USPTO Publishes 9 Original Apple Patent Filings Today Covering a New In-Focus Camera Lens System, iPhone Recording UI & More
On January 23, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a series of nine patent applications from Apple. Earlier today we posted reports covering techniques for using sapphire on iDevice displays and another covering the mad science behind iAd's future ability of matching content to moods. In our final patent report of the day we briefly cover two new Apple inventions covering an in-focus camera lens system and a new iPhone interface for mobile recoding of conversations between two or more individuals. We conclude our report with a list of the remaining five patent applications that were published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Apple's Background on Camera Lens Systems
Digital imaging systems or digital cameras have quickly become a popular consumer electronic device and have become a standard feature of portable multi-function devices including for example, portable multimedia players, laptop computers, smart phones, and tablet computers. The image quality expected from these devices has grown as higher quality and higher megapixel cameras have been incorporated into them. The image quality of an imaging system can vary depending on many factors, including the lens focus position along the optical axis of the imager.
In general, a well-focused camera produces a sharp image and a poorly focused camera produces a blurry image. Thus, it is important to be able to place a camera lens at a well-focused or in-focus lens position. For fixed focal length imaging systems, the in-focus lens position is found and then fixed at the time of manufacture or assembly. As such, for high volume mass production of such cameras, there is a need to find the in-focus lens position quickly and efficiently because this can increase the number of units per hour that may be produced, yielding a production capacity advantage.
Finding an in-focus lens position usually involves measuring and comparing the image quality (e.g., sharpness) of images of a test target captured at several different lens positions. It is common practice to calculate Spatial Frequency Response (SFR) or Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) to measure the sharpness of a given image and thereby determine an in-focus position of a lens during camera module production. The computation costs for these measurements are expensive, and it is difficult to determine an in-focus position using SFR or MTF as an image quality metric from a small number of captured frames. This makes SFR and MTF based techniques impractical for fast lens focus setting of mass produced imaging systems.
Apple's Camera Invention Relates to an In-Focus Lens System
Apple's invention relates to determining an in-focus lens position through the measurement of image quality at different lens positions, using a digital imaging system that contains the lens, in a camera component manufacturing setting.
Apple's system finds an in-focus position for a lens quickly and conveniently in order to achieve a lower cost for very high volume manufacturing of digital cameras and camera modules, for example those used in consumer electronic devices such as smart phones, tablet computers, desktop computers, and in-room and in-vehicle entertainment systems.
In accordance with an embodiment of the invention, an in-focus lens position is determined by counting the number of transition pixels for images of a target captured at different lens positions. Using as little as two frames, a reasonable approximation of the in-focus lens position may be obtained. The approximation of the in-focus lens position may then be used as a starting point for a fine focus search process, to determine an in-focus lens position. An advantage here is that the focus metric relates to the number of transition pixels and is easy to compute, and yields a reasonable approximation of the in-focus position within just a few frames.
Apple's patent FIG. 5 is a representation of a system that can be used to determine an in-focus position of a lens.
Apple notes that in one embodiment, the lens may be held by a lens barrel and moved along an optical axis of an imager 41 using a jig that rotates the lens barrel.
Apple's patent FIG. 6 is a graph plotting focus metric values and SFR values with respect to lens barrel position.
Apple credits Robin Jenkin and Eugene Lam as the inventors of this patent application 20140022441 which was originally filed in Q4 2012. Click here to review the details of this invention.
Apple Invention Covers a New Mobile Device Recording Interface
In Apple's patent background they note that during a telephone conversation, if it is desired to record the conversation, the audio sampling portion of the conventional recording device must be coupled to a speaker or audio output device of a telephone apparatus such that a portion of the conversation is sampled and subsequently stored at the recording device.
It should be appreciated that as users continue to become mobile through the use of personal electronic devices, there may be a need for increasingly portable recording devices for recording on the go. Moreover, it may be beneficial to distribute portions of stored audio amongst users participating in the recording, for example, amongst two or more users involved in a telephone conversation. Furthermore, given the increasing capabilities of personal electronic devices, it may be beneficial to integrate safe, consensual recording solutions amongst electronic devices.
Apple's invention describes various embodiments that relate to mobile device recording. Mobile device recording may be facilitated through immediate consent between at least two devices, stored prior consent between at least two devices, and/or implied consent between at least two devices. The mobile device recording may be extensible to more than two devices via communication bridging, and may include storage, manipulation, playback, and distribution of recordings.
According to some embodiments of the present invention, a method for recording between a first device and a second device includes, prior to establishing a connection for recording between the first and second devices, creating a list of trusted devices. Presence of the second device on the list indicates permission to record a communication between the first and second devices. The method further includes storing the list of trusted devices, wherein the list is accessible by the first device, establishing the connection for recording between the first and second devices, verifying by the first device that the second device is on the list of trusted second devices, and recording at least a portion of the communication between the first and second devices if indicated by a user of the first device without further input from a user of the second device.
According to some embodiments of the present invention, a method for recording between a first device and a second device comprises establishing communication between the first device and the second device, requesting permission to record conversation between a user of the first device and a user of the second device, wherein permission is requested by the user of the first device through an interactive interface on the second device, receiving permission to record at the first device, and recording at least a portion of the conversation between the first and second devices.
Apple's patent FIG. 6 illustrates an interactive interface of a personal electronic device, according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.
Other Original Patent Applications Published Today
Excluding the seven continuation patents that were published today (that usually just cover tweaks made to patent claims of previously filed applications), there were nine original patent applications from Apple that were published by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Below is a brief list of five remaining patent applications published today:
One: Methods and Systems for Adaptive Channel Estimation/Prediction Filter Design
Two: Methods and Systems for Anchored Down-Selection in a Coordinated Multipoint Transmission Cluster
Three: Method and Apparatus for Establishing a Communication Connection
Four: Securing In-App Purchases
Five: Index and Searching Data Collection
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