The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 44 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover vehicle geo-fencing, an iDevice e-reader mode, 3D imagery appearing on a 2D UI and Apple winning a design patent for their Shanghai Store’s glass staircase. We wrap up this week’s granted patent report with our traditional listing of the remaining granted patents that were issued to Apple today.
Apple Granted Patent for Accessory Control with Geo-Fencing
Apple has been granted a patent today for their invention relating to conditionally transmitting signals (e.g., that control a vehicle function) to a vehicle accessory based on proximity to the vehicle accessory.
Apple’s granted patent states that a vehicle accessory can transmit a first signal (e.g., a signal comprising vCard data) to a mobile device (e.g., an iPhone). The first signal can identify a current or future location of the vehicle. The iPhone can generate one or more virtual geofences based at least in part on the location of the vehicle.
For example, a geofence can be defined as a circular boundary centered on the vehicle’s location, the radius being equal to a pre-defined distance. The iPhone can repeatedly estimate its own location. The mobile phone can then determine whether it has crossed a geofence by, e.g., analyzing its own location in view of a boundary of a geofence or based on a distance between the vehicle and the mobile phone. In some instances, the mobile phone can further estimate its motion, such that it can determine a direction in which it is crossing a geofence. Upon detecting that the mobile phone has crossed a geofence (e.g., generally or in a particular direction), the mobile phone can generate and transmit a second signal to the vehicle. The accessory can control or coordinate control of one or more vehicle functions in response to receipt of the second signal.
For example, a vehicle accessory can detect that a vehicle has parked and further detect geographic coordinates (and, in some instances, an altitude) of the vehicle. The vehicle accessory can then generate and transmit a signal including a vCard to a mobile phone, the vCard including the geographic coordinates (e.g., and altitude). The mobile phone can receive the signal and access a set of location-based function control rules. Rules can identify geofence spatial parameters relative to vehicle-location characteristics.
For example, geofences can include circular geofences with vehicle-related origins, geofences with shapes paralleling vehicle components (e.g., tied to a door, a trunk or a hood), etc. The mobile phone can then identify absolute-location boundaries of the geofences in the rules. The mobile phone can repeatedly monitor its location relative to the geofence boundaries and detect when a boundary has been crossed, a direction in which the boundary is being crossed, a point of the boundary being crossed, and/or a speed at which the mobile phone is moving when the boundary is crossed.
Function control rules can include specific control commands that are to be transmitted to the vehicle upon crossing specific relative boundaries. For example, function control rules can identify parameters related to door locking, trunk opening, vehicle running, heater or cooling operation, defroster operation, music selection or status, accessory power states, seat warmers, navigation operations, etc. Upon detecting a particular geofence crossing (e.g., and a direction in which an ingress or egress of the geofence is made), the mobile phone can generate and transmit a second signal to the vehicle accessory identifying the function control to be implemented.
Whether Apple will incorporate this into CarPlay in the future is unknown at this time.
Apple credits Sylvain Louboutin as the sole inventor of granted patent 8,868,254 which was originally filed in Q2 2012 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Apple was also granted a patent for “Multi-tier geofence detection” under patent # 8,868,104.
Apple Granted Patent for an iDevice Having Mode Dependent User Input Controls
Apple has been granted a patent today for their invention relating to improved approaches to providing user interaction with a portable electronic device operating to in a particular mode, such as an e-reader mode.
Apple notes that dedicated, limited purpose devices can be optimized for performance of a particular limited purpose. One example of a limited purpose device is an e-reader (or e-book reader). The e-reader can be relatively power efficient through use of e-ink display technology. Traditionally there’s a tradeoff between multi-functionality and low power consumption.
Apple’s granted patent provides improved ways to provide user interaction with a portable electronic device operating in a particular mode, such as an e-reader mode.
In one embodiment, the portable electronic device is a multi-function portable electronic device that can be configured differently based on a particular mode being used.
Based on the mode of operation or application being used, user inputs to the device can be characterized differently. Advantageously, with mode-based configurations, the portable electronic device can operate to make use of user interface controls in an efficient manner. The mode-based configuration can save power, increase efficiency, and/or speed up operation of the portable electronic device.
Apple has been working on this project from different angles. Their most impressive invention on this subject was published in 2011. We covered this patent application in a report titled “Apple Devising Smart Hybrid e-Paper/Video iOS Displays.” Various display modes were discussed including an electronic paper display.
Apple credits Ulrich Barnhoefer and Brett Alten as the inventors of granted patent 8,866,791 which was originally filed in Q3 2010 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Apple Granted Patent for Rendering Dynamic 3D Appearing Imagery on a 2D UI
Apple has been granted a patent today for their invention relating to rendering dynamic three-dimensional imagery, and more particularly to a system and method for rendering dynamic three-dimensional appearing imagery on a two-dimensional user interface screen.
Apple’s granted patent appreciates that the provision of three-dimensional images on the user interface screens would provide a benefit. In order to make these three-dimensional images more engaging, it has also been appreciated that if the user were able to “look around” an image, the images would be considered more interesting. That is to say, if the user is looking at a 3D image of a sculpture on the user interface screen, for instance, and desired to look at the right side (relative to the user) of the displayed sculpture, it would be of great interest to the user for the image of that right side of the sculpture to be displayed on cue by the user.
Non-contact optical methods for measuring eye position and motion typically involve sensing reflected infrared light. This reflected infrared light is reflected from a user’s face but absorbed by a user’s pupils. Therefore, the points of light absorption can be detected as eyes.
Alternatively, the IR data can be inverted, and then the pupils will stand out as very bright circles. The sensing can be done by a camera or other image sensing device. Camera based eye trackers typically use the corneal reflection (also known as the first Purkinje image) and the center of the pupil as features to track over time.
A more sensitive type of eye tracker, the dual-Purkinje eye tracker, uses reflections from the front of the cornea (first Purkinje image) and the back of the lens (the fourth Purkinje image) as features to track. An even more sensitive method of eye tracking is to sense image features within the eye, such as the retinal blood vessels, and follow these features as the eye rotates. However, any method for tracking head position and eye position of a person using a personal computing device is contemplated as within the scope of this disclosure. Also, other features of a user, such as nose, chin, or ears can be utilized for tracking a user’s head position for rendering the appropriate three-dimensional appearing imagery. These alternate features can be tracked when it is not possible to track the user’s eyes.
Apple notes that accelerometer(s) or similar type motion sensors can be incorporated into handheld device versions of the system to assist the tracking of relative head position as the device is moved about in comparison to the user’s head and eyes. This routine is based on the premise that the relatively small handheld device will normally be held in the hand and moved about the user instead of the user moving his or her head about the device. In this variation, after initial target acquisition, the device relies on continual input from the accelerometer(s) and then periodically uses a camera to capture infrared images to track a user’s eyes and/or head for rendering three-dimensional appearing imagery. Correspondingly, the method can include reading data from the motion sensors in coordination with reading data from the camera for rendering the three-dimensional appearing imagery. Among other benefits, use of the accelerometer(s) in tandem with the camera permits less overall power consumption and manipulation of the data outputted by the accelerometer(s) is computationally less expensive and more performant than the camera alone.
The patent discusses various aspects of a camera that could help produce a 3D-like image. Apple’s recently acquired PrimeSense is an expert in this field. We reported back in April that “Future High-End Android Smartphones with 3D Cameras will be using Apple’s PrimeSense Technology. Obviously Apple will be able to use advanced versions of this technology in the future.
Apple’s patent FIG. 4 noted below illustrates a method embodiment for rendering three-dimensional appearing imagery. The system determines if the camera and IR (infrared emitters) are active. If no, the system disables the rendering of three-dimensional appearing imagery and displays two-dimensional appearing imagery.
Apple credits Brendan McCarthy as the inventors of granted patent 8,866,809 which was originally filed in Q3 2008 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Apple Granted a Design Patent for a Spiral Glass Staircase
Apple was granted three design patents today with two of them being for minor iOS UI elements. The third is the most interesting being that it covers a spiral glass staircase. In December 2013Apple was granted their first design patent relating to a glass staircase that credited the late Steve Jobs. In August of this year Apple was granted a patent for their New York Apple Store glass Building.
In 2012 Apple filed for a patent relating to their Shanghai Apple Store glass panel exterior and today, it would appear that the staircase associated with that store was granted a patent (D715,963).