On June 7, 2012, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals their work on possible new QuickTime interface controls. The new controls will allow users to set a speed of playback which will provide users with superior playback accuracy. The new controls temporarily replace the traditional timeline scrubber. When the user taps on the scrubber, the interface will begin to morph and pop-out in 3D fashion to reveal the new interface controls. It's a practical idea delivered in an interface that only Apple could dream up.
New QuickTime Controls in the Works
Apple's invention generally relates to systems and techniques for morphing a first control object in QuickTime's user-interface into a second type of control object.
We begin our report with a look at Apple's patent FIGS. 2A to 2D shown below that illustrate an animation of QuickTime's traditional play/pause control object (#110) morphing into a second control object 150. The animation could be over a period of time of sufficient duration to create a "morphing" effect, where the control object 110 appears to "morph" into, and at least temporarily replace, control object 150.
QuickTime's Play/Pause Object Morphing into a Jog Control Object
The "morphing" of the play/pause control object could be initiated in response to user input indicating user interaction with the play/pause control object. In the example shown, we see the control object is a play/pause button and control object 150 is a jog shuttle control for control a rate of playback. In alternative examples, control object 150 could be a jog control for controlling a relatively slow rate of playback such as playback speeds slower than normal playback. In some examples, control object could be a shuttle control, which includes playback speeds faster than normal playback speeds. A jog shuttle control allows for both quickly advancing or rewinding through a presentation and for advancing or rewinding through a presentation with finer granularity.
Morphing into a 3D Play Button
According to Apple, to initiate the morphing process of one control to another, the user will begin with a "press-and-release" action. In FIG. 2A we see a new pointer in the form of a hand (#125). As the hand-pointer is pressed, and before being released, the control object could begin morphing from a traditional play button (that's flush with the control panel #103 of FIG. 2A) into a 3-dimensional play button, appearing to rise up from the control panel. As the pointer continues to be pressed and not released, the control object could continue to morph by way of animation and the control objects in the traditional QuickTime control panel could begin to disappear, as shown in FIG. 2B. For whatever reason, Apple chose to not provide a patent figure illustrating the pop-out 3D effect. But I'm sure you could imagine what that would look like.
It should be noted that the "hand" pointer noted in the patent figures are in context with use on a Mac. Those with iOS devices will simply use tap controls.
Apple's patent FIG. 2C shows control object 110 continuing to expand and form into a slide rail. In patent FIG. 2D we see that the control object 110 having completely morphed into a second control object 150. By initiating morphing of control object 110 before the user releases the press-and-hold to select control object 110, a user is provided a visual cue that by pressing-and-holding (without releasing) a different or new functionality is provided in the user interface (#115).
Controlling QuickTime's Rate of Playback
In Apple's patent FIGS. 4A to 4D shown below we're able to see a value of the control object 150 being adjusted based on user input. When the slider 155 is at neutral position (as shown in position #163 of FIG. 4A), the media presentation plays at a rate of zero frames per second (i.e. stopped). As the slider is moved from neutral position toward the right end 161 by a user moving pointer 125, the presentation is played forward at a rate defined by the slider's location along slider rail 156. From FIGS 4A to 4D you could see that the rate could range from 0.5X through to 8X.
The advantage of controlling the rate of speed relating to QuickTime's playback is to provide a user with the ability to locate a position in the presentation with vastly superior accurately.
Flowchart: Exemplary Process for Morphing a Control Object
While today's patent may not be a stunning new concept, it could definitely end up being very practical for many users. Unfortunately, Apple patent application doesn't provide us with any practical real-world scenarios – though in many ways it's self-explanatory.
If you've ever tried to transcribe a portion of an Apple keynote, then you're fully aware that attempting to go back a few seconds to catch a single word that you missed is close to impossible. With Apple's new controls, that might be a problem of the past. For those analyzing a sporting event or a particular play in a game, then being able to control the speed of playback may be exactly what the doctor ordered.
Apple's patent application was originally filed in Q4 2010 by inventor Gary Flint who is Apple's Engineering Manager. The patent application was published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Other Patent Applications Filed Today
In last week's patent application report we asked the question: Is Apple Shifting Gears? We asked that question because Apple's patent application volume has dramatically fallen off a cliff of late. This is the second week in a row where only two new patent applications have surfaced. In contrast, a company like Samsung is pounding out 125-250 patent applications a week like a machine on auto-pilot.
The dramatic drop in patent application activity could be a sign that Apple is shifting gears and preparing a new road map for the next decade. On the other hand it could be anything from an abnormal lull right through to the company feeling rudderless without Steve Jobs' direction. Time will tell which it is, but the drop off in IP activity is definitely worth noting.
With that said, the only other new patent application published today is titled "Using a Battery Pack to Facilitate Thermal Transfer in a Portable Device."
For those wishing to explore this invention further, please see patent application 20120140419.
Today's Continuation Patents
In addition to the two patent applications presented in today's report, the US Patent and Trademark Office did publish a series of older continuation patents dating back to between 2003 and 2011. Most of the time continuation patents are simply about tweaking patent claims in an attempt to get their patents granted.
Continuation Patent 20120144473 titled "Pairing of Wireless Devices using a Wired Medium," dates back 2006.
Continuation Patent 20120140917 titled "Active Noise Cancellation Decisions using a Degraded Reference," dates back to 2010. You could read up on this patent application that briefly covered in December 2011.
Continuation Patent 20120144297 titled "Slide Show Navigation," dates back to 2005.
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