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On April 2, 2009, the USPTO revealed one of Apple's latest patent applications that generally relate to movement-based interfaces that will likely be employed in future iterations of the iPhone and iPod touch. In this patent, Apple introduces us to the latest sensor technology that calculates position, orientation and movement which is referred to as POM. The new capabilities will allow users who are walking, jogging or running, for example, to simply flick their wrist, shake or rotate their device as a means of instructing the media device to go to the next tune or amplify the audio without ever having to look or touch the device's interface or touch screen. According to Apple, the device "may be shaken back and forth, up and down, side-to-side, moved in various looping patterns, titled, twisted, rotated, flipped, swung, cradled, twirled, and/or moved in a any sequence within a three-dimensional space by the user." Interestingly, it'll be useful in video games. The document further states that "a user may desire to use a movement pattern that emulates some other activity or action such as, for example, a baseball swing, golf swing, hockey slap shot, or any other known action or expression." 


POM Sensors


Apple's patent also reveals that POM sensors could also be engineered right into future iterations of Apple headphones. An associated application would require a yes or no input from the user. So a simple nod up and down would be a yes instruction and a left to right nod to signify a no response. In some ways, the technology that is based on the Bayes Decision Theory, will no doubt bring more usability options to users, especially for gaming. But it's not for everyone or every situation, that's for sure. Many features presented here would be better implemented with voice commands - if one of the objectives Apple presents is to not distract users from driving a car or jogging. Yet all in all, it's another twist in the sensor revolution taking place within Apple's media devices.  It's Apple's unique execution of these sensors that set them apart from copy cat competitors – and I don't think this patent reveals the really cool stuff that's to come. For that, we'll simply have to wait for another Apple event.

Select Apple Patent Figures


Apple's patent Figures 11 and 13 illustrate that you'll be able to shake, tilt, twist, and/or flip an iPhone or iPod touch in any sequence within a three-dimensional space to instruct it (click to enlarge).  

PATENT FIGS 11 & 13 

POM Sensors determine position, orientation, and/or movement of the Media Device.




Patent FIG. 3 is a block Diagram of a Media Player with a notable POM Sensor & Vibration Source Driver.




Apple credits Michael Culbert, Scott Forstall, Nicholas King and Michael Lee for patent application 20090088204 which was originally filed for in April 2007.


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