On Christmas day 2014 the U.S. Patent and Trademark office reveals one of PrimeSense's key technologies relating to a 3D sensing device that is operated using a unique in-air gesturing system and user interface. The technology found its way into Microsoft's Kinect. The system could one day find its way into Apple TV and future Macs.
In January 2013 the first of a series of patents began to surface on the topic of a future video conferencing system. The first patent covered a very cool and unique video conference system for use with a future internet-enabled HDTV that integrated an advanced depth perceiving audio system. A year later an Apple patent revealed a multi-participant video conferencing architecture. Then in May a centralized home controller patent came to light. Apple envisioned that the new controller would control a TV, set-top box, stereo system and beyond. With Apple introducing their new HomeKit just weeks later at their developer conference, we were able to understand that the centralized home controller was going to be able to control home security, fire detectors, future appliances and so forth over time. The central home controller would make most sense being built into a future version of Apple TV, which is something that we discussed later in June. Yesterday, an Apple patent surfaced in Europe that revealed an easy to use multi-participant conferencing system using Apple TV in "Conference Room Mode." The system could be used at home or work, though the conferencing room feature is really meant for meetings at work. So in evolutionary fashion we're seeing a more focused project emerging to advance Apple TV in whatever form it takes in the future and it may even one day work itself into being a MobileFirst application.
Apple's Master Siri patent that we covered back in January 2012 listed Apple TV (the set top box) as one of devices that Siri could one day work with. Last month Amazon surprised the market with a device that they've branded as "Echo." It was like Siri out of iDevices and into your home via a standalone device doubling as a wireless speaker. I noted at the end of that report that having Siri voice controls for our Apple TV would be a dream machine. Well, start dreaming because Apple's European patent filing presents such a scenario and much more. There's no cryptic language in this patent about their intentions of using voice commands for Apple TV. Now it's just a matter of when. Apple's patent application focuses on the communications system that will use a BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) framework.
On October 2, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that finally reveals an Apple TV user interface that could be custom fit specifically for your particular iDevice or Mac display size. In 2012 we noted in a patent report that Apple hinted that Siri could be coming to iTunes. Apple notes in this patent filing that using your iPhone with the new Apple TV GUI could take advantage of speech which translates to using Siri. That would be very cool for searches and so forth. We've also noted in the past that companies like LG are now designing future smartphones with dual display so that users will be able to better enjoy Mobile TV services. If this is a future trend for the industry, then Apple's latest Apple TV related invention is step one in getting Apple TV onto mobile devices for future mobile TV services.
Earlier today Patently Apple discovered a patent application filing that listed one of Apple's leading product design engineers. The patent application was published under its inventor's names as a means of avoiding being published under Apple's name at the US Patent Office. Legally speaking, Apple only has to appear as the assignee after the patent application has been granted. This is a somewhat common practice that Apple uses to keep specific intellectual property out of the lime light until the last possible moment. The discovery today covers a rather simple invention. It's about providing Apple TV with a much larger heat sink. Today's Apple TV supports a 32-bit single-core A5 processor. But if Apple should ever decide to adopt their faster A7 or future A8 64-bit single or multi-core processors to support gaming, it would need a larger heat sink. In context, last Wednesday iFixit uncovered a larger heat sink in Amazon's new Fire TV that's aiming at Android gaming. The trend is obvious.
In late March Patently Apple posted a report entitled "Facebook to buy Oculus for $2 Billion," where noted that Apple's acquisition of PrimeSense could advance Apple's previous work on a video headset. Today the US Patent and Trademark Office reveals that Apple has revisited their patent application regarding their video headset that could be a future Apple TV accessory or an Apple TV iDevice for those on the go; A nice spin-off product if you will. Coincidentally news surfaced late yesterday from KGI securities analyst Ming Chi Kuo is claiming that Apple will revamp their Apple TV device later this fall. It would be very cool timing if the Apple TV accessory would be ready at that time to create some major buzz in the industry. However, it's unclear if Apple is really committed to such an iDevice or accessory. It would be great for gaming and a way to get ahead of Oculus. But for now it's just an open question mark. In this report we also note that Apple has filed a continuation patent regarding their Shanghai Apple Store Building.
On March 27, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals an Apple TV feature that we'll all like. In a nutshell, if you're watching a movie on Apple TV and want to get some more popcorn and drinks, you may not have to stop the movie. You'll just sync the movie stream from Apple TV to an iDevice and it'll allow you to watch your movie while grabbing snacks or doing other duties. Come to think of it, that could have come in handy while watching this year's iTunes music festival. In the future, we may even be able to sync our Apple TV content to a future computer band so while you're grabbing your snacks you don't have to hold your iPhone. While only time will tell if that scenario ever plays out, for now we just may be looking at a new Apple TV feature that's coming our way (hopefully soon).
On March 6, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals the advancement of their current AirPlay feature to be interactive. Today's patent application clearly illustrates that Apple is working on making it possible to not only make Airplay interactive but also allow unique dual-display functionality that complement one another. For instance, a user will be able to use Airplay to have a game on an iPad play on their TV while allowing the iPad to further become a game controller to interact with the game. Apple provides us with a series of examples illustrating the many applications that they're contemplating for this new feature. Apple's first patent application that discussed the possibility of this future version of interactive Airplay was revealed last May.
In July we reported that Apple was in the race to acquire PrimeSense and last month the news was official. Little did we know at the time that Apple's Tel Aviv research center was already working on sensing technologies specializing in three-dimensional analysis of body and facial movements, and so the acquisition of PrimeSense was a perfect fit to advance future projects. A quick look at PrimeSense's website will show you that Apple has acquired a company that possesses a lot of real-world technology that could advance many Apple products in the future. Today's report takes a peek at a few of the patents that Apple has inherited.
The European Patent Office published a new patent application from Apple late last week that describes a fused glass process for device housings. We're all familiar with the iPhone 4S having both its face and back housings constructed with glass. Apple's latest European patent filing, which lists Jony Ive as one of the inventors, illustrates the double sided glass construction design possibly extending through to the iPod, iPad, and various displays (iMac, Cinema) including a television encased in glass using a fused glass process.
On June 13, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a key update to an older patent of Apple's relating to wearable computers and "sensing systems monitoring" applications covering sports, shipping, training, medicine, fitness, wellness and industrial production. The invention specifically relates to sensing and reporting events associated with movement, environmental factors such as temperature, health functions, fitness effects, and changing conditions.
On May 23, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals Apple's next generation of "Airplay" that will be able to operation in a two-way manner that is also interactive. Apple also hints that the separate devices of an Apple TV and a Television could be combined into a single device, an Internet-enabled television.
On February 28, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals technology that could support a future iPhone with satellite capabilities. Satellite phones or satphones are popular on expeditions into remote areas where terrestrial cellular service is unavailable. Apple's patent filing states that the use of satellites for personal and business communications is an important technique in global communication networks. Satellite communication systems provide obvious benefits that allow users to transmit and receive communication signals over a large footprint.
Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs told Biographer Walter Isaacson that he'd "like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it." In that very same timeline, Apple's engineers were working on his dream TV and in a patent application published this morning, we get a tiny glimpse of the enhanced audio system that may be accompanying this future HDTV. The system will also intelligently integrate surround sound-like quality for video conferencing for the home or work. Apple's TV will also be able to work with FaceTime and create a unique audio experience whereby the voices from multiple participants will be heard in the exact direction that they're positioned on the screen. While it's not the Killer HDTV patent we're all still waiting for, it's the next best thing. Today we could safely say that Apple's Killer HDTV is real, at least on paper.
When it comes to the topic of Apple + TV, let's be frank. The world is waiting for an Apple HDTV to deliver the next great thing. But like with the iPhone, patents dated back to 1999 or eight years prior to seeing a real world product. It's just a fact of life that Great Products take time to work through the system. Today, Apple has revealed how a future Apple TV set-top-box will be able to access additional information about a TV show, event or movie that you're about to watch. It will be able to provide Apple TV users with contextual information on actors in a movie that you're about to watch or a summary of a keynote, for example. Interestingly, the additional context-base information will be sent to the user's iPad or iPhone that will work in sync with Apple TV and the content being presented on your television via your local cable or satellite provider. While today's invention is definitely not as ambitious as some TV oriented projects have been in the past, and there have been many of them over the years, it's probably a more realistic and humble starting point that seems to be only a stone's throw away.