On August 1, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a real-time enterprise centric app-sharing feature for future FaceTime video conferences. Microsoft recently ran an ad mocking the iPad's inability to share apps during a video conference seamlessly. Apple's latest invention effortlessly answers that void and goes far beyond by including a privacy information mode and more.
Apple's Patent Background
The explosion of computing has profoundly affected the lives of nearly every person. Computers have become ever more common, inexpensive and small. Today, many people carry portable computing devices--mobile phones, tablet computers, personal digital assistants, and the like--that are far more powerful and versatile than most computers were twenty years ago.
This portability and pervasiveness has led to shifts in the way we accumulate, experience and share information. On average, people are today far more accessible and in touch than in years past. In many cases, this high degree of connectedness between people is now expected.
As part of forming connections with others, people naturally share information about themselves, their interests, their activities, and so on. Information sharing has, in many ways, become a primary means to staying in touch with friends, family and colleagues, as well as forming bonds with new people.
Information sharing is also very common in businesses. Employees often need to share information with one another or their organization to ensure continued business success. More efficient sharing can create a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Portable computing devices facilitate this type of information sharing but are not perfect. Many times, information must be transformed before it can be shared. For example, drafts of documents might be emailed from one worker to another rather than shared directly in the context of a commonly-used application. Barriers to information sharing cause added complexity, cost time and disconnect people from one another.
Thus, what is needed is an improved way to interactively share applications and their data.
Apple's Solution: Interactive Application Sharing
Apple's invention may permit multiple electronic devices to interactively share applications using Apple's FaceTime. Applications may be accessed by multiple users from multiple different electronic devices, all remotely. In this manner, multiple users may collaborate and share information effectively and without requiring all to be physically present.
One electronic device may act as the host for the application. Other devices may transmit application data and/or user input to the host. The host device may process this data, update the application and instruct the remote electronic devices how to display the shared application. The instruction may be a screen image of the application or may be data used by a remote device to update the application on an associated display screen. In some embodiments, the instruction may inform a device of an orientation for the application, application data or overall device display.
The first electronic device noted as #200 in patent FIG. 2 above may transmit a request to initiate interactive application sharing to the second electronic device noted as #205 during a FaceTime Conference. The user of the first electronic device may select a particular application for both the first and second devices to share. If the user of the second device accepts the request to share, the particular application may be initiated on the second device. The acceptance of the application sharing request is transmitted from the second device's application sharing module to the first device's application sharing module.
A user interface menu may be provided to allow a user to configure interactive application sharing. For example, the user interface may permit a user to identify certain applications that may be shared and certain applications that may be prevented from sharing. As a further example, the user interface may permit the user to designate which applications may by partially shared and/or the types of data that may be shared in an application.
The user interface may include a plurality of menu options (buttons, sliders, lists, and the like) that permit a user to access and control certain functionality. As functionality is chosen, the processor may vary the application sharing permissions, such as privacy designators, to match the user's selections. These permissions may be stored in the storage of the device and accessed during any application sharing session.
Typically, although not necessarily, when interactive application sharing is initiated and accepted during a FaceTime conference, one of the application and video are overlaid on the other. The application may be overlaid on the video or the video may be overlaid on the application. In either case, the overlaid visual element may be resized to occupy less than an entirety of the display so that both video and application are at least partially visible.
Handling Private Information
Users may designate certain application data to be private, thereby affecting the way in which it is shared (or not shared) with other users through the interactive application. Private data may not be shared at all, or may be shared in such a fashion that particular information is obscured, left out or otherwise restricted.
Apple's patent FIG. 7A noted below depicts an electronic device accessing an application prior to interactive sharing and showing only local application data. The sample electronic device is executing a calendar application, showing a local user's appointments.
In Apple's patent FIG. 7B we see an electronic device accessing the application shown in FIG. 7A after interactive sharing has been initiated with another device, and particularly showing both local and remote application data. The electronic device is engaging in interactive sharing of the calendar application with a second user's appointments partially shared.
Apple's patent FIG. 5 is a flowchart generally depicting a sample method for executing interactive application sharing with private data.
Specialized User Interface Elements
Apple states that various embodiments may include or incorporate specialized user interface elements to reflect user input and application data in an application sharing environment. For example, user inputs may be shared between electronic devices; remote user inputs may be graphically shown on a local device so that both users are aware of the others' inputs.
One example of a specialized graphical element representing a remote input is shown below in patent FIG. 6. In this example, the dashed circle noted as #605 represents a remote user touching, selecting or otherwise interacting with the shared application, through the second electronic device at the point marked by the circle. Because the local user cannot see the remote user's touch or other input mechanism, the first electronic device creates and displays the circle to provide visual feedback to the first user of the second user's interaction.
Apple's patent FIG. 6 is an example of a parent on a business trip taking the time to read a bedtime story to their child over a FaceTime conference. The parent is able to interact with the shared application of an iBook by turning the pages of the book remotely.
The specialized graphical elements may indicate not only a remote user's points of input, but also which portions or functions of an application are remotely controlled and thus unavailable or "locked out" to a local user of an electronic device.
It may be useful to permit only a single user to interact with certain aspects, portions, features and/or segments of an application, thereby preventing conflicting inputs from multiple users or struggles between two instances of a shared application fighting for control.
Priority for Controlling Applications
Priority for controlling applications, or portion of applications, may be handled in a variety of ways. In one embodiment, the first person to touch or otherwise interact with a given portion of the application may control that portion, until control is relinquished. As an example, the first person to active an application function through a touch-based input may maintain control of the function until the touch is terminated. In some embodiments, the first person's gestural input (such as a multi-touch gesture) may be overridden by a second person's gesture or other input on his or her device.
Previewing a Matrix of Apps that could be Shared
Apple's patent FIG. 8 noted below depicts one sample view of an electronic device's display showing one interface for interactive application sharing. After interactive application sharing is initiated between two devices, and during a video conference, a list or matrix of all applications may be superimposed over the video conference image.
A user may select one of the applications from the list to share with the remote electronic device. When the application is selected, it may expand to fill the entirety of the display while the video conference image is reduced in size and overlaid on the application.
Typically, though not necessarily, an embodiment may force an interactively shared application into a full-screen display mode on the first and second electronic devices. Given the relatively small display real estate on many portable devices, maintaining the application in a full-screen mode may enhance viewability and sharing functionality.
In some embodiments, the application being shared may occupy the entire screen or a majority of the screen, and no video may be overlaid on the application. During application sharing, either or both of video and audio may be suspended or terminated, depending on the embodiment and/or the application being shared.
Apple states that application sharing will be available for the iPhone, iPad, Macs and digital camera.
Apple's Proposed Sharing App is the Answer to Microsoft's latest Surface Tablet Ad
Apple credits Brandon Kieft and Catherine Grevet as the inventors of patent application 20130194374 which was originally filed in Q1 2012.
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 2006 and 2010. 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. 2008 Patent 20130194062: Active Electronic Media Device Packaging
2. 2006 Patent 20130195056: Service Flow With Robust Header Compression (ROHC) In A WiMAX Wireless Network
3. 2007 Patent 20130196183: Battery charging system and mobile and accessory devices
4. 2006 Patent 20130198172: User to User Recommender
5. 2010 Patent 20130198233: Integrated Repository of Structured and Unstructured Data
6. 2010 Patent 20130198684: Visual Manipulation Database Schema
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.
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