A recently published patent application of Apple's reveals that iOS will at some point gain new widget creating modules specifically relating to stock and/or custom Emoji Characters. The architecture reveals that modules will appear around the time that videoconferencing comes to the iPhone. With Apple having just revealed FaceTime, the new emoji character modules should be on their way in the next year or so if all goes well. We know emoji better as simply emoticons, but that limits the technology. Apple will extend emoji to accept custom characters that you simply draw on your touch screen and then record for later use. Emoji will uniquely be able to be used as custom map locator symbols as well. While emoticons are big in North America, they're a craze in other parts of the world. So get ready, the iPhone is about to jump on board this craze and do it in style.
Recently, portable electronic devices have been developed that support the use of emoji characters. Emoji characters are often used in web forums, email messages, instant messages (e.g., SMS text messages), notes, and on-line games. A large and growing number of emoji characters exist. But it is quite cumbersome to display, organize, and use a large number of emoji characters in existing portable electronic devices with small display screens.
Accordingly, there is a need for portable electronic devices with touch screen displays that have more transparent and efficient user interfaces for using emoji characters. Such interfaces allow tasks involving emoji characters to be performed faster and more efficiently by users, thereby conserving power and increasing the time between battery charges in portable electronic devices. In addition, such interfaces increase the effectiveness of and user satisfaction with portable electronic devices.
Apple's iPhone Architecture with New Modules
Apple's patent is focused on emoji characters or emoticons, including user defined characters designed via touch screen gestures. Below you'll see three notable highlighted modules that are noteworthy. Two relate to the patent at hand, and the other is to illustrate the timing of these modules may be tied in when videoconferencing is on the iPhone. With FaceTime debuting on iPhone 4 in the next few weeks, we may see Apple roll out a new emoticon application over the next twelve months – perhaps sooner. Time will tell.
Exemplary GUIs for Providing & Organizing Emoji Character Keys on an iPhone
Apple's patent FIGS. 5A to 5F shown below in three graphic sets illustrate exemplary user interfaces for providing and organizing emoji character keys on an iPhone – or other Apple touch-based portables (iPad, iPad 3G, iPod touch).
Apple's patent FIG. 5A illustrates a user interface 500A in an instant messaging application 141. As depicted in this example, a character input area 5000 is provided for displaying or being operable to display text character input and emoji character input selected by a user. As noted above, as used in the specification and claims, text characters refer to alphanumeric characters, sinographs, Japanese kanji or kana symbols, and/or other written human language characters, while emoji characters refer to still and animated picture characters that are not text characters in written human languages.
A keyboard display area 5005 is also provided in user interface, which may include a plurality of emoji category icons 5010. The emoji category icons correspond to a plurality of emoji categories, e.g., most recently and frequently used, people, nature, objects, travel, symbols, and/or seasonal categories of emoji. In the exemplary embodiment displayed in the UI, emoji category icon 5010-1 corresponds to most recently and frequently used, emoji category icon 5010-2 corresponds to people, emoji category icon 5010-3 corresponds to nature, emoji category icon 5010-4 corresponds to objects, emoji category icon 5010-5 corresponds to travel, and emoji category icon 5010-6 corresponds to symbols.
UI 500A also includes exemplary emoji character keys 5015 within the keyboard display area for the respective emoji category being displayed. In the example UI 500A, the emoji character keys being displayed (i.e., 5015-1, 5015-2, and 5015-3) correspond to the emoji category `most recently and frequently used` because emoji category icon 5010-1, most recently and frequently used, is currently selected. The currently selected emoji category icon 5010 is typically visually distinguished from the unselected emoji category icons, e.g., by highlighting or changing its background color relative to the unselected emoji category icons.
In patent FIG. 5B, UI 500B illustrates a keyboard display area 5005 that includes subset-sequence-indicia icons 5040 for the respective emoji category, here people, which is visually indicated as selected by the highlighting of emoji category icon 5010-2. The subset-sequence-indicia icons provide information about the number of subsets in the emoji category currently being displayed, as well as a position of a displayed subset in the sequence of subsets of emoji character keys in the keyboard display area 5005. Here, the subset-sequence-indicia icons indicate that there are six subsets of emoji character keys in the people emoji category and that the first subset in the people emoji category is currently being displayed.
A Unique Historic List Prioritizes Emoji
In some embodiments, the emoji character keys in the emoji category corresponding to emoji category icon 5010-1, the most recent and frequently used emoji characters, are selected for display based on an algorithm that analyzes recency of use as well as frequency of use for emoji characters that have been used. The algorithm creates a historic list of emoji character usage. Each entry in the historic list is given a relative weight based on the position of the entry in the historic list. For example, the most recently used emoji character gets the highest weight, the second most recently used emoji character gets a weight that is less than the most recently used emoji character, the third most recently used emoji character gets a weight that is less than the second most recently used emoji character, and so on.
UI 500C, UI 500D, UI 500E, and UI 500F, which are depicted in FIGS. 5C through 5F, respectively, illustrate examples of user interfaces with other exemplary emoji categories and emoji character keyboards.
Assigning a User Defined Gesture to an Emoji Character
Apple's FIG. 10B shown below is an exemplary user interface for assigning a user-defined gesture to an emoji character on an iPhone or other iOS device. The UI includes a record icon 1001, an associate icon 1010, a store icon 1015 and a cancel icon 1016. Upon detecting a user gesture 1020 on the record icon 1001, the user interface goes into a gesture-recording mode. In patent FIG. 10B, 1000B illustrates a user-defined gesture 1030 detected on the touch screen while in the gesture-recording mode. In response to activation of the cancel icon 1016 (e.g., by finger tap gesture), the process of assigning a user-defined gesture to an emoji character is terminated.
Emoji Character as a Location Indicator on a Map
Apple's patent FIG. 11B illustrates an exemplary user interface for using an emoji character as a location indicator on a map via an electronic message. The patent figure is showing Lake Tahoe and the emoji character 1120 which is a customized or user defined character symbolizing a destination – be it a hotel, house, club or business.
Apple credits Bradford Moore, Bas Ording, Elizabeth Furches, Stephen Chick, and Kenneth Kocienda as the inventors of this Q2 2010 patent application, originally filed in Q1 2009. Let's hope that Apple creates some really fun emoji/emoticons to compete with MSN.
It should be noted for fairness sake that some of the interface elements presented in Apple's patent are very close if not identical to those found on the App called "Emoji Enabler" found in the App Store. Whether Apple has secretly acquired this company or has simply used similar graphics for example purposes only is unknown at this time. Apple's technology however, goes far beyond that of static emoticons.
Other Noteworthy Patent Applications Published Today
Apple has a number of continuation-patents out today, which basically means that they've been previously published and/or covered by us before. For instance, Apple's continuation patents covering Smart Garments (patent 20100151996), Handheld Computer Device (20100146766) and Doubleshot Molding (20100149735) have all been covered in our April 2010 granted patent report. For more on sport related patents, you could always check out our Tech: Sports section.
Apple is once again thinking of FM radio on other media players beyond the iPod nano. Today's patent under 20100150276 is about a Hybrid Radio or HD and not hi-def as some would have you believe. Apple has been working on this for years as this 2007 patent proves out. Once again, FM radio is on the nano due to the 2007 patent and it may move up Apple's mobile media chain as expected. Use this search engine to read more about today's patent.
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