The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 12 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today of which two were for design patents including one for Apple's 3G iPhone. The notables within the remainder of this group include one relating to Apple's OS X feature known as Dashboard and perhaps most importantly, Apple has won a strategically important multi-touch patent covering a visual expander that may be used in a future iteration of the iPad or other unique multi-touch application.
Granted Patent: The Visual Expander
Apple has won a strategically important multitouch patent regarding a visual expander feature that has yet to surface in iOS.
As you know, touch screens offer ease and versatility of operation and allow a user to make selections and move a cursor by simply touching the display screen via a finger (or stylus). Apple's granted patent states that "While touchscreens generally work well, they are difficult to use when features such as buttons, web page links, or UI controls presented on the touch screen display are too small for finger activation, i.e., the finger is too large relative to the button, link or UI controls. Furthermore, the features typically don't provide the user with any feedback indicating that a finger is located on the feature. This may make it difficult to determine what feature is being selected. As a result, the user may incorrectly select a feature. For example, in web browsing, users have no control over the size of the link or button presented by a website."
Apple's solution is to introduce us to a major new multitouch feature called the Visual Expander. Isn't that just an onscreen magnifier, you might ask. No. Apple explains the difference between the two in this way: "The virtual magnifying glass magnifies the GUI in the area of the magnifying glass, i.e. similarly to moving a magnifying glass over a printed piece of paper. The magnifying glass allows the user to traverse through the GUI so that the user could read smaller text. While virtual magnifying glasses work well, they are limited. For example, they typically don't allow features to be manipulated or selected inside the magnified area. Furthermore, they may not allow text editing therein."
Apple's granted patent notes that Apple's OS X is designed to magnify the dock including the icons when the cursor is moved over the docks icons. Yet the patent notes the limitation of this feature by stating that "While this works well, the feature has no control over the content presented on the remainder of the screen, i.e., the remaining portions of the screen do not magnify when the cursor is positioned thereover. Furthermore, this particular feature only works on the main system page. It does not work in programs or applications or even web pages."
The Expanded State
Apple's granted patent FIGS. 9 and 10 illustrated below are diagrams showing GUI 400 in an unexpanded and expanded state. FIG. 9 is a side view and FIG. 10 is a top view. As shown, the expanded portion 402 is enlarged, magnified and raised (e.g., pushed up) relative to the remaining portions 404 of the graphical information. Although the expanded portion appears to be out of plane relative to the remaining portions, it should be noted that the expanded portion is actually in plane with the remaining portions. Visual techniques are used to make it appear as if it is raised even though it is displayed in the same plane.
In the illustrated embodiment, the expanded portion includes a plateau region 406 and a transition region 408. The plateau region is configured to display the target area 410 (noted as the yellow circle) in a larger and magnified state – which roughly translates to a magnification of 3 times that of the target area 410. This will allow most adults, especially those with larger fingers, the ability to use touch areas and controls such as hyperlinks with ease, unlike some controls on the iPhone today.
Yet until we see this feature, it's difficult to say whether or not Apple is referring to their patent pending high end 3D OS interface or not. There's a video presented in Patently Apple's report on this proposed 3D OS that clearly demonstrates how the eye could be fooled into perceiving depth that is limited to the display. This appears to be how Apple is describing their new Visual Expander feature.
Magnifying and Using Hyperlinks
Note: Here's a quick tip to help you understand the following graphic. A portion of the patent figure 12M shown below is actually jetting out of the graphic as opposed to being dragged, as the graphic first appears at a glance.
Apple's patent describes FIG. 12M as follows: "the finger 514 is moved from the title to a link positioned within the window 520. Similar to the buttons and title, the portions of the link in the plateau are fully enlarged and magnified while the portions in the transition region are distorted and further the portions outside the expansion are of normal size and magnification. As shown in FIG. 12N, the user exerts a greater pressure on the touchscreen while the link is in its expanded form. This increased pressure is recognized as a touch event, and the element associated with link is launched or opened (although not shown)."
Magnifying Specific Zones
As shown in FIG. 13C, after the finger 514 dwells for some time over the heading, the heading is expanded. In this illustration, the heading is presented in an enlarged and magnified state while the remaining portions are not. As shown in FIG. 13D, when the finger 514 maintains contact with the touchscreen and is moved over a different GUI object as for example the field of the window, the field is expanded. In this illustration, the field is presented in an enlarged and magnified state while the remaining portions are not (including the heading).
Note: In the magnifying zones example illustrated above, the horizontal bar noted as "window" is actually jetting out in FIG. 13C. The same goes for the field of the window jetting out in FIG. 13D. With a 2D interface, you can't really see this without knowledge of what is actually being conveyed in the patent.
Magnifying Page Elements or Text
As shown in FIG. 12I, as the finger moves away from the buttons, it moves over an inside edge of the window 520 thereby causing the inside edge to be expanded as well as text in FIG. 12J.
Apple credits Peter Kennedy as the sole inventor of Granted Patent 7,760,187, originally filed in Q3 2004.
Granted Patent: Dashboard
Apple has been granted a patent for their OS X Feature known as "Dashboard." Dashboard is home to widgets: mini-applications that let you perform common tasks and provide you with fast access to information. With a single click, Dashboard appears, complete with widgets that bring you a world of information — real-time weather, stock tickers, flight information, and more — instantly. Dashboard disappears just as easily, so you can get back to what you were doing.
Apple credits Imran Chaudhri, John Louch and Andrew Grigon as the inventors of Granted Patent 7,761,800 originally titled "Unified interest layer for user interface." While the patent is shown to have been originally filed in Q2 2005 – there are related documents that date much further back starting in 1988. See the patent for more details.
Other Granted Patents (GP) Published Today
GP - 7,761,811 - User Interface for Assisting in the Installation of an Asset
Computer systems come packaged and pre-installed with a variety of fonts. In most instances, users will find the fonts that they want already installed on their computer system. However, there may be times when users need a particular type of font that is not installed on the computer system. Apple's invention relates to a user interface for assisting in the installation of an asset – such as a font.
GP - 7,761,798 - System and Method for Controlling the Screen Display Appearance for a Data Processing System
Apple's invention relates to the field of data processing systems, such as digital processing systems, and more particularly to digital processing systems which include display devices and which allow for the control of the appearance of objects displayed on the display device.
GP - 7,761,488 - File Creation API
Apple's invention provides a method and application program interface (API) for creating customized filesystems without creating an image of the filesystem(s) prior to recording the filesystem(s) on a computer readable medium.
According to exemplary embodiments of the invention, the filesystem structure is defined using an hierarchy of filesystem objects, and then only the structure need be stored in memory as opposed to the complete filesystem (i.e., structure and actual data). Therefore, the invention overcomes the drawbacks associated with conventional methods which require that a complete image of the filesystem be created.
Then, during the pre-write stage, the filesystem structure stored in memory is recursively traversed beginning with the root object, and output blocks are allocated for each filesystem object specifying, among other things, size, placement criteria and a callback function for producing data. Then, during the write stage, actual file data is retrieved and each block is written to the specified media.
GP - 7,761,414 - Asynchronous Data Synchronization amongst Devices
Various embodiments described in Apple's granted patent relate to systems and methods for synchronizing data between two or more data processing systems such as a desktop computer system and a handheld computer system.
GP - 7,761,118 - Database Programs for Handheld Devices
Broadly speaking, Apple's granted patent relates to techniques for providing access to databases from iOS devices. The database system provides a graphical user interface which is displayed on handheld devices to perform a variety of operations. Moreover, the user could perform these operations without having to write programs and virtually in real time. Thus, the user could conveniently access the database and be provided with up-to-date information. In addition, the user could be provided with hyperlinks which would allow the user to conveniently perform various tasks without having to switch between different operation modes. The patent references FileMaker Pro and interestingly may relate to FileMaker's Go App for the iPhone and iPad.
GP - 7,761,183 - Methods and Systems for Producing Numerical Control Program Files for Controlling Machine Tools
GP - 7,760,767 - Wide Area Peer-to-Peer Synching in a Decentralized Environment
GP - 7,760,559 - Integrated Circuit with Separate Supply Voltage for Memory that is Different from Logic Circuit Supply Voltage
GP - 7,760,528 - Method and Apparatus for Providing High Speed, Low EMI Switching Circuits
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 Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application and/or Issued Patent should be read in its entirety for further details. For additional information on any granted patent noted above that is not directly linked, simply feed the individual patent number(s) provided, minus the "GP" suffix (if present) into this search engine. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.