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Apple Invents Motion-Detected Tap Inputs for the iPhone & Apple Watch

10.4 - Patent Application


On July 23, 2015, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals one or more novel motion-detected, tap-input methods for initiating one or more particular operations on a device such an iPhone and/or Apple Watch. In one example a user could set an iPhone in front of them and use the tap motion on an Apple Watch to snap the photo.


Apple's Patent Background


Many mobile devices provide various input mechanisms to allow users to interact with the devices. Examples of such input mechanisms include touch, tactile and voice inputs. Some of these devices, however, place restrictions on the input mechanisms that may slow down user interaction. For instance, typically, a device with touch-sensitive screen has a locked-screen mode that provides reduced touch-screen functionality, in order to prevent inadvertent interactions with the device. Such a locked-screen mode is beneficial in reducing inadvertent interactions, but this benefit comes at the expense of requiring the user to go through certain operations to unlock the locked screen. Accordingly, there is a need in the art for additional input mechanisms that allow a user quicker access to some of the functionalities of the mobile devices.


Apple Invents Motion-Detected Tap Gestures


Apple's invention provides one or more novel motion-detected, tap-input methods for initiating one or more particular operations of a device. In some embodiments, these methods detect a tap input without relying on the output of a touch-sensitive screen sensor, which the device may or may not have. Instead, these methods detect the tap input by relying on the output of one or more other motion sensors of the device. Examples of such motion sensors include accelerometers, gyroscopes, and other sensors that generate output based on the movement of, or physical interactions with, the device.


The method of some embodiments initially detects an occurrence of an external event. The external event may be for example, the receipt of a phone call, the triggering of an alarm, the receipt of a text message, or various other types of events that generally require a response from the user. In some embodiments, the external event times out if there is no responsive action by the user (such as a phone call going to voice mail). Also, in some embodiments, the event is viewed as an external event as it occurs independently of the method that initiates the particular operation.


After detecting the occurrence of the external event, the method of some embodiments determines whether the device receives a particular number of motion-detected, tap inputs within a particular time interval. The method makes this determination by examining the output of one or more motion sensors of the device. As mentioned above, examples of such motion sensors include the device's accelerometer, gyroscope, and/or other sensors that generate output based on the movement of, or physical interactions with, the device. Upon detecting the external event and then detecting the particular number of motion-detected, tap inputs with a predetermined time interval, the method directs a module of the device to initiate the particular operation. Examples of such an initiated operation include answering a phone call, or sending the phone call to voice mail, when the external event is the receipt of a phone call, or snoozing an alarm when the external event is a triggered alarm.


In order to identify motion-detected tap inputs, the methods of different embodiments use output data from different motion sensors, or use different combinations of output data from different combinations of motion sensors. In some embodiments, the method may collect process and store sensor data from the motion sensors using one or more reduced power co-processing units (e.g., Apple's M7) that execute concurrently with the central processing units (CPU) of the device.


The reduced power processing units can collect and process data even when the device is both asleep and powered on. Furthermore, the co-processing units are able to offload the collecting and processing of sensor data from the main CPU(s) of the device.


Furthermore, in order to determine whether particular operations should be initiated, the methods of some embodiments augment the output data from the motion sensor data with output data from non-motion sensor data (e.g., with output data from the touch-sensitive screen sensor or with output data from the location identification sensor(s)). Also, in some embodiments, the methods specify different sets of rules for initiating different operations based on the motion-detected, tap inputs that are detected under different conditions. For instance, in some embodiments, each specified rule is based on either: (1) an external event and corresponding set of motion-detected, tap inputs that are detected after the external event, or (2) a particular orientation of the device and a corresponding set of motion-detected tap inputs that are received within a time period after the device has been placed in the particular orientation.


Motion Taps Related to iPhone and Apple Watch


Apple's patent FIG. 1 noted below is an overview of an example software architecture of an operation initiator of some embodiments of this invention.



In Apple's patent FIG. 16 noted above we're able to see an example of detecting an external event on a first device, receiving tap inputs on a second device, and performing operations on the first device in response to the tap inputs. In this example, the first device is an iPhone while the second device is an Apple Watch that is communicatively coupled to the iPhone via Bluetooth. Also, in this example, the external event is reception of a phone call on the iPhone. In response to this phone call, a tap detector on the watch #1605 is notified to detect taps, by an operation initiation processor on the iPhone.


The Apple Watch's tap detector uses one or more motion sensors of the watch to detect multiple tap inputs (e.g., two taps) within a short duration of being notified of the external event by the phone. After detecting these taps, the Apple Watch's tap detector notifies the phone's operation initiator, which in turn directs a module on the phone to answer the received call.


Even through the example in FIG. 16 relates to receiving an external event, one of ordinary skill in the art will realize that the tap detector of the watch could be directed to detect taps when the phone is placed in a particular orientation. For instance, in some embodiments, a user can place the phone upright or sideways on one of its sides, walk away from the phone, and then tap on his watch in order to direct the phone to take a picture or a video of the user, a group of people including the user, or a scene – as shown in patent FIG. 17 below.



Apple's patent FIG. 17 illustrates one such example. Specifically, it presents (1) a first stage 1705 that illustrates a smartphone 1720 in the shirt pocket of a user, (2) a second stage 1710 that illustrates the smartphone 1720 placed on a surface in front of the user and the user tapping on a watch 1725 that communicatively couples to the phone (e.g., through Bluetooth), and (3) a third stage 1715 that illustrates a picture 1730 that the phone 1720 has taken in response to the detected tap inputs. The taps are detected in some embodiments by an accelerometer of the watch. Also, in some embodiments, the user can get a preview of the photo on the watch, because the phone in these embodiments sends to the watch a preview of the image that it is capturing through the connection (e.g., Bluetooth connection) between the phone and the watch.


Apple's patent FIG. 11 noted below illustrates an example of launching a camera application on an iPhone that specifies a start time constraint requiring a set of tap inputs be received within a particular time period of the device entering a landscape orientation. This figure illustrates this example in three stages 1105-1115 that correspond to a device being rotated into a landscape orientation, the receipt of three tap inputs on a side of the device with the first tap input received within 3 seconds of the device entering the landscape orientation, and the launching of a camera on the device.



Apple's patent FIG. 6 illustrates the device detecting a particular number of tap inputs for answering a telephone call.


5af 66 Iphone tap

Other examples include setting snooze for tap controls, turning on a flashlight quicker and more.


Patent Credits


Apple credits Stefan Mag and Matthew Rao as the inventors of patent application 20150205379 which was originally filed in Q2 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


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