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Apple Reveals Advanced Sports Monitoring and Head Gesturing Systems

Cover, Head Gesturing 
A new patent application filed by Apple was revealed today by the USPTO. The filing generally relates to a "Sports Monitoring System for Headphones, Earbuds and/or Headsets." The patent basically states that the first generation sports monitoring system Nike + iPod - monitored distance and speed, whereas the next generation systems would facilitate sensing of other user characteristics (e.g., biometric data), such as temperature, perspiration and heart rate. If successful, the system would effectively compete against Polar, the leader in heart rate monitoring systems, who has just released a "foot pod" system to compete against the Nike + iPod system. In Polar's advanced CS600X system, also just released, they introduce an advanced GPS sensor system that works with Google Earth to help color code heart rate zones for cyclists and so forth. Apple's latest patent likewise introduces the use of a GPS receiver in conjunction with directional sensors to determine the direction of a user's gaze. The system would be incorporated into headphones and/or headgear, such as a cyclist's helmet. The secondary strength of this patent focuses on an advanced head gesturing system to control varying aspects of the adjoining monitoring system and/or iPhone/iPod. Head gestures, which could be a part of a sophisticated language like Morse code, states Apple, could control the iPhone/iPod controls in varying degrees.




Monitoring System in Headset



As noted in patent figures 1A-C below, Apple's proposed sports monitoring system will utilize activity sensors built within future iPhone and iPod touch headsets. The primary sensor is noted below as patent point 110 which can include a plurality of accelerometers, each pertaining to a different axis.





A New Head Gesturing System  


Apple introduces us to a rather interesting new head gesturing system that will work in conjunctions with a future iteration of their iPhone and/or iPod sports monitoring functionality.  As a method for controlling an electronic device through one or more head gestures, one embodiment of the invention can, for example, include at least: receiving head motion data pertaining a head motion of a user of the electronic device; determining whether the head motion data matches any of a plurality of predetermined head gestures; and identifying an action associated with the matching predetermined head gesture. Additionally, the method can further operate to perform the identified action on the electronic device. Apple's patent FIG. 3 below is a flow diagram of a head gesture process.






According to another embodiment of the invention, given that there can be an activity sensor proximate to a user's ear or head, the activity sensor can be utilized to control an electronic device (e.g., electronic device 216). For example, if the electronic device is a mobile media playback device, then the movement of the user's head can be utilized to invoke commands for the media playback device. For example, moving one's head in a predetermined manner can be considered as a gesture. In the case of the media playback device such a gesture can cause play, pause, next, back, skip, volume up, or the volume down.


To simplify user input gestures and/or processing therefore, a gesture can be combined with a user input action (e.g., button action). For example, if a cord for headphones, earbuds or headsets include a user input device (e.g., user input device 126), the user input device 126 (e.g., button) can be activated (e.g., pressed) while (or immediately prior or immediately after) the gesture is being performed. This allows the device to understand when it receives a gesture intended to cause a user control of some feature of the electronic device.


More generally, gestures, such as head gestures, can be used as inputs to an electronic device. Sensors (e.g., accelerometer, gyroscope, motion sensor) provided proximate the user's ear or head can be used to detect, pitch, roll and/or yaw of the head, all of which can be potentially used as inputs to an electronic device. The head gestures can have various meanings depending on application. For example, the same head gesture can initiate a different action in different applications. The sensing used to identify a gesture can be binary or analog. For example, with regards to binary, a head turn may simply change from one state to another. With regards to analog, the movement itself may impact a control function. It should be appreciated that head gestures may be used separately or in combination to provide inputs. The various motions that may be detected include, for example: left tilt, right tilt, back and forth left and right tilt, forward tilt, back tilt, back and forth forward and back tilt, left rotation, right rotation, back and forth right and left rotation, swirling the head in a circle in vertical orientation, swirling the head in a circular manner in a horizontal orientation. The motions may also be distinguished or altered as a function of speed, time, pauses in between, etc. An entire head gesture language may be developed. In one example, a head bobbing can be used in a manner similar to Morse code in order to provide text input commands. Further, "noise" filtering can be provided so as to reduce erroneous detection of gestures during regular head movements. The various gestures can cause inputs (e.g., commands) to an electronic device, such as for an application operating on the electronic device. The inputs can be user selections, user data inputs, scroll, browse, navigation, cursor control, etc.


In one implementation, a scroll, browse or paging action can be initiated or controlled by one or more head gestures. For example, a rotate head or tilt head to right can cause a next item/page action to the right. Subsequently holding ones head in the tilted position can cause the speed of the action to increase until head returns to normal position.


In another implementation, a yes/no input can be provided by a head gesture. For example, if system asks a user of a mobile telephone for input when the mobile telephone is in use, such as when another call comes in, the user can be prompted with a screen that asks whether to skip an incoming call or place current call on hold to answer incoming call. In response, the user could simply reply yes or no as he would in normal conversation. Alternatively, the user could provide one or more head gestures, e.g., back and forth horizontal head movement for a "no" response or back and forth vertical head movement for a "yes" response.


In another implementation, an up or down movement creates vertical scroll event, whereas left or right movement creates horizontal scroll event, and further holding ones head in up, down, left or right position can increase or accelerate the rate of scrolling until the head is moved back to normal.


In another implementation, a head gesture can be used to acknowledge something. For example, a simple head tilt, may be used as an enter command.


In another implementation, moving the head left can request a "forward: action, and moving the head right can request a "back" action, or vice versa, Alternatively, moving the head upward in the vertical direction can request a "back" action, and moving the head downward in the vertical direction can request a "forward" action.


The Monitoring System  


Apple's patent FIG. 2 is a block diagram of an electronic system 200 according to one embodiment of the invention. The electronic system includes a monitoring system 202 that monitors physical conditions, such as activity, associated with a user of the electronic system. The monitoring system can include at least one sensor that captures monitored data.




The monitoring system can include at least one sensor. The sensor can be an activity sensor. In one implementation, the activity sensor can use at least one accelerometer. The accelerometer can be a one-axis or multiple-axis accelerometer. As an example, when the hearing device 214 includes a pair of earbuds, one or both of the earbuds can include one or more accelerometers. In another implementation, the activity sensor can use a plurality of accelerometers. The sensor can also be other than (or in addition to) an activity sensor, such as a psychological or biometric sensors which could measure temperature, heartbeat, etc. of a user of the monitoring system. Since sensors can be positioned proximate to the head or ear of the user, useful psychological or biometric data can be acquired. The sensor can also be other than (or in addition to) an activity sensor, such as a global positioning system (GPS) receiver or a proximity sensor.


User Gazing GPS Application 


Apple's patent introduces us to yet another sensor capability that they're working on. According to another aspect of the invention, motion and/or directional sensors could be used to determine the direction of the user's gaze. One or more sensors in a user's ear can provide an indication of movement and/or direction that a user is looking or gazing. The sensor can be supplied to an electronic device which can determine the direction the user is looking or gazing. The electronic device, or applications running thereon, can make use of the determined direction. For example, the electronic device (or its display screen) can turned on if the user is looking at the electronic device itself and turned off (or placed in a power saving mode) if the user is not looking at the electronic device, thereby saving valuable battery power. The direction can also be used in combination with GPS data to allow a device/system to know what a user is looking at.


Apple credits Christopher Prest (who co-authored the iPhone Bluetooth headset, patent 20080166001, July 2008.) and Quin C. Hoellwarth for today's published patent application 20090097689 which was originally filed on August 21, 2008.


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