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Apple Files New Patents Relating to Haptics, Thunderbolt, iSight and Improved Accessibility for the Hearing Impaired

1. Apple Files New Patents Relating to Haptics, Thunderbolt, iSight & More
Some weeks there just isn't a wining patent declared by a rocking TKO. This week is such a case but that doesn't mean that that there weren't a series of solid inventions, because there were. A series of patent applications came to light today relating to improvements in the works for iDevice haptics, Apple's iSight camera, flash memory and accessibility for the hearing impaired. More times than not it's the simple utility patents like these that end up being implemented by Apple.


Apple Invention: Improved Haptics


One of today's key patent applications relates to Apple improving the haptics system found in their iPhone and iPad. Specifically, Apple's invention relates to linear vibrational motors and particularly a low Z profile linear vibrational motor. The described motors will provide superior haptic feedback to a variety of applications relating to buttons, dials, the keypad and alert functions.


2. Apple working on improved haptics via ... linear vibrational motor


Apple's patent application 20120212895 was originally filed in Q3 2011 by inventors Sawyer Cohen, Ashutosh Shukla, Andriy Pletentskyy, Nicholas Merz, Timothy Johnston and Yehonatan Perez and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. To learn more, review this patent.


Apple Invention: Improved Networking via Thunderbolt


Apple's invention generally relates to providing circuits, methods, and apparatus that may improve networking techniques for transferring data among various electronic devices.


One example may provide sharing data among various devices by daisy-chaining devices together. That is, several devices may be connected to each other through a series of cables to form a chain of devices. In this physical configuration, data may be shared among multiple devices using a series of single-hop virtual tunnels. Alternatively, a number of tunnels may be formed by a host device, each having a target device in the daisy chain. Each tunnel may originate at the host device and terminate at their target device. Each tunnel may bypass devices between the host device and the tunnel's target device. These two techniques may also be combined. Another example may provide a method of simplifying the routing of high-speed data signals through a network topology.


There's a good chance that this invention is already in use being that the emphasis of this patent relates to using Thunderbolt. Interestingly, Apple states that a specific example of such a router device or chip may be the "Light Peak" developed at least in part by Intel Corporation …" Here we go again: was Apple the other party in the development of Thunderbolt? Is this why Apple filed several (one, two, three, four) Thunderbolt trademark applications? Apple has never backed off of the trademark for Thunderbolt in a public statement.


3. Apple Invention relates to improved network techniques via Thunderbolt

Apple's patent FIG. 4 illustrates a connection topology among router devices according to an embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 1 illustrates a computer system that may be improved by the incorporation of embodiments of the present invention. In a specific embodiment of the present invention, cables 140 and 150 may be Thunderbolt cables.


Apple's patent application 20120215950 was originally filed in Q1 2012 by inventor Eric Anderson and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Apple states that this current application claims the benefit of provisional patent 61/466,027 filed in Q1 2011. Usually provisional patents are to protect the earliest possible date for a concept that could be detailed further in a future patent application. To learn more, review this patent.


Other Noteworthy Inventions from Apple


Other noteworthy inventions from Apple that were published today by the U.S. Patent Office include the following:


1. Apple's iSight Video


Invention: "Video Acquisition with Integrated GPU Processing." The filing discusses improving iSight cameras found in Macs and new iDevices by using a GPU to process 3D graphics data. Applications that will take advantage of this include videophone applications such as iChat (now FaceTime), QuickTime and iMovie.


4. Apple - Video Acquisition with Integrated GPU Processing

2. Accessibility


Two new accessibility patents relating to Hearing were published today as follows:


A) Hearing Assistance System for Providing Consistent Human Speech

Broadly speaking, Apple's invention describes providing individualized consistent speech patterns to a user of a hearing assistance system. More specifically, a method performed by a portable computing device for providing consistent speech is described. In one embodiment, the portable computing device includes an audio processing component coupled with an audio input device. The method can be performed by carrying out the following operations: receiving human speech at the audio input device, converting the human speech to text, converting the text directly to a consistent speech using a text to speech protocol, and passing the consistent speech to an output device.


B) Providing Notification Sounds in a Customizable Manner

Apple's invention relates to methods and apparatus for processing and/or enhancing audio signals used by a hearing aid. In particular, a hearing assistance device, such as a hearing aid, can notify an individual having impaired hearing of an external event in a manner of their choosing.


3. Flash Memory


Three patent applications relating to flash memory were published today as follows: a) Obtaining Debug Information from a Flash Memory Device, (b) Variable Impedance Control for Memory Devices and (c) Side-Mounted Controller: NAND flash memory, as well as other types of non-volatile memories ("NVMs"), are commonly used for mass storage in Apple's iDevices and MacBook Air. The flash memory exists in the form of a silicon die, and in some implementations, more than one die may be used. Translation: Apple is trying to increase Flash memory storage capacity while keeping iDevices thin. I'm sure we'll be seeing this play out in the not-too-distant future.


5. Flash Memory designed with multiple dies to increase capacity

Continuation Patents


In addition to the patent applications presented in today's report, the US Patent and Trademark Office did publish a series of older continuation patents dating back to between 2004 and 2009. The continuation patents that we list below are specifically referenced as such under the section titled "Cross-Reference to Related Applications." Generally speaking, continuation patents represent tweaks made to patent claims in an effort to get the patents granted by the USPTO and don't represent any noteworthy new developments from the original patent filing. Here are today's continuation patents should you wish to review them:


20120216112 – Originally fled in 2004 - Adaptive Synchronization Techniques

20120216138 – Originally filed in 2009 - Enhancements to Data Driven Media Management within an Electronic Device.

20120212063 – Originally filed in 2007 – Wireless Headset having Adaptive Powering.



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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