Every once in a while we get a rare treat and get to read about Apple's vision for something new they're working on. Today it's about a new smart kiosk. Although Apple has been kicking this concept around for some time now in regards to an iTunes based Kiosk or even an iCard & Gift kiosk, I think that this time around they may have hit the right market nerve. Apple's latest in-store kiosk may reside in an Apple Store or another retailer like Best Buy. The idea is simple. You have a new iOS device and you want to find the right accessories or apps for it. You wander into a store with an Apple Kiosk and connect your device to the kiosk which uses a new determination server that will check out your device and lists recommendations. If you're searching for something specific you'll be able to narrow down your search for something like speakers or headsets. One could easily see how Apple could sneak Siri into this kind of device one day to simply dazzle the consumer. This could be the perfect way to introduce Siri to the general public and that's why I think Apple's vision for the perfect kiosk may have finally arrived.
Apple's Patent Background
Apple's patent overview begins with them stating that consumers are increasingly demanding devices that could perform multiple tasks. Recent advancements in smart phones and other portable communication devices are geared towards making these devices as versatile as possible.
In many instances, these consumer devices have to work in conjunction with other devices to realize expanded functionalities. Such other devices are commonly referred to as accessories. An accessory usually performs some specialized function in conjunction with the consumer device. For example, a consumer device having music playback capability could be connected to external speakers for music playback since the speakers of the consumer device itself may not be powerful enough for music playback. There are numerous accessories that are being sold in the market today for use with such consumer devices.
An accessory may need a software application for control and operation of the accessory. With the number of available accessories growing at an exponential rate, it is often difficult for a user to determine which accessory supports which software application and vice versa.
Apple's Solution Introduces a New Kiosk Concept that uses a Unique Determination Server for Finding Accessories and/or Apps for iOS Devices
Apple's patent/invention provides a solution for providing system and methods for locating an application based on information about an accessory. In some embodiments, an application and accessory determination server receives information about an accessory. The application and accessory determination server then determines an application protocol that corresponds to the accessory.
In other embodiments, a method for locating an accessory is provided. In this instance, the application and accessory determination server receives information about an application. Based on this information, the application and accessory determination server determines one or more application protocols that the application supports. Thereafter, the application and accessory determination server checks to see whether there are any accessories that support the one or more application protocols.
Apple's patent FIGS. 9A and 9B shown above, illustrate sample screens that may be presented on the user device for determining an application for use with an accessory; patent FIGS. 10A and 10B illustrate sample screens that may be presented on the user device for determining an accessory for use with an application.
Apple states that users usually have multiple applications resident on their devices. For example, the iTunes Store offers hundreds of thousands of applications that are compatible with the iPhone and iPod Touch. It is often difficult for a user to determine which accessories are compatible with which applications. FIGS. 11A and 11B illustrate an embodiment in which a user could easily get information on the accessories compatible with the applications resident on his user device. This will enable a user to purchase the correct accessory without much effort thereby greatly enhancing the user's shopping experience.
Apple's patent FIG. 11A shows a kiosk 1100 that could include a connector 1102 for connecting to a user device 1104 and a display 1106 for displaying results of the accessory and/or application search. In some embodiments, the kiosk could be located in a brick-and-mortar store that sells accessories for multiple types of user devices. In other embodiments, the kiosk could be located at any location generally accessible to the public e.g., malls, train stations, airports, etc.
Although an iOS device could be connected to the kiosk via a physical connector for easy convenience as shown above as patent point1108, wireless techniques will be able to establish a connection to the kiosk.
The Macworld Trade Show Scenario
In an embodiment, the kiosk could be placed at a trade show and could provide information about all the accessories and applications being presented at the trade show, e.g. Macworld. A user could connect his user device to the kiosk and get information on the various accessories and applications that are compatible with his user device from among the ones being showcased at the trade show. Now that's very cool.
In some embodiments, the kiosk could include a printer to enable a user to print out the information about the applications and accessories. In other embodiments, the information about the accessories and applications could be downloaded to the user device for easy access as the user visits various booths in the trade show.
In some embodiments, the kiosk could be equipped with an information capturing device such as a barcode reader, near field communication reader (NFC), etc. that could capture the accessory identifier information. In this instance, the accessory or the user device need not be connected to the kiosk. A user could simply use the information capturing device of the kiosk to capture the accessory identifier, e.g., by scanning a barcode associated with the accessory. The kiosk could then use the accessory identifier to identify the relevant applications. In this mode of operation, the kiosk doesn't use the accessory communication protocol, but rather uses an alternate communication mode in order to capture and receive information from the information capture device.
Accessing Amazon, eBay or Other Online Retailers
Apple states that in some embodiments, the determination server could be integrated with one or more online merchants, e.g., Amazon.com and eBay.com. In this instance, when the determination server presents information about the compatible accessory to the user, the user could also be presented with information on buying the accessory from various merchants.
Apple's patent FIG. 12 shows a sample screen 1200 that shows information that may be presented to the user for a particular accessory. Merchants A and B could be on-line retailers and the "visit store" buttons could be links to their on-line retail sites. Presenting the information in such a manner enhances the user experience and simplifies the user's shopping experience.
Apple Store, Best Buy or Other Retailers
Apple states that in some embodiments, a retail store may be outfitted with communication devices, e.g., a wireless access point, which could communicate with the user device to determine the applications resident on the user device. For example, consider a user entering a store with his user device. The various communication devices deployed throughout the store could detect presence of the user device and query the user device for the list of applications resident on the user device. Such a list of applications may be stored outside the secure area of the storage device of the user device.
Once the store communication devices have determined the applications resident on the user device, this list may be presented to the sales personnel within the store. The sales personnel could then guide the user to appropriate accessories and/or applications similar to the resident applications without the user even having to explain what he is looking for. This will present a unique shopping experience for a user and could lead to increased business and/or repeat business from satisfied users.
Other Retail Scenarios
In another scenario, a user could enter information about an application and request the determination server to locate additional applications similar to the entered application. In this embodiment, the determination server could analyze the information about the entered application and determine an application protocol that is compatible with the application. Based on that information, the determination server could search a database to locate other applications that are also compatible with the application protocol. If a match is found, the list of other applications could be presented to the user via the user device.
In a final scenario, the user could enter information about an accessory that he already owns and request the determination server to determine other accessories similar to the accessory that he owns. In this embodiment, the determination server could analyze the information about the accessory and determine an application protocol that is compatible with the accessory. Based on that information, the determination server could search a database to locate other accessories that are also compatible with the same application protocol. If a match is found, the list of other accessories could be presented to the user via the user device.
With such a new kiosk, the public could finally get a taste for Apple's sales slogan "There's an App for That" in style and substance. And who knows, maybe they'll even get to talk to Siri and get some straight answers that are better than the ones that an average in-store sales rep could provide. Time will tell.
Apple's patent application was originally filed in Q2 2010 by inventors Lawrence Bolton, Peter Langenfeld and Shyam Toprani.
The Use of Our Graphics: We'd ask those covering our report to limit the use of our graphics to a single graphic. Thank you.
Other Noteworthy Patent Applications Published Today
We may list other patent applications here later today.
Notice: Patently Apple presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. Apple's patent applications have provided the Mac community with a clear heads-up on some of Apple's greatest product trends including the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iOS cameras, LED displays, iCloud services for iTunes and more. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.