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'patent' Articles

Apple Patent Filing Describes Wireless Power Transfer System That Can Prioritize Devices

Two days ago, we reported that Energous had received FCC certification for the company's first-generation WattUp Mid Field transmitter, which powers up devices at a distance of up to three feet away. As noted by VentureBeat, this week also saw two new Apple wireless power patent applications published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. While the patents don't confirm anything on their own, rumors have floated since 2015 that Energous has been working with Apple on a truly wireless charging solution for future mobile devices, so they may offer an idea of what users can expect, should the rumors prove accurate. The first patent, covered by Patently Apple, describes a way of creating custom schedules for a charger capable of sending power to multiple devices such as phones, laptops, tablets, and watches over a "wireless power transfer link". The power profiler works so as to remember the order of priority for charging the devices – if the user wants their Apple Watch to be fully charged before their iPad, for instance. In another example, the user can set more nuanced preferences for charging priority, by requesting, say, that their watch is charged first but only if their iPad has at least 25 percent battery power; or requesting that their iPhone takes charging priority over all else during the evening, but only if their calendar indicates that they will be out of the office the next morning. The second patent is less detailed, but describes a wireless power transmitting device that can function as a standalone adaptor, or send power a wireless

Members of Apple's PrimeSense Team Patent Method of Interacting With Mac Using Hand Gestures

Apple today was granted a patent originally filed in August 2016, describing a method in which users would be able to control a Mac computer -- and potentially other devices -- using a "non-tactile three dimensional (3D) user interface" (via Patently Apple). The patent's inventor credits go in part to Amir Hoffnung and Jonathan Pokrass, two current Apple employees who joined the company from PrimeSense after Apple acquired it November 2013. Some of PrimeSense's tech, which was originally used in Microsoft's Kinect devices on Xbox platforms, now resides in the front-facing TrueDepth camera of the iPhone X, and the new patent hints at a potential future where this technology expands in function to Macs as well. Instead of recognizing faces, Apple's patent describes a Mac that recognizes a "gesture by a hand," allowing users to interact with the computer without tactile inputs like a keyboard, mouse, or trackpad. Images via United States Patent and Trademark Office The patent includes a variety of gestures that users would use to control the 3D user interface, including what are called "push," (figure 2) "wave," (figure 3) and "up" (figure 5) interactions, which are all grouped into a category of "focus gestures." According to the patent, some of these could be used to perform basic app interactions, like scrolling through a menu, as well as change the state of the system from locked to unlocked. Gestures described herein include focus gestures and unlock gestures. A focus gesture enables the user to engage (i.e., take control of) an inactive non-tactile 3D user

Apple Exploring Self-Adjusting Apple Watch Band Designs

Apple is investigating designs for Apple Watch bands that self-adjust to fit the wearer's wrist using an integrated tensioner mechanism (via AppleInsider). A patent application granted on Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office describes multiple designs that utilize such a system, which could one day replace magnetic clasps, velcro, and other fasteners used in current bands. Titled "Dynamic fit adjustment for wearable electronic devices", the patent begins by highlighting the cumbersome nature of existing fastening methods, which can be inconvenient to adjust or require special tools to achieve the desired fit, and often fail to offer fine-grained adjustment. The patent goes on to note that not only can a sub-optimal fit be uncomfortable, it also risks decreasing the sensitivity of onboard biometric sensors and reducing their measurement accuracy. These potential problems are often exacerbated by sweat and motion during exercise, the document notes. A number of possible solutions are offered, using variations of a built-in tensioner mechanism that adjusts automatically or at the wearer's request, tightening or loosening as required. Variations include embedded shape memory wire, internal ratcheting apparatus, gas or fluid bladders, retractable band elements, and even extendable portions of the device housing. As always with patents, it's not known whether the inventions will ever be used in Apple's consumer product line-up, but the designs clearly relate to potential future models of Apple Watch or watch band, the latest being the Sport Loop with

Apple Ordered to Pay $506M to University of Wisconsin in A7/A8 Patent Dispute

U.S. District Judge William Conley today ordered Apple to pay $506 million to the University of Wisconsin's Alumni Research Foundation for infringing on a patent related to computer processing technology used in its A7, A8, and A8X chips, reports Reuters. The $506 million total is more than double the $234 million in damages that a Jury ordered Apple to pay back in 2015, with Conley adding an extra $272 million. According to Conley, Apple owes additional damages along with interest because Apple continued to infringe on the patent until it expired at the end of 2016. The lawsuit in question dates back to 2014, when the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation accused Apple of infringing on a patent titled "Table based data speculation circuit for parallel processing computer," that was originally granted in 1998 and covers a method for improving processor efficiency. A jury ruled that Apple's A7, A8, and A8X processors infringe on the patent, and the university has also filed a second lawsuit covering Apple's A9 chips, which has not yet been ruled on. Apple plans to appeal the judge's

Qualcomm CEO Says Out of Court Settlement With Apple Could Happen

Apple and Qualcomm have been embroiled in a bitter legal battle since the beginning of the year, and though the fight has escalated in recent weeks, Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf today told Fortune that an out of court settlement is not out of the question."There's not really anything new going on," Mollenkopf said speaking at the Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen. About the Apple dispute, he explained "those things tend to get to resolved out of court and there's no reason why I wouldn't expect that to be the case here."Mollenkopf went on to say that he has no specific news of a settlement and that nothing new has happened in the case. "I don't have an announcement or anything so please don't ask, he told Fortune. Mollenkopf made a similar statement back in February, but that was before the legal battle between the two companies intensified. At that time, he also said he didn't expect a public fight, something Apple and Qualcomm have not been able to avoid. Today's interview suggests Qualcomm is still open to settlement talks, but whether that will happen remains to be seen. If Apple and Qualcomm do not settle, we can expect a legal battle that will continue on for several years. The fight between Apple and Qualcomm started in January, after the FTC complained that Qualcomm had engaged in anticompetitive patent licensing practices. Apple sued Qualcomm for $1 billion just days later, accusing the company of charging unfair royalties for "technologies they have nothing to do with" and refusing to pay quarterly rebates. According to Apple, Qualcomm has

New Apple Patent Describes Sleep Tracking System With Bedtime Ritual Sensing and Power Nap Function

A new patent filed by Apple in 2015, and published today by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, shines some light on what the company could be working on in regards to sleep tracking technology and its recent acquisition of Beddit. Called "Adjusting alarms based on sleep onset latency," the new patent describes in detail a system that could receive data from devices like an iPhone, Apple Watch, or a Beddit-like flat, flexible sensor, and intelligently track user behavior to help them get their best night sleep possible (via AppleInsider). The patent explains that most people have typical bedtime habits recurring every night, such as going to the bathroom, shutting blinds, taking a shower, etc. These "sleep ritual activities" directly affect each person's "sleep onset latency," or the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep after first lying down and attempting to go to sleep. The problem with most modern alarm apps is that they can't understand a restless night's sleep, or a lengthy sleep onset latency period, and Apple's new patent tries to address these issues. The first step is for the sensors to determine your sleep ritual activities, and Apple's patent has a few ways to go about doing that. One is by using sound data, so when the device detects someone brushing their teeth, taking a shower, "or any other activity that generates an identifiable or unique sound," the sleep tracking system can start accumulating data for that night's sleep because it knows you're about to try to rest. Other tips related to sleep rituals for Apple's sleep tracking

Chatbot-Like Siri Patent Includes Intelligent Image, Video, and Audio Recognition Within Messages

A patent application published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office today details a new Apple service where users could make inquiries and talk with the company's AI assistant Siri through Messages (via AppleInsider). The new patent is similar to a filing the USPTO published late last year, but now includes deeper integration with audio, video, and image files. Similar to chatbots in Facebook Messenger and other texting services, Apple's patent describes a Siri that could perform her current duties without the user having to speak aloud, which could be helpful in certain public situations. The "Intelligent Automated Assistant in a Messaging Environment" could respond to text, audio, images, and video when sent to it by the user, which Apple said would result in "a richer interactive experience between a user and a digital assistant." The patent gives a few examples of a conversation held between Siri and a user in Messages, with the user asking questions regarding calorie content in food, upcoming meetings, and even asking Siri to text a friend. Interesting applications include a thread where a user texts Siri a picture of a car or a bottle of wine, and Siri sees the images and can intelligently respond to the user's inquiries about them. For the car, the user asks Siri for details on pricing for a specific model using only an image, and Siri searches the internet and returns the relevant MSRP information. The bottle of wine image is used as an example to show Siri's memory functions, where a user asks Siri to remember their favorite wine, which

Apple Exploring Electronic Tagging Solution For Easily Tracking Dietary Intake

Apple is exploring an electronic tagging solution to make it easier for Apple Watch users to track their calorie and nutritional intake as part of a healthy lifestyle, as shown in a patent newly granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Many of today's healthy eating and diet-based food apps require users to manually input nutrition information into their mobile devices, whether by scanning barcodes with their phone's camera or inputting nutritional figures unit by unit. It's the sort of repetitive and time-consuming exercise that often causes users to give up on their diet-tracking, but Apple's invention offers a much more convenient solution. Titled "Electronic tag transmissions of custom-order nutritional information", the patent describes a system that allows food vendors to encode nutritional information into radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on the fly. The tags can be generated to accompany multiple-item orders at a food counter, as an attachment to the food packaging or as part of a purchase receipt. The tags can then be used to automatically transmit the nutrition data to the customer's NFC-capable device, such as an iPhone or Apple Watch. In one example detailed in the patent, an RFID tag combines the multiple variables that make up a customer's bespoke food order – such as the bread, cheese, meat, and sauces in a hamburger – to generate accurate nutritional information for the end user. Once these details are transmitted to the user's mobile device, a health monitoring app subtracts the numbers from a daily calorie intake limit as

New Patent Describes Waterproof AirPods Case That Could Double as iPhone or Apple Watch Charger

A new patent filed by Apple last year, and published recently by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, details a future iteration of the AirPods charging case that could simultaneously recharge the wireless headphones as well as an iPhone or Apple Watch. In the patent, Apple has visualized an AirPods case that, when placed flat on a surface, could turn into an Apple Watch charging pad thanks to a "wireless power transmitting component" (via Patently Apple). This would allow the AirPods case to double as a portable charging battery, providing power to both the AirPods internally and a separate device externally. The patent depicts multiple ways for the case to detect if an external device is ready to receive transmitted power, including an optical sensor, a mass sensor, or a mechanical interlock or button. When any of these methods are activated, the case would begin charging the external device, which also could include MacBooks. Image via Patently Apple "Such devices can include, for example, portable music players (e.g., MP3 devices and Apple's iPod devices), portable video players (e.g., portable DVD players), cellular telephones (e.g., smart telephones such as Apple's iPhone devices), video cameras, digital still cameras, projection systems (e.g., holographic projection systems), gaming systems, PDAs, as well as tablet (e.g., Apple's iPad devices), laptop (e.g. MacBooks) or other mobile computers. Some of these devices can be configured to provide audio, video or other data or sensory output." Additionally, a future version of the AirPods case could have

Apple Face Detection Patent Hints at Possible PrimeSense Tech Headed For 'iPhone 8'

Apple was awarded a patent today that details a method of detecting faces in a digital video feed through the use of depth information. Published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the document describes how face detection algorithms could identify the presence of faces in a live video when people in the scene are located at different distances from the camera. To reduce processing overhead and minimize error rates, the system applies depth information to existing face detection algorithms used in photography and intelligently scales the face window sizes according to their depth coordinates – i.e., the further away a face is from the lens, the smaller the capture frame around it. The method utilizes a special infrared light to project an optical radiation pattern onto the scene, which is then converted into a depth map. As noted by AppleInsider, the depth mapping system referenced in the patent is based on motion tracking technology developed by Israeli motion capture firm PrimeSense, which Apple acquired in 2013. While the system is able to recognize faces in general, it lacks the ability to identify individual differences between faces, so this isn't a bio-recognition solution in itself, but it could become a crucial enabling step in a wider authentication system. Apple is said to be developing a "revolutionary" front-facing camera system for the upcoming "iPhone 8". The technology is rumored to consist of three modules to enable fully-featured 3D sensing capabilities. While there's no way to know for sure if this particular patent describes one

New iPhone Patent Suggests Touch ID May Live on in a Different Form

One of the more contentious iPhone 8 rumors we've seen recently is the claim that with the removal of the Home button, Apple will ditch its Touch ID fingerprint recognition technology and replace it with another form of bio-recognition hardware. While several possible alternatives have been put forward – such as iris scanning, facial recognition, and even a combination of technologies – each has its pros and cons, while it's still far from clear how Apple would implement them in a purportedly bezel-free OLED handset. On the other hand, it's possible that Apple plans to retain a fingerprint identification system in the context of a wider technology which doesn't rely on Touch ID as it is currently understood. A new Apple patent application published on Thursday and discovered by AppleInsider offers a case in point. The patent is called "Acoustic imaging system architecture" and describes a method by which a conventional capacitive sensor like Touch ID is replaced by an array of acoustic transducers laid out beneath an iPhone display or in its protective housing. Some embodiments describe the transducers as capable of generating acoustic waves, or pulses, which propagate through different substrates, including an iPhone's coverglass. A sensing mode then monitors reflections, attenuations, and diffractions in the sound waves caused by a foreign body – such as a finger – coming into contact with the responsive substrate. According to the filing, the ridges in a fingerprint create an identifiable acoustic impedance mismatch. The resulting scan data is

Apple Patents Avatar Creation App That Can Place Digital Versions of You in Messages and FaceTime

Apple today has been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office regarding an "avatar editing environment," which is the company's patent terminology for a Mii-like app that users can visit to craft a digitized likeness of themselves to use throughout the Apple ecosystem. The patent was originally filed back in October 2011 but was just published by the USPTO today (via Patently Apple). Apple's patent explains that its avatar editing environment would let users create "a representation of their alter ego." This includes a collection of editing features such as different eyes, ears, mouth, skin color, hair, teeth, smile, facial expressions, eyebrows, hair, beard, glasses, hats, and even more items related to the expression of each person's unique identity and fashion. While Apple's new patent sounds like a basic Avatar editing system, the company's wording goes into deeper detail about how far and wide the digital personalities might be implemented across its services. The editor would primarily be its own application on iOS devices, but the patent also notes that Apple could add it as an online addition to its website and give its API to developers so they could implement the avatars into games, social networks, and more. Once an avatar is created, the user would then discover the character can be placed -- and even animated -- in a number of iOS locations, including in Messages, Address Book, and FaceTime. In Messages, users could set a specific animation of their avatar to trigger in response to certain events, so while you're waiting for

Apple May Crowdsource iPhone Damage Data to Make Future Screens More Resistant to Cracks

Cases of cracked iPhone screens are certainly nothing new, and occur often enough to have earned a separate service fee in Apple's AppleCare+ program. According to one study, half of mobile users globally have experienced at least one cracked smartphone screen in their lifetime, and at least 21 percent of smartphone owners currently have a cracked screen. Presumably with this in mind, Apple is currently exploring technology that can detect when an iPhone screen has suffered damage and alert the user early, even if the break is a hairline crack, which may allow the company to come up with better design solutions in the future. The system appears in a patent published on Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, called "Coverglass fracture detection", which describes an integrated network of sensors and software that can detect the formation of cracks in a protective display cover. In one example, the invention detects breaches in the touch sensor substrate embedded in the device display. In another, piezoelectric actuators send out vibrations and detect defects by analyzing the response. In yet another instance, strategically positioned emitters shoot out pulses of light through a series of prisms, to eventually reach sensors located on the other end of the display. Measurements then detect anomalies in the travel of light in order to identify micro-fissures in the screen. The invention is described as being capable of distinguishing between hairline cracks and spiderweb cracks, and even capable of measuring fracture depth, length, width, and

Apple Explores Smart Keyboard With Siri, Share, and Emoji Keys

Apple recently filed a patent application containing drawings of a Smart Keyboard with "Share" and "Emoji" keys, and a key that can be used to both search and invoke Siri, suggesting it may be exploring a new version of the iPad Pro accessory to be sold alongside next-generation models. The drawings show that pressing the "Share" key would bring up a share sheet on the iPad Pro with options to share through apps such as Facebook, Mail, and Messages. There is no description of how the "Emoji" key would function, but pressing it would presumably bring up the on-screen Emoji keyboard on the iPad Pro. The current Smart Keyboard already has a globe key in the bottom left corner that can bring up the on-screen Emoji keyboard, but this key is not visualized in the patent drawings. There is a non-existent "Fn" key in its place. The third key, labeled with a magnifying glass, would serve multiple purposes. A single press, for example, could bring up a search field for searching within apps. A double press could bring up shortcuts for Messages, Photos, Calendar, Camera, Notes, Settings, and other apps. Long-pressing the key would invoke Siri. Since this is not a design patent, Apple's drawings are not entirely accurate, but rather just basic visualizations. The "Share" key is located where the right-side Command and Option keys would normally be, for example, while the "Emoji" key is included in lieu of Caps Lock, which is an essential key. Nevertheless, we roughed up a quick mockup of what the new Smart Keyboard could look like based on the same layout of the new

Apple Exploring Fingerprint Sensing MicroLED Displays Sans Touch ID

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today granted Apple a patent that describes a display capable of reading a user's fingerprint without a dedicated Touch ID sensor (via AppleInsider). The patent is interesting given current rumors swirling around the iPhone 8, which is expected to do away with the home button and integrate Touch ID directly into the display, but perhaps more noteworthy is the patent IP's re-assignment from LuxVue, a little-known company acquired by Apple in 2014 that developed low-power microLED-based displays. Titled "Interactive display panel with IR diodes", the patent details a touch display that uses specifically microLED-sensing technology, rather than the traditional active matrix hardware utilized by most consumer smartphones and tablets. The technology replaces larger capacitive sensors with smaller infrared light emitters and sensors, which sit alongside the RGB LED display substrate or on a microchip mounted to the substrate. These "interactive pixel" formations can then be calibrated to perform any number of functions, including ambient light sensing, proximity detection, and notably complex touch detection, which works by bouncing infrared light off a user's finger and back to the sensing diodes. In the latter operation, specific rows – or a whole portion of the display – scan for a user's finger, which generates a proximate positioning bitmap to inform the system of the target's location and immediate surround. Bitmaps can include data like the intensity of incoming light, enabling a deeper analysis of the object and its

Apple Exploring Data Sharing Gestures For Future Wearable Devices

Apple is exploring ways to make information sharing between wearables and mobile devices as simple as a wave of the hand, if a new patent application is anything to go by (via AppleInsider). Published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, an Apple filing for "Gesture-based information exchange between devices in proximity" describes a secure data transfer system between two portable devices that works by detecting customizable gestures, or "greeting events", such as handshakes, high-fives, hugs, fist bumps, bows, waves, and salutes. The gestures trigger a customizable data set that takes into account device context, with a particular focus on privacy and security. For example, in all cases, users must select the pre-defined gestures to allow the transfer of specific information only between the two devices, reducing the possibility of unintentionally sharing data with other devices in close proximity. Information shared can be stored either locally or in the cloud, and can include most data fit for transfer across a wireless connection, such as contact details, photos, media files, calendar events, and so on. Greeting events can also generate data for sharing across social media, such as a Twitter post that announces a meeting between two users. The sophisticated customization features of the system are of particular note, since they allow users to decide beforehand what kind of information is shared, and with whom, based on pre-defined contextual parameters, such as encountering someone for the first time, versus meeting a family member or an old friend.

Apple Invents Wearable Battery Charging Module for Apple Watch

Apple is weighing up the possibility of developing a wearable battery module to charge an Apple Watch while it's being worn, according to a patent published on Thursday (via AppleInsider). Details of the invention were released by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, under the title "Charging apparatus for wearable electronic device". The module uses an inductive element to transmit power to the smartwatch, similar to the one used in the existing Apple Watch magnetic charging cable. Two embodiments are described in the patent. The first shows the charger embedded in the wristband – an idea similar to previous inventions – while the second depicts a separate module that sits underneath the watch chassis and attaches to an existing band. The induction component in the portable module is capable of both transmitting and receiving power, and aligns itself with the smartwatch or an external charging source using magnets. Apple proposes the use of heat-dissipating circuitry to ensure the module is comfortable to wear against the skin, while various wired solutions are also described for charging the device itself when not in use. It's impossible to say whether the patent will see use in a future product, but Apple is clearly investigating various battery life solutions that don't sacrifice the thinness of the Series 2 design, which is already slightly thicker than the first generation. Improving the battery life of the next Apple Watch is also reportedly the "main task" of Quanta, the Taiwan-based company responsible for manufacturing the wearable. Extending

Apple Patents Detail AR/VR System Suitable for Smartphones, Explore Object Recognition Challenges

Apple was granted a pair of patents on Tuesday that depict a mobile augmented reality system that can detect objects in the surrounding environment and overlay them with virtual information. Picked up by AppleInsider, the first patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is titled "Wearable information system having at least one camera" and describes an AR device with intelligent object recognition capabilities. Combining cameras, a screen, and a user interface, the device is described as being ideal for a head-mounted display, but the patent also suggests a use for the system in future smartphones, owing to the power efficient way in which it monitors the environment. The device is described as having a default low-power scanning mode for normal operation, with high-power modes activated for short periods – when downloading and displaying AR content, for example. The rest of the patent gets quite technical as it details methods of optical tracking and determining camera orientation, two areas of AR that will prove particularly difficult to perfect. Detecting, matching, and describing environmental features quickly and accurately are two challenges that Apple suggests could be overcome using a combination of dedicated hardware and pre-learned data. One aspect of such a system would use depth detection, achieved via dual-lens cameras similar to those found in the iPhone 7 Plus, which also utilizes depth mapping algorithms to produce Portrait Mode photos. The second patent, titled "Method for representing virtual information in a real

No, Apple Isn't Working on a Vape

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published an Apple patent application for a "sublimator/vaporizer" invention, leading to sensational headlines suggesting Apple might release a vape or enter the vaping industry. In actuality—and this could go without saying—the invention is completely unrelated. The patent instead relates to a semiconductor device fabrication process Apple uses to create chips for its devices. The application describes a canister that can be used to vaporize or sublimate a substance, which in Apple's case would be for delivering substances to a substrate during the deposition or etching process. The patent's assigned inventor Tetsuya Ishikawa, a senior manager at Apple in the nanotechnology field, lists photolithography as one of his skills on his LinkedIn profile. He also holds several other patents related to semiconductor fabrication. So, in the end, it is pretty safe to say, no, Apple is not working on a

Modular Band Links Could Expand Functionality of Future Apple Watches

Apple continues to explore how wristbands might augment the feature list of future smartwatch models, as shown in a new patent granted today. First picked up by AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published details on Apple's designs for "Modular functional band links for wearable devices", which first surfaced last April. The patent describes a band made of a series of modular links containing electronic components, which are attached to each other using a flexible conductive material. A number of possible uses are mentioned for the linked design, including batteries, speakers, kinetic power generators, haptic feedback devices, and more. Biometric sensors are also covered, such as blood pressure monitors and sweat sensors. The modular accessory links are arranged serially across a power circuit and communications bus, with module control achieved by way of a unique identifier assigned to each link. In one example, an audio signal is sent from the timepiece through the chain of linked modules and activates only those modules assigned with a particular identifier. Other examples describe links being used as external ports for interfacing with off-device components such as expandable memory modules. In most of the embodiments, the modular links connect to a 6-pin diagnostic port on the watch. As always, there's no suggestion that the invention should be expected to appear in a finished product, but the patent does highlight Apple's continuing search for ways to expand the capabilities of a future Apple Watch or other wearable beyond the