A fresh Apple patent has been discovered that promises to make all iPhones and computers just like Tony Stark's talking, holographic assistant in Iron Man. Well, it's a start at least and Apple's ideas include an affordable, compact 3D imaging and display system that can be used for input and more. The diagram below from Patently Apple shows one aspect of the 3D system in operation.
Apple's plan is to give the user feedback with audio and visual signals as they provide 3D input in a defined space. This space would be scanned continually and the results of user action displayed in real time. Not only this, but a projection beam could be used to create holographic images within the space.
Two patents submitted by Apple point to major feature enhancements under development that would dramatically change the iOS Maps app on iPhones and other mobile devices. Both patents were discovered in the past two weeks by AppleInsider. The patent diagram below shows Apple's take on augmented reality.
Several apps have tried to implement augmented reality by overlaying graphics on top of live video from the iPhone camera. In one example, Yelp included a feature that showed nearby businesses directly on live video of the area. The app made waves two years ago as the first iOS augmented reality application, combining data from the camera, GPS and compass.
A newly discovered Apple patent filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office outlines a new method for iPhone users to determine carrier rankings.
The filing, submitted in April of last year, and discovered by Apple Insider this week, would allow iPhone owners to search for competing carriers and service plans directly on their phones. In 2010, Apple was rumored to be working on an embedded SIM iPhone service that would allow users to shop for a plan on their device, instead of dealing directly with the carriers. This angered European carriers who threatened to cut subsidies if Apple went ahead with their plan.
Apple filed another round of complaints with the International Trade Commission to try and block the sale of HTC devices which they claim infringe on their patent rights. The complaint is similar to the lawsuit Apple filed claiming Samsung's Galaxy products “slavishly” copied iPad and iPhone technologies.
HTC general counsel Grace Lei said HTC is "disappointed at Apple’s constant attempts at litigations instead of competing fairly in the market. HTC strongly denies all infringement claims raised by Apple in the past and present and reiterates our determination and commitment to protect our intellectual property rights.”
This is not the first time Apple has gone after HTC. In March, the company sued HTC over 20 patents mainly targeting their Android Devices.
GetJar CMO Patrick Mork issued a harsher reply to Apple's cease and desist over the name the "App Store:"
Patent number 7,966,578 could change the face of the mobile device market. The newly approved iPhone patent filed by Apple over three-years ago is for "[a] computer-implemented method, for use in conjunction with a portable multifunction device with a touch screen display, [that] comprises displaying a portion of page content, including a frame displaying a portion of frame content and also including other content of the page, on the touch screen display."
Depending on how the patent is interpreted, it could give Apple control over all capacitive screen and multitouch interface devices. Several patent experts warned that if it's not invalidated, it could allow Apple to bully other smartphone manufacturers such as HTC, Samsung and Motorolo.
“Unless this patent is invalidated or at least narrowed, it will be a potential impediment to innovation until December 2027,” patent expert Florian Muller told Macworld. “I don’t see any innovative achievement disclosed in that patent document that would justify a monopoly of that breadth and duration. Apple could use it in various ways throughout that period, including some that would be highly undesirable.”
The most likely "undesirable" method would be demanding high licensing fees from competitors.
Thanks to Patently Apple, we recently saw how Apple could be planning a smart bezel on the iPad. Now it seems Apple engineers are also working on a similar concept for a future model iPhone. The iPhone smart bezel patent revealed by Patently Apple details some interesting features that could be added to the area surrounding the main display.
The smart bezel is described as an area outside of the main LCD screen comprising printed segmented electroluminescence displays. Presumably these would be dark until needed, and could be illuminated in different patterns to create buttons or give the user information depending on what the iPhone was being used for at the moment. This would free up more space on the main screen.
Apple, like everyone else, is looking to increase the battery life of its mobile devices. The lithium-ion battery found in current model iPhones takes up a large amount of space yet still often fails to meet our power-hungry needs. A patent revealed by AppleInsider could mean that better batteries are in the works.
Apple's idea is to make current batteries hold more energy without increasing their size. High-density power cells would also up energy density without increasing charging times or reducing minimum life cycle. A charging technique described as multi-step constant-current constant-voltage (CC-CV) would be used to achieve this higher energy density.
Nobody can seem to get enough of the iPhone nano. Ever since the first news of a mini-iPhone patent surfaced almost four years ago, the concept refuses to disappear for more than a few months at a time. Now Bloomberg cites sources within Apple who say the smaller handset is indeed in the works.
According to the report, prototypes of the iPhone nano exist and have been considered as a way for Apple to increase competition against popular, cheaper Android devices. By using current-generation components Apple could reduce manufacturing costs on a new handset coming in at two-thirds the size of a normal iPhone.
Several Apple patents have surfaced that hint towards possible iPhone hardware updates. One patent reveals an integrated AM/FM radio tuner that would make conventional broadcast radio listening possible. Not only this, but the app design includes a radio map showing nearby radio stations and the associated musical genres.
Satellite radio is also mentioned in the patent application, as well as a radio tuner card for desktop Mac computers. The app design includes presets and a similar interface to current broadband streaming radio players.
Every time a new Apple patent goes public it sets off waves of speculation about the next iPhone. The latest round of patents is no different, and some features are already expected to debut on the iPhone 5 next summer. Two of these patents would make for some interesting changes in the next iPhone and beyond.
One patent shows a redirecting flash. Apple just added an LED flash to the iPhone 4 and the company is already looking to improve this feature. A redirecting flash would be capable of aiming and focusing light to specific areas in a photograph to help properly expose the scene.