Apple Seeks Patent on Lifestyle Companion Fitness System

By Steve Brachmann
June 13, 2014

A giant in the world of consumer electronics development, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) of Cupertino, CA, also designs and develops much of the software and online services used by its devices. Recent communication between Apple and its headphone manufacturers suggest that the company may be trying to shift production of headphone jacks to adapt to the company’s Lightning port, an audio data port which could enable better audio specifications and smart headphones in years to come. Apple is also rolling out Swift, a new programming language for iOS and Mac OS X app developers designed to be easier to read and provide instant feedback.

We’re dedicated to providing in-depth analysis of innovations coming from the top developers of consumer electronics in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, and Apple is one corporation we return to again and again. Apple often makes waves in the media for its imaginative inventions expressed in patent applications filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Today, we’ve dug a little deeper to find other patent applications and recently issued patents which may be of great interest to our readers.

As always, we start with a close look at one featured patent application, and we were intrigued by one technology designed to encourage group completion of fitness activities. This lifestyle companion system can also suggest fitness activities to users based on personal interviews conducted by the system. Other inventions directed at personalized services, including a method of creating avatars reflecting a user’s current emotional state, are also described in a series of patent applications discussed in today’s column.

Apple’s patent filing activities always result in a great deal of patent grants from the USPTO, and recently the company was issued many patents protecting improvements to various software and device hardware products. Improvements to media editing programs for recording voice-overs, a smarter progress bar for conveying project completion information and a processing system for determining that a person’s shoes have become worn out and should be replaced are also protected by recently issued patents.

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Systems and Methods for Facilitating Group Activities
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140149235

The systems being developed by device manufacturers open up a wider away of computer functionality than we’ve ever known, and new advances in creating meaningful technologies occur with regularity. The typical smartphone of today has evolved from cell phones which only supported voice communication to something more of a lifestyle companion, giving users plenty of ways to connect digitally to meaningful content, whether for communication, information or other services.

As computing technologies advance, there are times where it becomes clear that better integration of data collected by these devices may help improve the livelihoods of their owners. For example, there are people who exercise regularly while wearing a device meant to measure heart rate data. However, there are times when that software cannot use that data in intelligent ways to provide reporting on fitness goals, for example.

This patent application was filed by Apple with the USPTO in January 2014 and would protect a lifestyle companion system that can take data and use it to make personalized suggestions for a device owner. The lifestyle companion system includes a platform for a method of conducting a user interview. Based on the user responses in the interview, a variety of activities can be suggested by the system using audio and video cues that communicate the activity to a user and indicate a level of intensity.

As users complete activities, this system is capable of dynamically adjusting goals and suggested activities based on data collected during those activities. Additionally, the system is capable of using data to suggest group activities with others using the software, synchronizing activities among multiple contacts through the use of a synchronization signal. Various activities involving dining, exercising and medical experiences are the focus of this innovative technology.

Claim 30 (Claims 1 through 29 cancelled) of this Apple patent application would protect the rights to:

“A portable media device comprising: a first communication module for accepting first food provider data from a first food provider and for accepting second food provider data from a second food provider; first memory for storing a user nutritional profile of a user; and a first controller configured to suggest that the user patronize the first food provider based on the user nutritional profile, the first food provider data, and the second food provider data.”

Claims 1 through 29 were quickly canceled on the same day this patent application was filed, according to documents available through the USPTO. These claims were mostly directed at the synchronized consumption of digital media among multiple devices. In a remark filed with the USPTO in January 2014, the inventors stated that they reserve the right to pursue the subject matter further as patentable in continuation applications.

The application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/846,414 to Gilley et al., filed on Sep. 21, 2006, which is incorporated by reference. Interestingly, the application also claims priority to a number of non-provisional patent applications that were all filed on March 27, 2007, however, none of the Serial Nos. of the applications are provided, but rather are left blank. An example is: “U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______ to Gilley et al., filed on Mar. 27, 2007…” Those anonymous patent applications, which are presumably non-provisional patent applications are allegedly incorporated by reference.

 

Other Patent Applications 

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140146976, titled “Ear Presence Detection in Noise Cancelling Earphones.”

Much like today’s featured applications, we noticed a large number of patent applications assigned to Apple that describe innovations designed to provide meaningful software improvements for mobile technology users. These inventions are aimed at accurately identifying and sharing important emotional states or life events which are pertinent to a device user. For example, U.S. Patent Application No. 20140143275, which is titled Journaling on Mobile Devices, discusses a system that logs event data on web browsing and downloading, among other digital activities, into a journal database on a mobile device. Users can create personal event history timelines by filtering this data through search engine queries which are collected through a client application installed on a mobile device. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140143693, issued under the title Avatars Reflecting User States, would protect a computer program capable of collecting user inputs and analyzing them to determine a user’s current emotional state. This emotional analysis is used to customize avatars for online gaming or social networks so that they more accurately portray a user’s current emotional state to others.

The hardware of electronic devices manufactured by Apple has also been the focus of various research and development activities for this corporation, to judge by a couple of other patent applications we were able to find. Improvements to earphones meant to enable users to enjoy digital media through a device without being bothered by environmental factors are discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140146976, entitled Ear Presence Detection in Noise Cancelling Earphones. The earphones discussed in this patent application include noise cancelling circuitry which only enables noise cancelling processes when the earphone detects that it has been placed into a user’s ear. This creates the lowest possible battery drain while still providing noise cancellation through earphones. A method for better detecting the available ambient light in a space for dynamic adjusting of a device screen’s brightness is featured in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140152632, titled Solar Cell Ambient Light Sensors for Electronic Devices. The solar cell ambient light sensors discussed here can detect various levels of ambient light, from bright outdoor sunlight to dim rooms, for dynamic adjusting of display screen brightness on an electronic device. These solar cell sensors take up much less space within a device than typical chip package sensors involving photodiodes.

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Issued Patents of Note

The Companies We Follow series is committed to documenting the most interesting inventions coming from the largest corporations to be found in our world. Whenever we investigate innovations from Apple, a regular among the companies profiled by our series, we find a great deal of filings related to consumer electronics. The 13th-greatest earner of U.S. patent grants during 2013, Apple has been issued dozens of patents in recent weeks that protect technologies which augment this corporation’s electronic and computing device offerings. These USPTO patents protect a variety of systems related to health & fitness, media editing, noise cancellation and more.

Apple is already renowned for its extensive lineup of media editing software, such as iMovie and Final Cut Pro. Improvements to Apple’s media editing software, specifically designed for the recording of voice-overs, are protected in the recently issued U.S. Patent No. 8744239, which is titled Teleprompter Tool for Voice-Over Tool. Instead of opening a separate text application to display a script while recording audio through media editing software, this media application method includes a textual display for the script as well as an output display for viewing the composite audio/video presentation once the voice-over is recorded.

From U.S. Patent No. 8744239, titled “Teleprompter Tool for Voice-Over Tool.”

 

Enhancing the intelligibility of phone calls so that a listener can understand a caller even in a noisy environment is the central focus of U.S. Patent No. 8744091, entitled Intelligibility Control Using Ambient Noise Detection. This patent protects a method for detecting ambient noise levels and adjusting voice signals received through telephony services so that the call recipient can understand the caller without manually adjusting the volume or having to wear a headset. A method for tracking a person’s progress on a specific goal or project that more effectively represents the percentage of the whole which has been completed is protected by U.S. Patent No. 8738665, issued under the title Smart Progress Indicator. This progress bar, which is both user-configurable and user-programmable, can provide more information about progress to users through the use of shading or coloring effects indicating a change such as the passing of a milestone date.

Our latest search of Apple’s recently patented technologies rendered up one patent which protected an intriguing invention related to personal fitness. U.S. Patent No. 8749380, titled Shoe Wear-Out Sensor, Body-Bar Sensing System, Unitless Activity Assessment and Associated Methods, protects a body bar sensing system capable of sensing repetitious movement from within a housing. This detector would be measured by a processor to determine the end of service life for shoes or sneakers based on a physical metric that measures the level of wear in a shoe. Finally, we found a novel system for improving the delivery of advertisements to device users based on enhanced contextual knowledge, which is protected by U.S. Patent No. 8751513, entitled Indexing and Tag Generation of Content for Optimal Delivery of Invitational Content. Users who browse the Internet for content are often presented with advertisements based on broad contextual tags provided by the website, such as “news” or “sports.” This system is designed to determine semantic values of content being viewed by a person to provide a more effective context for providing personalized ads with the intent of achieving a higher ad conversion rate.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

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