On January 24, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a possible next chapter for Apple's iDevice cameras. In 2011 we posted a controversial patent report titled "Apple working on a Sophisticated Infrared System for iOS Cameras." The report covered how future iDevices could be used as an auto tour guide in a museum and how infrared technology would be able to shut off a future iDevice camera at live events. Today's patent is in that same vein as it focuses on how future iDevice cameras will be able to identify objects such as a painting at a museum or a car at an auto show and provide users with detailed information about these items that could be saved for future reference in multimedia album for later review. Both of Apple's patent applications covering this subject matter would indicate that this is serious camera-related project at Apple.
Today's Cameras Can't Identify Objects, but they Will in the Future
Portable electronic devices, such as wireless and cellular telephones, digital media players (e.g., music players and video players), and hybrid devices that combine telephone and media playing functionality are known. These portable electronic devices can include, for example, a camera that may be capable of capturing an image of an object, but such devices cannot provide a user with other related information about the object. For example, a user may be in an art museum looking at a piece of art. Although the portable electronic device might be capable of taking a picture of the art, the portable electronic device does not have the capability to provide the user with detailed information about the piece of art, such as the name of the painter or any other related information. In fact, the portable electronic device might not even have the capability of identifying the object itself.
As another example, the user can use a portable electronic device to listen to an audio tour that may provide recorded information about pieces of art. Although the user may be allowed to fast forward or rewind the audio tour, the information provided by the audio tour is fixed. Therefore, the user can't access information about other art in the museum that has not been recorded as part of the audio tour. Moreover, even for the art that is included on the audio tour, the user is limited to the information that has already been recorded.
As still another example, the user can download podcasts about different art exhibits on a portable electronic device. However, the information provided by the podcasts is still fixed because the user can't immediately request for additional information located elsewhere.
Furthermore, while these portable electronic devices may be able to display pictures taken previously, such portable electronic devices may not be able to provide a user with historical information about what the user has already seen. For example, the user may have visited a zoo and may have used the portable electronic device to take a picture of the front entrance of the zoo. Although the user can show the picture to a friend days later, the user can't use the portable electronic device to find the zoo's location.
In view of the foregoing, it would be desirable to provide systems and methods that provide a user with the capability to view an object's identity and obtain additional information about the identified object. It would also be desirable to provide a user with the capability to access a history of previously identified objects.
Apple's Future Smart Camera Solutions
Apple's invention is about future iDevices being able to identify an object and obtain additional information about the identified object. The future iDevice will be able to additionally provide a history of previously identified objects to the user.
In some embodiments, in order to detect an object, the iDevice will be able to automatically determine the current environment and, based on the determined environment, select a detection technology (e.g., a RFID reader, a camera, and an IR image capture device). For example, if the iDevice detects active RFID tags broadcasting signals to the RFID reader, the iDevice will be able to use the RFID reader to detect objects.
In some embodiments, future iDevices will be able to allow the user to select a mode based on the types of objects that the user wants to identify. Based on the selected mode, the iDevice will be able to adjust parameters used for searching an identification database. For example, if the user selects to identify an object in a "MUSEUM" mode, the iDevice will be able to search the identification database for objects that are commonly found in a museum.
In some embodiments, the future iDevice will be able to determine the location of the user to help identify an object. For example, if the user is determined to be in Las Vegas and the future iDevice is set to a "RESTAURANT" mode, the iDevice will be able to limit the search of the identification database to restaurants in Las Vegas.
In some embodiments, if the future iDevice produces multiple candidate identifications, the iDevice will be able to select a best candidate identification based on certain criteria. In response to the user correcting the selected identification, the portable electronic device can automatically modify the criteria based on the user input.
After an object has been identified, iDevice will be able to provide additional information about the identified object. In some embodiments, the future iDevice will be able to search for additional information based on the previously-defined mode.
In addition, a log will be provided to the user, which includes a history of previously identified objects. In some embodiments, the user will be able to customize the log to display information in various ways. For example, the user may be able to create a multi-media album based on objects that were identified in a particular mode. A self-guided museum tour can be created from the multi-media album that provides the right amount of information for the user.
About Apple's Patent Figures: Apple's patent figures shown above include FIG. 5 which shows a schematic view of an illustrative display screen of a home screen with a proposed ID App icon; FIG. 6 shows a schematic view of an illustrative display screen for selecting objects to identify; FIG. 7 shows a schematic view of an illustrative display screen for providing configuration options; FIG. 9 is a schematic view of an illustrative display screen for editing an object. Apple's patent figures shown below include FIG. 10 which shows a schematic view of an illustrative display screen for providing basic information related to an identified object in accordance with one embodiment of the invention; and finally patent FIG. 11 shows us a schematic view of an illustrative display screen providing a listing of detailed information related to an identified object.
Apple's invention may apply to future iterations of the iPhone, iPad, iPod, remote controller or new devices such as a game player and more.
Apple credits Michael Rosenblatt as the sole inventor of patent application 20130024793 which was filed in Q3 2012 and relates to an earlier filed provisional application.
A Word about Continuation Patents
It should be noted that the US Patent and Trademark Office did in fact publish a series of older continuation patents today dating back to between 20xx and 20xx. The continuation patents listed below are specifically referenced as such under the section titled "Cross-Reference to Related Applications." Generally speaking, this type of patent application contains modifications that Apple's legal team have made to the original patent claims in an effort to have the US Patent Office finally approve their invention. In general continuation patents don't represent any new developments from the original patent filing.
Some websites mistakenly report on continuation patents as if they were new Apple filings to which they are not. Here are the older continuation patents that were published today by the US Patent Office:
1. Microstrip and stripline transmission lines for electronic devices. Patent application 20130021118 is an old 2009 application.
2. System and Method for Application-Integrated Information Card Selection. Patent 20130024908 is an old patent going back as far as 2008 and contains data from dozens of older patents that Apple openly lists under "related application data."
3. Undulating Electrodes for Improved Viewing Angle and Color Shift. Patent application 20130021567 is an old 2009 application.
4. Handheld Computing Device. Patent application 20130021280 is an old 2010 patent that also incorporates a series of older 2008 applications.
5. Processing Vectors using Wrapping Incremental and Decremental Instructions in a Macroscalar Architecture. Apple lists a series of continuation patents relating to a Macroscalar Architecture under numbers 20130024672, 20130024671, 20130024670, 20130024669, 20130024656, 20130024655 and, 20130024651. Apple was granted a patent for their Macroscalar Architecture in 2009. They filed for trademark for the word Macroscalar in 2012.
6. User Supplied and Refined Tags. Patent application 20130024329 is an old 2006 application.
7. Methods and Systems for Mixing Media with Communications. Patent 20130023250 is an old 2007 application.
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. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
New on Patent Bolt this Week