The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 34 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular granted patent report we cover a single invention that relates to a camera system. What's interesting here is that Apple's invention that was filed in 2012 and appears to incorporate intellectual property from Kodak that they acquired back in November 2013. In one implementation, Apple's invention could directly move into GoPro's territory as the patent specifically mentions the weaknesses of the GoPro devices. Specifically, the patent notes that the new camera system could be secured to various objects, such as a bike helmet or scuba mask, or mounted to the handlebars of a motorcycle or the front of a surfboard. The new camera system also notes that an iPhone (smartphone) could be used under water to take pictures and record sounds in a water environment. Waterproofing is a given. Lastly, we wrap up this week's granted patent report with our traditional listing of the remaining granted patents that were issued to Apple today.
Granted Patent: Digital Camera System having Remote Control
Apple's newly granted patent covers their invention relating to the field of digital video cameras, and more particularly to a digital camera having a remote control. Due to the fact that Apple's granted patent includes an acquired patent from Kodak, we'll present you with the full patent background and patent summary below, as we've never covered this as a patent application.
The Patent Background
Digital capture devices, such as digital cameras and camera phones typically capture and store both still digital images and video clips. These digital capture devices typically include a color display which is used to display captured still digital images and video clips. In many situations, these digital capture devices are held by the user, who uses the color display to compose the images as they are captured. In some situations, the digital capture device is mounted on a tripod or another type of camera mounting device, so that it does not need to be held by the user. In some situations, the digital capture device is controlled using a remote control, in order to initiate and terminate the capture of images.
It is known to provide rugged digital capture devices that can be secured to various objects, such as a bike helmet or scuba mask, or mounted to the handlebars of a motorcycle or the front of a surfboard. For example, the GoPro HD Hero2 digital cameras, sold by GoPro Inc, Half Moon Bay, Calif. are sold as part of an "Outdoor edition" package which includes various straps, pivot arms, and adhesive mounts to enable the digital camera to capture images while performing activities such as biking, skiing, skating and kayaking. However, the HD Hero2 camera includes only a single image capture system, which captures images using an optical axis directed outward from the "front" of the camera. This can cause excessive wind resistance and presents a high profile that is more susceptible to damage and image artifacts from vibrations in some situations.
It is also known to provide remote controls as accessories for digital cameras. For example, U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2011/0058052 to Bolton, et al., entitled "Systems and methods for remote camera control" describes a portable media device (PMD) which includes a digital camera capable of capturing still images and video that can be controlled remotely using an accessory. The accessory can register with the PMD to automatically receive notifications whenever there is a change in the camera state. The camera states can include mode, operation status, and configuration settings. The accessory can send instructions to a camera application that interfaces with the camera to control the camera. The accessory can remotely activate the digital camera, change the digital camera's mode, and send instructions to operate the digital camera. The accessory and the PMD can concurrently control the camera. The PMD can send the captured still images and recorded video to the accessory for preview and can receive instructions from the accessory. Unfortunately, because the accessory receives notifications whenever there is a change in the camera state, power must be continuously supplied to ensure that a notification can be received by the accessory. This can rapidly deplete the batteries which control the accessory.
It is also known to provide a video camera having two lenses pointing in perpendicular directions, as described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,288,742 to Ansari et al., entitled "Video Camera Including Multiple Image Sensors." This patent describes a digital motion camera useful in teleconferencing which includes two lenses and two image sensors. The first lens is used to provide a relatively wide angle view of a room and the second lens is used to provide high resolution document transmission capability. During a video telephone conference, the camera permits fast switching between an image of the room as seen through the first lens or an image of a document as seen through the second lens, without the need for pan and tilt stages or a plurality of complete camera units. However, this camera is always mounted in the same orientation, regardless of which lens is used to capture images. The camera does not include multiple camera mounts to enable the camera to be mounted in different orientations when the second lens is used to capture images.
It is also known to provide a camera carrying case that includes more than one tripod screw socket on different sides of the cases, as described in U.S. Pat. No. 1,258,437 "Camera carrying case" to Nord. However, the case is designed for a camera having a single lens with a single optical axis. The two tripod screw sockets are used to capture landscape and portrait orientation images in the direction of this single optical axis.
Thus, there remains a need to provide a digital camera that can be used in a "conventional" capture mode, where the digital camera is held by the user while capturing digital images, and which can also be used in "streamlined" mounted mode, which provides a lower profile and reduced wind resistance when the digital camera captures images while mounted to moving object such as a bicycle.
The Patent Summary
Apple's newly acquired patent which has been granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office notes that the invention represents a digital camera system, comprising the following:
An image Capture Module including: a first image capture system including: a first image sensor for capturing a digital image; and a first optical system for forming an image of a first portion of a scene onto the first image sensor; and a first wireless communication system; and
A Remote Control Module including: a remote control status display including one or more remote control status display elements for displaying status information pertaining to the image capture module; a battery-operated power supply; one or more remote control user controls; a second wireless communication system for communicating with the first wireless communication system using a wireless interface; and a power management system providing a normal-power state where the remote control status display and the second wireless communication system are active and a low-power state where the remote control status display and the second wireless system are inactive; wherein when none of the remote control user controls have been activated for a predefined first time interval the power management system sets the remote control module to operate in the low-power state; and wherein when a user activates one of the remote control user controls while the remote control module is in the low-power state: the power management system sets the remote control module to operate in the normal-power state; the remote control modules sends a status inquiry to the image capture module using the second wireless communication system, and in response the image capture module sends status information back to the remote control module using the first wireless communication system; and the status information is displayed using the remote control status display elements of the remote control status display.
The present invention has the advantage that the image capture module can be controlled using the user controls on the remote control module.
It has the additional advantage that the remote control module enters a reduced power mode after a period of inactivity in order to conserve battery power.
Random Patent Figures
Apple's patent FIG. 7A noted below is a high-level diagram showing the components of a remote control module in accordance with the present invention; FIG. 7B is a drawing depicting a front view of the remote control module of FIG. 7A which is found in a digital watch. Will Apple integrate this into a future version of Apple Watch?
Apple's patent FIG. 4A is a drawing depicting a digital camera used in a helmet mount system; FIG. 5A is a drawing depicting a bike bar mount for a digital camera.
Apple's granted patent is chock-full of interesting little details such as this one:
"In some embodiments, the microphone is capable of recording sounds in air and also in an underwater environment when the digital camera is used to record underwater images. In other embodiments, the digital camera includes both a conventional air microphone as well as an underwater microphone (hydrophone) capable of recording underwater sounds." Now that would be a cool feature.
Apple's granted patent number 8,934,045, as noted in the filing, was filed in Q1 2012. As noted below, Apple acquired the Kodak patent back in 2013. You could see the details here. If Apple acquired this specific Kodak patent, then it would appear to be one that Apple is taking very seriously. Why else purchase a patent if you're going to just shelf the idea. Exactly which part part of the technology Apple is interested in, isn't known at this time.
A humorous side note: Think about the advantages of this invention. With the technology laid out in this granted patent, you'd be able to film a shark coming towards you and record your screams as it crunches down on your leg to add realistic drama to your vacation video. Ah, what will they think of next?
The Remaining Patents granted to Apple Today
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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.
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