On this long Holiday weekend, I thought it would be a little bit of fun to take a look at three Apple Developer patents that surfaced this week at the US Patent and Trademark Office. The ideas cover wild and crazy things like service robots, flying machines and synthetic guitars that all happen to tap into Apple's iOS in one way or another. Steve Jobs referred to these kinds of dreamers as "The Crazy Ones" – and today we cheer on a few of these crazies that live beyond Cupertino.
The First Crazy One Invented a Device for Piloting a Drone
The company that created the incredible toy that you're about to see is Parrot from France. The inventor is Martin Lefebure and his published patent application came to light this past week under 20110288696.
Parrot's invention generally relates to a device for piloting a drone, in particular a rotary-wing drone. "A particularly advantageous application of the invention," Lefebure states, "is that it lies in the field of radio-controlled toys that could be used by children, in particular in indoor environments, such as in a room in a house or an apartment, for example."
You know some of us big kids might like this too. The fact that the drone includes a video camera system working with an iPad is absolutely wild. Perhaps in their next iteration of the drone they'll add some kind of gunner system that could fire sharp toothpicks at those we're spying on and really make this a blast: Mwahaha! Kidding aside, Parrot's invention of a drone isn't just a patent. The real product is shown in a demonstration below.
Although Parrot works with both Google's android and Apple's iOS, the fact is that their patent only mentions Apple. Patent Point 64 states the following: "In this preferred embodiment, the device is a portable multimedia appliance, such as a cell phone of the iPhone type or a multimedia content player of the iPod Touch type (trademarks filed by Apple Inc., USA)."
Noted above is Parrot's only patent figure noted in their application. This cool Apple developer also designed another kind of drone that could be seen here working with an iPhone 4 – as well as an interesting set of colorful wireless speakers for iOS or OS X devices.
The Second Crazy One Invented a Mobile Robot System
Earlier this year there was heartwarming news report (video) about a homebound student attending his classes with the assistance of a Robot invented by a company called VGo. Although various kinds of Robots have been around for some time now, a next generation of robot like VGo's are being designed to integrate portable devices such as the iPad to fill various professional market niches. In fact, just this past week a newly published patent application from a company called iRobot points to utilizing Apple's iOS and iPad in their robots.
iRobot's Proposed Mobile-Robot System
iRobot's introductory abstract describes the invention this way: "A robot system includes a mobile robot having a controller executing a control system for controlling operation of the robot, a cloud computing service in communication with the controller of the robot, and a remote computing device in communication with the cloud computing service. The remote computing device communicates with the robot through the cloud computing service."
It appears by the patent figures noted above, that iRobot's initial market focus will be centered on medical markets including hospitals, specialized clinics and/or nursing homes. We see in figure 10A that a "distant specialist" is working with the attending physician bedside in discussing the patient's prognosis. A version of iRobot will allow for patient-doctor conferences when time is of essence.
In patent figure 10D we see that a physical therapist is working individually with a patient in a hospital and/or nursing home resident on a needed regiment of exercises. In figure 10C we see a surgeon checking up on a patient post operative.
And lastly In patent figure 12 noted above, we see a perspective view of an exemplary mobile human interface robot having multiple sensors pointed toward the ground so as to avoid an obstacle. Hmm, when I see that particular patent figure, I have the urge to blurt out WALL-E! Maybe it's just me – ha!
iRobot's Patent application 20110288684 put a smile on my face this Thanksgiving weekend, knowing that other kids like housebound Lyndon Baty of Knox City, Texas, will likewise be able to one day interact with their classmates and feel like they belong, due to next generation robots. These new robotic systems will also allow loved ones to communicate with their aging parents in a hospital and allow for interactions with their doctors, bedside. As you know, it takes a specialized type of wireless technology to work in hospitals so as to not interfere with vital hospital equipment; Technology that Apple is also working on at the moment.
With giant medical facilities like Memorial Hermann Healthcare System out of Houston Texas and Mount Sinai out of Toronto Canada working extensively and exclusively with Apple's iPad, there's no doubt why iRobot has chosen to work with Apple's iOS and iPad in creating their new robotic system. This might even be an opportunity to tie in Apple's iCloud services, being that iRobot points to this being a key to their system. Time will tell on that point.
As we could see below, there will be instances when a Physician will need to remove the iPad from the Robot in order to make notes, call up the results of an emergency X-Ray or 3D scanner image and so forth, privately. Let's hope that Apple provides iRobot with great support and service, because the Android OS is listed as Plan B.
iRobot is a leading robotics company for military and marine centric applications (the video music is loud, so be prepared).
One interesting business applications for these next generation robots could involve a rental business. For instance, imagine being able to roam the floor of the next Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January to check out the latest gizmos without the hassles of dealing with hotels, traffic and all of the costs associated with visiting a tradeshow. It's possible that in the future, tradeshow operators and exhibitors may extend their show by a day in order to capitalize on the new robot rental business. That extra day would be reserved for service robots alone filling the tradeshow floor.
The robots allow for full interactivity, so you'd be able to ask company reps all the questions that you would if you were really there. While it may sound crazy today, check out this video to get an idea of how it could work. If tradeshows eventually offer such a service, I'd be one of the first to sign up for it - if it's reasonably priced, that is. Service robots will be ideal for a broad range of applications like manufacturing, security, retail, and healthcare.
The Third Crazy One Invented a Synthetic Touch Screen Guitar
Lastly we take a look at a new touch screen guitar that was invented by two independent engineers by the names of Ulrich Behringer and Brian Crouch. Ulrich has a number of patents to his credit. One of the companies that he's assigned his patents to is Music Group IP. Their products could be found in professional and project recording studios, video and broadcast suites, post-production facilities, sound reinforcement applications including stadiums, nightclubs and even for major musical concert tours.
Behringer's credibility in the music industry allows us to take their touch screen guitar a little more seriously. Although Apple now offers the "pluckers" and "air guitarists" of this world a little more fun with their latest GarageBand for iPad app, Behringer's idea is to try and up the ante. Without a doubt, there's a huge hole in the market now that Guitar Hero has folded – but the genre is just too large to be left un-served. Is Behringer working with the creators of a next generation music video game? Time will tell.
Patent application 20110283868 states that a synthetic guitar includes a body, a neck extending from the body, and at least one touch sensor at the neck for indicating finger position of a user. The body has a receptacle for removably securing a tablet computer to the body. The tablet computer has a touch screen for indicating finger position of the user. A processor of the tablet computer is programmed to receive input signals from the touch sensor and the touch screen and to produce an output signal based at least partially on the input signals. The software could enable the synthetic guitar to be used as a music synthesizer or to be used as a video game controller."
According to Behringer, "gaming peripherals and musical video games are extremely popular. These synthetic guitars, however, do not provide a very realistic experience of playing a guitar. Even greater acceptance and popularity could be achieved with a more realistic playing experience while maintaining relatively easy playing and relatively low cost. Accordingly, there is a need for improved synthetic guitars."
In context with the patent figures noted above, Behringer notes that "…tablet computer 24 is, for example, an iPad available from Apple Inc. of Cupertino, Calif." Later on it states that "The illustrated electrical connector 30 is an iPad dock connector (a 32 pin Apple, Inc. proprietary connector)…" Other guitar configurations illustrated in the patent include Apple's iPod touch.
At the End of the Day
Every once in a while it's good to take a peek at what some of Apple's developers are working on, as a healthy platform with enthusiastic developers means that Apple will be able to sell more hardware in the future. It's just simple math.
Apple's iOS for portable devices is currently rocking and rolling and capturing the imaginations of developers young and old. The new inventions briefly reviewed here today are a testament to the wide variety of apps under development – and I see this occurring week-in and week-out behind the scenes.
It's absolutely vital for Apple to keep pushing iOS's capabilities every year in order to keep their platform vibrant while opening new doors and avenues for their developers to explore and tap into. Think of the opportunities that Apple's developers will have once Siri is opened to them, or the new technologies associated with Apple's acquisitions of C3 and Polar Rose that we touched on earlier this week in our report about new high-end 3D object recognition technology. These exciting new technologies will continue to propel the popularity of Apple's iOS in the public while energizing their developer base.
In stark contrast, I'm sure that Apple remembers all too well when that wasn't the case. When Steve Jobs announced back in 1997 that Apple had lost the desktop war to Microsoft, he meant it. Apple, even with OS X in its arsenal, has never been able to turn the desktop market around in their favor.
If you need to be reminded of that, then read John Paczkowski's latest report on Apple's dismal five percent of the global PC market. That's just the reality of the desktop market for Apple contrary to the lunacy to the nth degree that surfaced earlier this week. Steve Jobs went out of his way to drop "Computer" from Apple's corporate identity and pounded the table that Apple had become the "world's largest portable devices company." So the ridiculous spin that we witnessed this past week stating that Apple would grab the mantle away from HP as the top PC maker in the world, was a sad day for the blogosphere's credibility. (See our Updated Sidenote below).
Apple's strength rests with iOS – and the three new inventions presented here today are examples of just some of the wild and crazy inventions that Apple's developers are working on that will take advantage of their mobile device platform.
Everyone in the Mac Community knows just how hard Steve Jobs pushed the creative minds at Apple to invent innovative products that changed the way we all organize, purchase and listen to our music for now and decades to come. And in turn, by pushing Apple's engineers to create these incredibly exciting products, it has motivated both existing and next generation developers to jump on board and join Apple's army of crazy ones that changed the music world and rocked the smartphone industry to its core.
So for a moment, we shone the light on three new inventions that tap into Apple's platform. We applaud these crazy ones for their never ending pioneering spirit. In the future, I hope to present more innovations that Apple's developers are working on because Apple can't win the future without them.
Here's to all the Crazy Ones, wherever they may be: Cheers!
Notice: 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. Apple's patent applications have provided the Mac community with a clear heads-up on some of Apple's greatest product trends including the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iOS cameras, LED displays, iCloud services for iTunes and more. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
Update/Sidenote November 30, 2011: A report today is slanting a comment made by Meg Whitman. Will Apple pass HP in 2012? Whitman: "Yes. I think it’s possible if you integrate tablets." Yes, if you integrate tablets, which is the disputed point. So valuation says that Apple surpasses HP, but that has nothing to do with OS X on Macs v. Windows on HP PC's. Blurring markets is a classic marketing tactic. Apple will continue to hold under 8% of the PC global market no matter how you slice it.
Here are a Few Great Community Sites covering our Original Report
MacSurfer, Twitter, Facebook, Apple Investor News, Google Reader, Mac Hash, All About Apple, Macnews, iPhone World Canada, MarketWatch, 9to5 Mac, iDevice Romania, MacX China, iPhones Russia, RazorianFly, AppleWeblog Spain, MacTalk Australia, ITProPortal, and more.