US Patent & Trademark ▪ December 29, 2011

Much like the somewhat controversial face unlock feature built-in to Google’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone, a new patent application reveals Apple too is working on similar, but more advanced user detection solutions. As PatentlyApple pointed out, Apple noted these recognition systems could land in a future iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or MacBook.

The basics of the patent entitled “Low Threshold Face Recognition,” is to allow a user to unlock a device—such an iPhone or iPad—using facial recognition. Apple’s solution could allow the device’s camera to recognize the user even when the device is in sleep mode. In other words, the device’s camera would remain active when sleeping, detect the user, and unlock the device without having to press the sleep/wake button. This could, in theory, allow a user to bypass the current Slide to Unlock feature.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the system would be the ability for the device’s settings to be customized depending on the user. For example, when detecting a specific user, iOS could set personalized wallpapers, notification settings, and custom configurations for apps. This would provide multiple user logins, allowing iOS users to easily share a device among family or coworkers.

Apple’s system would differ from other face recognition systems by ignoring face biometrics. As PatentlyApple explained, “The face recognition techniques are based on a simple, weighted difference map, rather than traditional (and computationally expensive) correlation matching.” Apple’s system could detect “high information portions” of a face such as the eyes, mouth, or the tip of a nose. In addition, an “orange-distance filter” could be applied to determine variations in skin tone and detect the “likely presence” of a user. This could detect the distance between the device and the user’s face, as well as the user’s “level of attentiveness.”

In 2010, before the iPad launch, The Wall Street Journal reported Apple was experimenting with the ability to recognize individual users with the device’s camera. Today’s patent was originally filed in 2009.

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US Patent & Trademark ▪ August 12, 2011

A few more interesting Apple Inc-filed patents have surfaced today (via Patently Apple) as part of the many applications published by the US Patent & Trademark Office recently. Perhaps the most notable include a design for an iPhone antenna clip, new finger reducing oil resistant coating, and a patent describing using solar energy as an alternate power source in portable devices (something we know Apple has been researching from patents and other sources in the past).

One of the more interesting patents with technology that could (and probably should) make its way to iOS devices in the near future is a the method of reducing “finger oils on touch surfaces”. The patent describes Apple’s method of “Direct Liquid Vaporization for Oleophobic Coatings”. Fingerprints have seem to become less of an issue to iPhone users over the years, but are definitely still a major annoyance to users in less than desirable lighting conditions.

From the report:

Apple states that to prevent the deposition of oils on an electronic device surface, an oleophobic ingredient could be bonded to the electronic device surface. The oleophobic ingredient could be provided as part of a raw liquid material in one or more concentrations. To avoid adverse reactions due to exposure to air, heat, or humidity, the raw liquid material can be placed in a bottle purged with an inert gas during the manufacturing process.

The image below shows what appears to be an antenna attached to a small device’s housing via an “attachment member”. Patently Apple reports Apple states the antenna invention could be used in “their iPod family (MP3 players), a radio, an audio/video recorder, a mobile telephone, personal digital assistant, tablet computing device, or other similar device”. They also speculate from the “exploded view above that it might even be an “iPhone-nano-like device”.
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US Patent & Trademark ▪ August 11, 2011

There certainly isn’t a shortage of Apple patents being published today (probably more fuel for a legal battle a year from now). We just told you about a new Map related (Placebase acquisition) patent, and now Patently Apple reports Apple has been granted a patent that will allow them to integrate tiny projectors into future mobile devices.

This latest patent describes, in rather clear detail, exactly how Apple could integrate projectors into iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks. It even suggests Apple cameras will be able to detect gestures and “shadows and/or silhouettes” (Kinect-style iOS games anyone?).

The patent also describes what Apple calls a “shared projected workspace”. This appears to essentially be the ability for users to share content with one another over two projected displays. For example, if I were to project an image from one iOS device, and you from another, we could then share content (via gestures?) between both displays. The patent explains:
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