacturer Apple Inc. has recorded another big week with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. On Tuesday, the California corporation was issued 36 patents, and the USPTO published another 32 patent applications on Thursday. Many of these prospective patents focus on better responses to user interactions, including new methods of music library visualizations and smarter microphone response to ambient sound. One of the patents issued to Apple protects a fiber optic cable connection that is self-cleaning.
Cleanable and Self-Cleaning Fiber Optic Connector
U.S. Patent No. 8393802
Optical signals between electronic devices can be transmitted through fiber optic cables connecting the two devices. For example, a television can play DVDs if a DVD player has been connected to the television through a cable plugged into the proper jack input. With time, however, the plug can degrade in quality through scratches or from the buildup of dirt and other organic debris, affecting the signal transmitted through the cable.
The patent awarded this Tuesday to Apple protects a new design for a fiber optic cable connection that is not only cleanable but also self-cleaning. The ejector of this new plug connector pops the plug out of the jack with enough force that any debris remaining in the connector is also expelled. The new configuration is also designed to reduce scratching on the optical element of the cable connection, protecting the signal quality:
Claim 1 of this Apple patent protects:
“An optical connector comprising: a body having an outer surface; a first cavity extending within the body from the outer surface; an optical component positioned within the first cavity; an ejector coupled to the optical component; a biasing mechanism operatively coupled to apply a biasing force to the ejector to secure the optical component within the first cavity, wherein when a force is applied to the ejector to overcome the biasing force, the ejector ejects the optical component from the first cavity so that it extends beyond the outer surface”
Methods and Apparatus for Visualizing a Media Library
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130067367
Users of media playback programs like iTunes have a few options for individualizing the organization of their music files. Users can view their entire library or create playlists of certain tracks. Music files can be sorted by genre, artist, title and other attributes. Most programs even include the ability to randomly create a playlist if the user wants a random playback. These representations of the user’s music library are typically in a textual list format, which doesn’t convey much useful information for large libraries.
Apple is creating a system of different visualizations for music files in a media playback program. This application contains a few embodiments of media visualization, including a wheel-shaped representation that depicts the entire library in a single disc. The disc could be segmented based on genre or other attributes to quickly show the makeup of the entire library. The application also protects other music library representations, including a rectangular visualization and a tree-map visualization.
Claim 1 of this Apple patent application seeks protections for:
“A computer-implemented method comprising: accessing metadata that describes a set of media items, the metadata comprising a plurality of attribute values for each media item in the set of media items; generating a graphical representation of the set of media items, the graphical representation comprising: a geometric shape divided into a plurality of sectors based on a first attribute value from the metadata, wherein each sector is sub-divided based on a second attribute value from the metadata; and a mark for each media item in the set of media items, wherein the mark is positioned within the geometric shape based on a third attribute value from the metadata.”
Decisions on Ambient Noise Suppression in a Mobile Communications Handset Device
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130065652
This patent application looks to create a responsive system of microphone amplification to give a user the ability to share sounds further away from the phone’s receiver than the user’s mouth. Currently, it is possible for a caller on one end to hear ambient noise through the other caller’s receiver, such as party noise or beach waves, but it’s difficult for the listener to distinguish these noises.
This patent application discusses a system of detecting when the microphone moves away from the user’s mouth and amplifies the microphone signal to adjust. For example, a user could point the phone towards a speaker across the room. The phone would detect that the microphone is directed away from the user’s face and increase its volume, making it easier for the listener to hear the speaker in the other caller’s room more clearly.
As Claim 1 describes, Apple seeks to protect:
“A method in a mobile communications handset device, comprising: performing ambient noise suppression upon an uplink signal that contains speech of a near-end user of the device, wherein the uplink signal is transmitted to a far-end user during a call and the ambient noise suppression is to reduce amount of background or ambient sound that is also in the uplink signal; detecting that the near-end user has moved the device from an at-the-ear position to an away-from-the-ear position during the call; and in response to said detection, performing less ambient noise suppression upon the uplink signal so that amount of background or ambient sound in the uplink signal is greater when the device is held in the away-from-the-ear position than in the at-the-ear position.”
Systems and Methods for Identifying Unauthorized Users of an Electronic Device
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130065608
Electronic device theft is widespread. Although there are ways of tracking a mobile device, many of those techniques require a user to proactively install software before a theft. Often, these programs don’t do a good job of protecting important data on the stolen device.
However, these devices have the ability to gain a lot of information about a current user, and Apple is trying to take advantage of this for security reasons. Devices often contain cameras and can use one to capture an image of the current user and compare it to previous pictures of the actual owner. Also, the phone can determine when suspicious activities are taking place, such as an excessive amount of incorrect password logins for accounts or attempts to hack accounts. If the device suspects an unauthorized user, it can gather this information and send it to the police or contacts listed in the contact book to track down the stolen device.
Claim 2 (Claim 1 cancelled) of this Apple patent application seeks to protect:
“A mobile device comprising: positioning circuitry to determine a current location of the mobile device; a processor configured to: monitor the current location of the mobile device; determine, based upon the current location, that the mobile device has moved at least a predetermined distance away from a second device with which the mobile device has been synchronized; and determine that a current user of the mobile device is unauthorized in response to the mobile device moving at least the predetermined distance away from the second device.”
Polyphonic Note Detection
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130061735
Computers are currently able to process monophonic notes picked up by a microphone input into the computer. There are already programs that are able to detect the pitch of a certain note for tuning or rehearsal purposes. These programs are not currently capable, however, of determining multiple pitches in a polyphonic chord, like a piano or guitar chord.
This patent application outlines a system of detecting polyphonic pitches by mapping the different frequencies recorded by a single microphone. The computer reads the peaks in the frequency graph, which identifies the different pitches contained within the single chord. System algorithms also account for harmonic intervals that can determine the type of chord being played.
As Claim 1 states, Apple wants to protect:
“A computer-implemented method of detecting a note in an audio signal, comprising: converting a first portion of the audio signal from a time domain to a first frequency domain portion; detecting in the frequency domain portion a peak at a fundamental frequency and a first predetermined number of peaks at integer-interval harmonic frequencies of the fundamental frequency; converting a second portion of the audio signal to a second frequency domain portion, and determining the existence of the note by detecting in the second frequency domain portion of the audio signal a peak at the fundamental frequency and a second predetermined number of peaks at an integer-interval harmonic frequency of the fundamental frequency, wherein the second predetermined number of peaks is less than the first predetermined number of peaks; storing in a computer memory indications of the existence of the fundamental and harmonic peaks; and outputting to a user a visual representation indicating the presence of the note in the audio signal portion when the indications are stored in the memory.”