The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of twenty-two newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In our third and final patent report of the day we primarily focus on two patents. The first covers advanced multi-touch trackpads that may one day track hand gestures. In the second patent, Apple reveals a possible future iPhone headset with a microphone that turns your music off automatically when you remove the headset and continues from where you left off when you put the headset back on. I don't know about you, but that sounds like a pretty nifty idea to me. Sometimes the little features are just as great as the big stuff.
Apple Granted a Patent for a Wide TouchPad for MacBooks
Apple has received a Granted Patent that relates to their wide touchpad that is found in Apple's MacBook line up. It first debuted in January 2008 on the MacBook Air. On Apple's current MacBook Air webpage, they describe the wide trackpad as a "spacious, Multi-Touch trackpad."
Apple's patent is about a MacBook trackpad having the capabilities of a conventional computer mouse, such as the ability to point, drag, tap, and double tap objects on a graphical user interface, as well as more general purposes such as scrolling, panning, zooming, and rotating images on display screen. In many aspects, this is a patent fulfilled and in others, there's room for other adjustments.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 illustrates a top view of a portable computer in the open position with a touchpad that extends into the palm rest areas. In one embodiment, the touchpad 224, having particularly wide dimension, is divided into three regions, a left region 242, a center region 244, and a right region 246. Sensor 240, which in one embodiment, is a sensor strip having a width substantially similar to a width of the touchpad 224 and is disposed between the keyboard and the touchpad.
The three regions of touchpad may be activated or deactivated selectively, based on a particular touch region or "contact patch" sensed by the touchpad in association with the particular region of sensor that detects a hand portion or fingers extending towards the keys of keyboard. Meaning that the sensor will be able to know the difference between when the user rests his palms on the notebook and when the user is using the touchpad to interact with it.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 illustrates the user resting his palms on the touchpad which won't activate the touchpad while patent FIG. 5 illustrates another example of a hand position during user activity with a portable computer. This could provide users with more flexibility depending where your hand are at the moment on the keyboard and whether you're right or left handed.
Alternative Hand Detecting Sensor
Apple's patent FIG. 12 shown below, reveals an alternative embodiment of a hand detecting sensor that may be implemented on a portable computer. This aspect of Apple's patent has yet to surface in the marketplace. Theoretically, this particular embodiment could act similarly to Apple's February 2011 patent covering hover-types of movement and/or instructions. The current patent's hand detecting sensor would be able to recognize a hand movements as instruction. Whether Apple decides to expand the capabilities of their current "wide" multi-touch trackpad design is unknown at this time. But it's this type of "magic" that Apple likes to add to their hardware to make it irresistable. One could only hope that this could be an added function sometime in the future.
Apple's First Claim: A data processing system comprising: an image sensor configured to detect a user's hand location relative to a touch sensitive surface and a keyboard, wherein the touch sensitive surface is configured to act as an input device, the touch sensitive surface having a two dimensional surface capable of outputting location information of a touch on the touch sensitive surface, wherein the location information relates to a location of the touch with regard to the touch sensitive surface; and a display screen coupled to the touch sensitive surface, wherein the display screen is configured to change an image on the display screen based upon location information output from the touch sensitive surface and the detected hand location.
Apple credits heavy weights Steven Hotelling, Chris Ligtenberg, Duncan Kerr, Bartley Andre, Joshua Strickon, Brian Huppi, Imran Chaudhri, Greg Christie and Bas Ording as the inventors of this patent which was originally filed in Q1 2007.
Apple Wins a Patent for a New Wireless Headset with Microphone & Unique Attributes
Apple's May 27, 2010 patent application for an all-new earphone – microphone assembly with unique features has been granted. Apple's patent relates to an earphone that may be combined or integrated with a microphone to form a headset that is used for two-way communications through a host device, such as a cellular phone, or a desktop or laptop computer executing voice over IP (Internet Protocol) software. The headset could communicate with the host device through either a wired connection or a wireless link.
Upon receipt of the repositioning detecting signal, the host changes its operation mode. In one scenario, the host may include a media player that is connected to the earphone and is playing music through the earphone. The player pauses music playing when the repositioning detecting signal indicates removal of the earphone from the user's ear. The media player may automatically resume music playing when the repositioning detecting signal indicates that the earphone has been re-inserted into the user's ear or is otherwise "at the ear."
In another scenario, the host may include a telephone module which automatically switches to speakerphone mode when the repositioning detecting signal indicates the removal of the earphone from the user's ear. The telephone module may switch back to receiver mode (handset mode) when the repositioning detecting signal indicates that the earphone has resumed its at-the-ear position.
Apple's First Patent Claim: An apparatus comprising: an earphone that is to be coupled to a host; a pressure transducer within the earphone; and a microphone; and a signaling mechanism coupled to the microphone and the pressure transducer, the signaling mechanism to send to the host a repositioning detection signal representing a pressure change detected by the pressure transducer, the pressure change responsive to repositioning of the earphone, wherein the signaling mechanism is to generate the repositioning detection signal for transmission to the host, the repositioning detection signal generated as a distinct direct current (DC) voltage level upon detection that the microphone is not in use, and as a supersonic distinct alternating current (AC) frequency sequence upon detecting that the microphone is in use.
To review Apple's other 16 patent claims and invention detailing, see granted patent 8,098,838. Apple credits Jae Han Lee and Wendell Sander as the inventors of this patent which was originally filed in Q4 2008. For in-vehicle hands-free communications, this might come in very handy.
Final Patent Round-Up
Over and above the granted patents that were specifically reported on today, we present you with links to all of the other granted patents in our Final Patent Round-Up as follows:
Apple has won their fourth Time Machine related patent in the last eighteen months; patent 8,099,512 entitled Method and system for real-time synchronization across a distributed services communication network; a patent relating to "smart shuffle" that was introduced in 2005 is entitled Techniques and graphical user interfaces for categorical shuffle; patent 8,099,536 entitled Communication between an accessory and a media player with general and accessory lingoes; patent 8,099,528 Data filtering using central DMA mechanism; patent 8,099,476 entitled Updatable real-time or near real-time streaming; patent 8,099,473 entitled Variant streams for real-time or near real-time streaming; patent 8,099,332 relates to iAd and is entitled User interface for application management for a mobile device; Another iAd patent is found under 8,099,079 entitled Method and system for distributing data to mobile devices.
Other granted patents include: patent 8,098,262 which is an iPhone related patent entitled Arbitrary fractional pixel movement; patent 8,098,256 entitled Video acquisition with integrated GPU processing; patent 8,098,250 entitled Adaptive and dynamic text filtering; patent 8,098,261; patent 8,098,534 entitled Integrated circuit with separate supply voltage for memory that is different from logic circuit supply voltage; patent 8,099,091 entitled Method to control configuration change times in a wireless device; and finally, patent 8,099,252 entitled Self-test power management unit.
Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of granted patents with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any Granted Patent should be read in its entirety for full details. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.