On August 1, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals new advances that could be coming to Apple's new "iOS in the Car" software in the future. In June we presented an in-depth report titled "Apple Takes the Lead in the Next Battlefront: Advanced Eyes-Free Services for the Car. Today we learn that Apple has deeper integration plans to take "iOS for the Car" to another level. Apple's latest invention generally relates to in-vehicle self-configurable environments and more specifically to techniques and systems for storing configuration details in an iDevice like the iPhone. The new system will allow a future iPhone user to control their in-vehicle settings for power seats, mirrors, climate control, radio and more. Once set, the iPhone will be able to control settings even for a rented car. Apple envisions this software to eventually apply to a user's home environment and beyond.
Apple's Patent Background
An example of a self-configurable environment that some consumers might be familiar with is an automobile in which a consumer can adjust a car seat, power mirrors, and steering wheel, and associate the configuration with a button. In such automobiles two different drivers can each associate a particular configuration of the seat, mirrors, and steering wheel with one of the buttons and when they enter the car, they can press the button and the car will reconfigure itself according to the associated configuration.
Such self-configurable environments are very convenient; however, they are not readily transportable. Accordingly, the present technology solves this problem.
Apple's invention makes it possible for users of portable consumer electronic devices like an iPhone to bring environment configuration information with them and communicate the environment configuration to visited environments like a car so that the visited environment can automatically configure itself to the user's preferences.
An example of such a configurable environment could be an automobile. A user could allow their iPhone to learn configuration preferences from the user's personal automobile, and when the user visits another automobile, such as when renting a car, or buying a new car, those configuration preferences could be imported into the visited automobile and used to automatically configure the automobile according to the imported preferences.
Such preferences could include seat orientation, radio preferences (especially satellite radio), climate control preferences, and minor orientation preferences as noted below.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 illustrates a side view of a passenger compartment of an automobile. As illustrated, the passenger compartment includes an adjustable steering wheel and adjustable seat. By way of non-limiting example, the seat is adjustable up and down, backward and forward, and increasing and decreasing an angle of recline. The steering wheel is adjustable to move closer to and farther from a driver. While not shown, other aspects of the passenger experience can also be adjustable, such as mirrors, lumbar support, air conditioning temperature, radio preferences, etc.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 noted below also illustrates mirror adjustment angles. In some embodiments, these angles can be reported directly from the mirrors themselves, if they are power mirrors or can otherwise sense adjustments. In embodiments wherein the mirror is not a power minor or lacks the necessary sensors, these angles can be calculated by approximating where a user's head is expected to be based on its expected position relative to the known position of the headrest.
Apple notes that the environment-translation software can be aware of the default position of the headrest and adjust for movement of the seat. In some embodiments, it might be possible for the software to learn of adjustments to the headrest itself.
In some embodiments, a camera, such as an infrared camera can be used to actually determine the location of the driver's head itself as noted in patent 3 above. Once the location of the driver's head is known or approximated, the environment-translation software can calculated the angle of adjustment from the known mirror location and a predetermined target vantage point.
Two Vehicle Scenarios
In Apple's patent FIG. 5 noted above we see an exemplary system embodiment showing two automobiles. Vehicle number one and Vehicle number two and a portable electronic device such as an iPhone which can be used to learn configuration settings applied to one vehicle, such as vehicle number one, and can use those configuration settings to allow another automobile, such as vehicle number 2 to configure itself according to those configuration settings.
The environment-translation software can be configured to communicate with the various configurable components including but not limited to power mirrors, power seats, radio, climate control and so forth.
In order for the software to know which automobile to translate a measure to or from, it can learn of the make and model of the automobile. This can be accomplished from a menu in a user interface, or the environment-configuration application can be configured to automatically learn the make and model information from the automobile directly.
In Apple's patent FIG. 4 noted below we see a view from the rear of an automobile, which shows the back of a driver's head and its relationship to the rear view minor, driver's side mirror and passenger's side mirror.
Applies to Home Environments Too
In some embodiments, an application running on a portable electronic device can include a user interface sufficient to receive an instruction from the user to request configuration information from a home or hotel environment. The technology could be used to configure in-home climate control settings, television settings and/or lighting preferences but to name a few.
This could also play into Apple's smart-home energy management system revealed in a 2010 patent filing that we reported on.
Apple credits Thomas Lowry as the sole inventor of patent application 20130197674 which was originally filed for in Q1 2012.
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