Apple invents a flexible material to create truly seamless enclosures for MacBooks & other products

The US Patent & Trademark Office today published a new Apple patent application (via PatentlyApple) that details a flexible material that could be used as a hinge to create a seamless enclosure for devices like the MacBook, for example. Apple details a technical process of using specialized machinery to laser cut “flex apertures” and interlocking features in a rigid material to allow it to bend and function as a hinge. On top of creating a seamless enclosure, Apple claims the process would allow it to reduce the size of devices that are often increased due to traditional hinge solutions. Imagine if the enclosure of a MacBook didn’t include that black plastic hinge and instead appeared to be a seamless piece of aluminium connecting the display to the bottom half of the unibody.

While MacBooks might seem like the obvious application for Apple’s invention, it also notes the usual list of devices that could potentially use the technology including everything from smartphones to televisions and game consoles. The patent also shows the material being used on headphone cables to allow a flexible connection from the cable to the earbud to prevent damage, and on what appears to be an iPad Smart Cover-like accessory: Read more

Apple details Waze-like crowd-sourced route ratings and incident reporting for real-time traffic alerts in Maps

Apple-maps-ratings-alerts

According to a new Apple patent application published today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (via AppleInsider), Apple is looking into new mapping features that would integrate real-time, crowd-sourced traffic and navigation data through ratings and user reporting.

At first glance the features appear to be similar to those included in the community-based mapping app ‘Waze’, which is one of the reasons that Google just acquired the company last month. The patent application, titled “User-Specified Route Rating and Alerts,” describes a system for users to “provide ratings for routes, streets and/or locations.” In other words, users can rate a suggested route when getting directions in order to provide crowd-sourced feedback to Apple and in return Apple will provide the most efficient and accurate routes to other users based on the ratings:

Particular implementations provide at least the following advantages: Route determination is improved by accounting for real-world considerations and concerns of travelers. Real-time user-generated alerts allow for faster and more accurate notification of events within proximity of a user that might hinder the user’s progress as the user travels… In some implementations, rating database 110 can store information related to users’ ratings of routes and/or locations. For example, a user of mobile device 102 can interact with navigation engine 104 to provide ratings for routes and/or locations. The ratings information provided by the user can be transmitted to navigation service 106 through network 114. Navigation service 106 can store the ratings information in rating database 110 and route engine can determine routes based on the ratings information stored in rating database 110.

Apple also walks through a process of gathering user-generated alerts for routes including accident reports, road closures, etc. Apple plans on taking all the alert and route rating data and providing it to other users in real-time to improve route directions. In other words, if your device is detected to be in the same location as a user-generated alert, Apple will be able to push that alert to your device or suggest an alternate route based on the incident that’s been reported:

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USPTO publishes Apple iTravel patent with Passbook-like features and NFC tech

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a series of Apple-granted patents today related to iTravel that reek of Passbook and Near Field Communications.

According to Patently Apple, the “boarding pass and express check-in” feature spotlighted in iOS 6’s Passbook app, which Senior Vice President of iPhone Software Scott Forstall previously announced, is covered in today’s iTravel patent. Apple also received coverage for NFC tech, that we think has a pretty good shot of going into the next iPhone, within iTravel that concerns the check-in process and, more specifically, factors for transportation providers to perform identification and ticketing checks.

Patently Apple explained:

  • Apple’s iTravel check-in system will work with Macs, but more importantly, with iOS devices such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Ticketing and identification information will be stored on the iOS device and transmitted, such as via near field communication, to another electronic device. The handheld device may be used to check into flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, trains, buses, and so forth.
  • Additionally, traveler identification information may be transmitted electronically to enable faster security verification during check-in. The traveler identification information may enable automatic lookup of the traveler in a security database, thereby reducing the inconveniences of incorrect identification. Travelers may also provide specialized identification, such as fingerprints or retinal scans, in order to provide heightened security on high-risk modes of transportation.

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Apple’s rumored iOS device inductive charging solution gets pictured in patents

Another batch of newly granted Apple patents were published today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and then detailed by Patently Apple. Perhaps the most notable is one for an inductive charging solution that we have heard about in the past. Apple patents surfaced last year showing new methods of inductive charging that could be used in various Apple devices. There were even rumors last year that a next-gen iPhone could sport a similar cable-free charging solution. Patently Apple described the docking station invention covered in today’s patent that would include an “eradiating antenna and an inductive charging circuit for inductively charging a handheld device”:

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Future MacBooks could have this surround sound speaker system

According to an Apple patent application published by the United States Patent & Trademark Office and detailed by PatentlyApple, Apple is working to implement audio transducers in combination with multiple speakers to enable surround sound configurations on MacBook-like devices. Apple’s focus of the patent appears to be improving audio in mobile devices as speakers decrease in size to accommodate smaller and thinner form factors.

As detailed in the image to the right, one embodiment of the invention shows the use of several speakers and an audio transducer integrated into the bezel and enclosure of a MacBook. These configurations would allow, for example, the speakers embedded next to the display to handle high range frequencies, while the lower speakers would handle mid-range and the audio transducer the low-range. Additional speaker enclosures could be added to enable 3.1 or 4.1 surround sound configurations. Apple also stated the audio transducer could provide both low and mid-range frequencies, “essentially performing as a “subtweeter” for frequency ranges from 20-500 Hz and 500-1500 Hz. The report explained:

 
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Apple working on advanced 3D cameras with object and gesture recognition

This is not the first time an Apple patent has surfaced relating to three-dimensional camera technologies. A previous patent highlighted advanced 3D object recognition and verification. A new patent—published today by the United States Patent & Trademark Office and detailed by PatentlyApple—shows Apple is continuing to work on 3D camera technologies that could land in future iOS devices. Apple’s patent described a 3D imagining camera that uses advanced microlenses, depth-detection, chrominance, and luminance sensors. The camera could recognize facial expressions and gestures while creating 3D models of scanned objects. PatentlyApple explained:

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Apple researching universal remote that customizes UIs intelligently

This is not the first time we have received hints that Apple is working on an innovative universal remote control for controlling TV and video content. In January, we told you that Apple was researching a touchscreen remote with adaptable user interfaces. The invention would essentially allow button layouts stored in the cloud or in a device (such as a TV) to be wirelessly and seamlessly beamed to the controller’s UI. The concept would alleviate the “table full of remotes” scenario Steve Jobs described at D8.

Today, a new patent application published by the United States Patent & Trademark Office and detailed by PatentlyApple gives us even more insight into what Apple’s universal remote concept could become. In the newly discovered patent application, Apple details a remote that is capable of displaying customized controls for various devices by simply taking a picture of the device. Apple would send the picture to iCloud, analyze it, and beam a UI or button layout to the remote that works for your TV. PatentlyApple explained:

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Slide to Unlock? Patented!

The United States Patent & Trademark Office this morning issued a patent grant to Apple pertaining to the familiar Slide to Unlock gesture. Remember, the now ubiquitous sliding move debuted on the original iPhone as a fun way to keep your device secured while in your pocket. “To unlock the phone, I just take my finger and slide it across. Wanna see that again? We wanted something you couldn’t do by accident in your pocket. Just slide it across – BOOM.”, Steve Jobs said entertaining the invitees at the phone’s unveiling in January of 2007.

The iOS chief Scott Forstall is credited as one of the inventors, in addition to Apple engineers Imran Chaudhri, Bas Ording, Freddy Allen Anzures, Marcel Van Os, Stephen O. Lemay and Greg Christie. Apple actually filed a patent application in December of 2005, a little over a year ahead of the iPhone introduction at the Macworld Expo. Of course, the work on the iPhone had begun a few years earlier.

It’s a bit silly, really, but blame it on the patent system. Be that as it may, nobody now gets to use the popular ‘Slide to Unlock’ without infringing on Apple’s patent unless a court rules it is invalid or prior art. Here’s a video of the 2004-5 Neonode N1m, showing a similar Slide to Unlock that existed before the iPhone (4 minutes in):

Interestingly, a Dutch court ruled that the slide to unlock patent was invalid because of this very device.

The company explains in the granted patent document:

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Apple has been denied the multi-touch trademark by Patent Office

As noted by MacRumors, Apple has been denied the tradmark for multi-touch, which they applied for on January 9, 2007 after the first iPhone was introduced. Once the decision was reached by the the Board, Apple then filed for an appeal which was then again shot-down. Excerpt from the decision that is embedded after the break:

Again, simply because the applied-for term has been used in association with a highly successful product does not mean the term has acquired distinctiveness. Decision: The examining attorney’s finding that the Section 2(f) showing is insufficient is affirmed.

Apple was denied the trademark simply because it is too broad, and lacks distinctiveness to Apple alone.  As a reference, NYU’s Jeff Han has multiple mentions of Multi-Touch as a generic term in papers from 2005 and before.  Here’s his multi-touch video demonstration more than a year before Apple filed for ‘Multi-Touch’ or released the iPhone.

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