Yesterday a couple of oddball Apple Media Player patents came to light and yet each was important in its own right. One was so obvious, that I almost missed it. Being that this might be the year that I finally take the leap into digital photography, I saw Apple's patent present a digital camera, like an EOS Rebel from Canon, connected directly to an iPod. Surely this must be available now, no? NNNNN-No. I called my local Apple Store and explained what I was looking for, what was in yesterday's patent - and asked if they had it in stock. No, it doesn't exist, yet – was the reply. It may be coming to the iPad but no word yet for an iPod or iPhone, stated the Apple Rep. So unless my local Apple Store is full of idiots, Apple's patent has yet to come to life. The patent states that you'll be able to plug a still or video cam directly into your iPod or iPhone. Whether this is being reserved for Light Peak or USB 3.0 is unknown, but this is a very cool idea. The second patent discovered yesterday simply adds a little more proof that Apple is working on a rotatable video camera element that enables you to take regular videos of friends and events while being able to turn the camera lens inward so as to become a video cam for video calling. This is Apple's second patent this quarter discussing this feature.
Directly Connect a Digital or Video Cam into a Video iPod or iPhone
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a simplified diagram of a computer system in accordance with one embodiment of the invention. In some embodiments, computer system 100 may include a Classic iPod (though the patent is clear that it could be a touch screen based handheld, meaning an iPod touch or iPhone), accessory device 104 being a digital camera, 120 and photograph capture button 122. Camera 120 can receive visual signals using circuitry (not shown) included in handheld device 102 or accessory device 104 or both, which can operate to convert the visual signals into one or more photograph or video data files. As used herein, the word "photograph" includes any type of electronic image data file. Image data files can be stored or encoded using any suitable format, including for example tiff, raw, jpg, gif, or any other suitable image format. Video data files can be stored or encoded using any suitable format, including for example mov, mpg, mpeg, avi, mp4, or any other suitable video format. Button 122, user input component 112, and other user interface components (not shown) can be used to interact with (for example, edit, save, export, delete, or any suitable function) the photograph or video data files.
Accessory device 104 is shown in FIG. 1 as physically and electrically coupled to handheld device 102 via a cable 108 and a connector component 106. In some embodiments, accessory device 104 can be wirelessly coupled to handheld device 102. When accessory device 104 is coupled to handheld device 102, one or both devices may have enhanced functionality. This enhanced functionality may automatically occur in response to the devices being coupled together, in response to a user input, or in response to a system event. For example, handheld device 102 may not have its own camera or only have a lower resolution camera, but can direct accessory device 104 to take high resolution photographs when accessory device 104 is coupled to handheld device 102. As another example, specialized circuitry or applications (for example, for recording and converting visual signals) may be included only in accessory device 104 and not in handheld device 102.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 is an illustrative electronic device for displaying information in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. Electronic device 200 can include any suitable electronic device, including for example a portable media player, cellular telephone, personal organizer, digital picture frame, hybrid of such devices, or any other electronic device. Electronic device 200 may include user interface component 204.
Update: Apparently Apple used to have an iPod Camera Connector. It no longer appears to be available. However, the new iPad Camera Connector, as presented by iLounge may be reconfigured for future iPods and iPhone, just like the Apple rep first stated in my introduction. Complaints about the first generation model revolved around sluggish performance. That's why I stated that USB 3.0 or Light Peak may be the hold back. Apple's patent clearly positions the come-back for the iPod Camera Connector in the future.
Apple's iPhoto Slideshow Themes
Apple credits William Bull, Kourtny Hicks and Eric Hope as the inventors of patent application 20100042926, originally filed in Q3 2008.
Apple's Portable Cam Concept for Video Taking & Talking
While we're still in the dark as to what Apple will officially dub their iPhone video calling feature (iChat to Go, Portable iChat, or simply iChat, period), Apple has sure been talking it up lately in a series of patents. In this latest patent, Apple describes a concept video calling capable camera.
An exemplary electronic device 10 is illustrated below in Apple's patent FIG. 1, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. In some embodiments, including the presently illustrated embodiment, the device 10 may be a portable electronic device, such as a media player, a cellular phone, a personal data organizer, or the like. Indeed, in such embodiments, a portable electronic device may include a combination of the functionalities of such devices. In addition, the electronic device 10 may allow a user to connect to and communicate through the Internet or through other networks, such as local or wide area networks. For example, the portable electronic device 10 may allow a user to access the internet and to communicate using e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging, or using other forms of electronic communication. By way of example, the electronic device 10 may be a model of an ipod having a display screen or an iPhone available from Apple Inc.
In the presently illustrated embodiment, the exemplary device 10 includes an enclosure or housing 12, a display 14 and a camera 16 having a lens 18.
In accordance with certain embodiments of the present invention, the display 14 may display a user interface and various other images, such as those captured by the camera 16 or logos, avatars, photos, album art, and the like. Additionally, in one embodiment, the display 14 may include a touch screen through which a user may interact with the user interface.
In one embodiment, the camera 16 allows a user to capture video images via the lens 18 adapted to collect and focus external light used for forming viewable video images on the display 14. While in the illustrated embodiment the camera 16 and the lens 18 are shown to be disposed on a top portion of the enclosure 12, it should be appreciated that in other embodiments such elements may be disposed on a bottom, side, or back portions of the device 10. In other embodiments, the camera 16 and the lens 18 may be located on a moveable or rotatable element which is coupled to the enclosure 12. Still further, the camera 16 may be detachable from the enclosure 12.
A camera on a "moveable or rotatable element" was first revealed by Apple and presented in Patently Apple's January report titled "Working on iChat & 3D UI for Portables." Such a camera concept would be required for taking both videos of events occurring behind the media player and video conferencing on the face of the device – which was covered in our February report titled "Location Based Social Networking & Video Calling Coming to iPhone."
Apple's patent FIG. 2 is a simplified block diagram of a video digital camera in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. Beyond this point, the patent goes down a technical rabbit hole and only those involved in the camera industry could appreciate the technical nuances that are being described in this patent.
Apple credits Haitao Guo, Ting Chen and David Kuo as the inventors of patent application 20100039530, originally filed in Q3 2008.
Despite the fact that the U.S. International Trade Commission will investigate Eastman Kodak Co.'s patent-infringement complaint over digital-camera technology used in iPhones, Apple keeps advancing their own camera technologies. Kodak also has filed separate lawsuits against Apple in U.S. District Court in Rochester, claiming an infringement of patents related to digital cameras and certain computer processes. Patently Apple has discovered that the 1993/1994/1995 granted patents in dispute are 5,226,161, 5,303,379 and 5,421,012. All of which are Wang Laboratories Inc, patents that must have been acquired by Kodak in 1997. For more information on this law suit, see our special report titled "Scales of Justice: Eastman Kodak Company vs. Apple Inc."
Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application and/or grant is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application and/or grant should be read in its entirety for further details. For additional information on any patent reviewed here today, simply feed the individual patent number noted above into this search engine.