The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple today that covers various methods of detecting a user’s presence and augmenting the user experience accordingly. Apple has covered face recognition and presence detection systems in various patent applications in the past, notably for multi-user logins, security features, and an Android-like face unlock feature. Today’s patent application covers even more implementations of Apple’s presence detection technology that would utilize ultrasonic sensors, microwave radar, and camera and audio systems to detect and identify the user. PatentlyApple covered the highlights of the patent including the ability to activate or augment features using presence detection:

In some embodiments, the device may also be configured to track the user movements (e.g., position and velocity) and, in response to certain movements, provide feedback and/or enter or change a state of operation. For example, movement toward the device may activate more features, such as providing more options/menus in a user interface, whereas movement away from the device may reduce the number of features available to a user, such as reducing the number of menus/options and/or reducing or increasing the size of the options displayed.

PatentlyApple also described another interesting possible implementation that would allow for intelligent zooming based on the movement of the user:

Additionally or alternatively, the display may zoom in or zoom out based on movement towards or away from the device. In some embodiments, a lateral movement of by the user (e.g., from left to right) may cause a change in a background and/or a screen saver image displayed on the device. Still further, the changing of the image may correspond generally with the sensed motion. For example, the movement from left to right may cause the image to be replaced in a left to right motion with another image. Alternatively, as a user moves from left to right, leaves or drapes may reflect the movement. That is, the leaves may be blown and tumble from left to right, or the drapes may sway in a manner corresponding to the detected movement.

Beyond simply detecting movement of the user, the report described the ability to detect a user’s heartbeat, skin tone, and more:

Some of these technologies may be utilized to determine physiological parameters when a human is in proximity to the device. For example, RADAR may be used to detect and/or locate a heartbeat in the room… In some embodiments, active IR may user multiple specific IR wavelengths to detect certain unique material properties, such as reflectivity of human skin or carbon dioxide emissions in breath. As such, the particular embodiments described herein are merely presented as examples and are not limiting.

…The method includes capturing an image using an image sensor and computing at least one of the following from the captured image: a skin tone detection parameter, a face detection parameter, a body detection parameter and a movement detection parameter. The method also includes utilizing at least one of the skin tone detection parameter, face detection parameter and the movement detection parameter to make a determination as to whether a user is present and, if it is determined that a user is present, changing a state of the computing device.

You can get all the details of the patent from PatentlyApple.

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