Yet again, it was another busy week for Apple Inc. at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, as the California-based electronics developer received 48 patents and another 20 published applications for prospective patents.
A number of these applications describe upgrades to supporting components on Apple devices, including a new configuration for a device vibrator and a better system of illuminating keyboard keys. One of the more intriguing Apple patents awarded this week protects a system of displaying metadata to users extracted from radio broadcasts.
Processing Simulcast Data
U.S. Patent No. 8401580
Radio broadcasts often transmit extra data simultaneously with their audio transmission. This data, typically configured according to the Radio Data System (RDS) protocol, includes information about the audio transmission that can be displayed by certain digital receivers. For example, a digital receiver would display the song title and artist of the track being played.
Apple is helping make this metadata information available to iPhone owners and other Apple device users with this new system of processing simulcast data. The mobile device would extract the metadata signal from the radio broadcast and present that information through a user interface displayed on the device. The data could also include additional website resources or Amazon.com book recommendations that the device owner could visit through the interface.
As Claim 1 of this patent describes, Apple has earned the right to protect:
“A computer-implemented method, comprising: receiving, on a mobile device, a radio simulcast of content and a data stream, the data stream comprising one or more information snippets; obtaining content metadata from the information snippets, the content metadata including information on the content; storing, on the mobile device, the information on the content in a data structure in association with a timestamp; and providing for display on the mobile device a user interface, the user interface operable for displaying a presentation of the timestamp and the information on the content in response to a user query.”
System and Method for Electronic Device Keyboard Illumination
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130069562
Apple has previously manufactured keyboards that utilize light emitters to illuminate keys on the keyboard. In most cases, light emitting diode (LED) lighting is installed at different points throughout the keyboard to light up different sections of keys equally, while some configurations include a lighting source underneath each key.
The new system that Apple is seeking to protect through this patent application is designed to light up keys on Apple keyboards while reducing the weight and size of the lighting component. The lighting sources are installed on a flexible circuitry layer found beneath the keys. The system also provides for the alteration of lighting in response to system commands. For instance, certain keys that provide shortcuts to menu options could blink when the menu is opened by a computer user.
As Claim 1 of this patent application explains, Apple has devised:
“A keyboard comprising: a plurality of keys; a plurality of source reflective surfaces; and a flexible circuitry layer positioned under the plurality of keys and comprising a first illumination source, wherein: the first illumination source is configured to emit first light; and a first portion of the plurality of source reflective surfaces is positioned to at least partially form a first bounding region beneath at least a first key of the plurality of keys that prevents the emitted first light from illuminating any key of the plurality of keys other than the at least a first key.”
Location-Based Categorical Information Services
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130072235
The proliferation of electronic devices into consumers’ lives is drastically increasing the amount of information that device owners can obtain about their surrounding area. For example, a vacationing couple can check their device to get information on nearby restaurants, bars and attractions. In many cases, however, this search for local attractions is time-consuming and requires a device owner to actively search for information.
Apple’s system of improving location-based information services, outlined in this patent application, forwards information to the device owner based on preferences indicated by the user. An iPhone user would be able to select from different business categories, like restaurants, hotels, museums and more. When the iPhone’s GPS system has geographically located the device, it would provide information on local attractions based on the user’s preferences, which is displayed on a digital map.
Claim 1 of this Apple patent application is seeking protection for:
“A method comprising: receiving, from a first device, a request for categorical information, the request specifying a category; receiving, from a second device, a collection of shared categorical information; determining relevant categorical information from the collection, the relevant categorical information comprising categorical data representative of a content item, wherein the categorical data is responsive to the category, and wherein the content item satisfies a conditional setting of the first device; and providing, to the first device, the relevant categorical information for representation as a graphical object in a map on a display.”
Audio Codec with Vibrator Support
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130073295
Electronic devices manufactured by Apple, including the iPhone and iPad, are packed with multimedia features for listening to music, watching videos or playing video games. Along with audio speakers, these devices are often outfitted with vibrator components that can alert the user to notifications, phone calls or provide additional sensory feedback while playing games.
Typically, these different outputs are separated into two different signal channels, but Apple is proposing a way to include vibration processing within the audio codec, saving space within the device for other electronic channels. The codec sends a selection signal through its output pins that informs the device whether it will operate the speaker or vibrator components in response to a given command.
As this Apple patent application explains in Claim 1, the electronics manufacturer wants to protect:
“An audio codec chip, comprising: a first digital to analog converter (DAC) to receive a first digital audio signal from a source external to the codec chip; a first variable signal generator; a first multiplexer coupled to the first DAC to receive a first analog audio signal and coupled to the first variable signal generator to receive a first vibrator signal; an external communications interface coupled to a control input of the first multiplexer, to deliver a first selection signal that configures the first multiplexer to route either the first analog audio signal or the first vibrator signal, not both simultaneously, through a first output pin of the audio codec chip; and a first power amplifier having an input coupled to an output of the first multiplexer, and an output coupled to the first output pin of the codec chip.”
Interactive Content for Digital Books
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130073932
Electronic tablet owners widely use their devices to purchase and download digital books, or eBooks, for reading. In fact, many devices, including the iPad, have display screens that are optimized with “electronic inks” that are easier on a user’s eyes for times of heavy reading. However, although these devices offer a range of multimedia features, prior graphical user interfaces (GUI) are not widely compatible with content like images or video.
This patent application submitted by Apple describes a system designed to facilitate more complex data inputs for multimedia content. In this way, a user could watch videos contained within the text or interact with presentations, animated diagrams or multiple-choice questions, among many other features. The GUI designed by Apple is built to retain a user’s typical control over digital book reading while also accessing these interactive options.
Claim 1 of this Apple intellectual property patent application reads:
“A method of presenting interactive content in a digital book, the method comprising: displaying text and an image on an interface associated with a digital book, the image including one or more callouts containing terms corresponding to portions of the image; receiving input associated with the image; zooming in on a portion of the image; and displaying a definition corresponding to a term associated with the portion of the image.”