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Apple Invents Next-Gen iPhone Dock that Works with Sound Sensory Commands to Activate Functions or Apps

10.4 - Patent Application

1 55 Cover

In 2010 we wrote a series called the Tablet Prophecies. In the third and final chapter of that series we pointed out future twists that could be coming to iDevices that included the use of sound sensory commands using knocks and scratch sounds to activate phone functionalities or to open an app. Today, Apple introduces an application for this very technology to be used with a next-gen iPhone docking system.


Apple's Invents a Next-Gen Docking Station that Recognizes Impact & Contactless Gestures


Many electronic devices such as smart-phones, media players, and tablet computers have docking stations that facilitate charging the device's battery and/or provide other features such as a sound system, peripheral video, or data communications. In some applications it may be beneficial for the docking station to offer the user methods of interacting with the electronic device where the user may knock on a surface or where the user employs one or more contactless gestures.


Based upon the detected user input, the dock may transmit an activation signal to electronic device commanding it to perform a function such as silencing an alarm, answering an incoming phone call, opening a calendar application, opening a music player, initiating the play of music or a video, etc


For example, the user may program an iDevice like an iPhone such that when the user is notified of an incoming phone call, one impact answers the call, two impacts silences the call ringtone and three impacts sends the call immediately to voice mail. In other embodiments a user may program their iPhone to answer a call when the user impacts the table with his knuckles and silence the call when a user impacts the surface with their palm.



Apple notes that the docking station may determine a message to transmit to the electronic device based on the operating state and the attribute value of a particular gesture. For example, when in a music playback operating state, a left to right hand gesture attribute may correspond to advancing one song track and a right to left hand gesture attribute may correspond to rewinding one song track.


As another example, when in a calendar operating state, a left to right hand gesture attribute may correspond to snoozing a calendar alarm for five minutes and a right to left hand gesture attribute may correspond to cancelling the calendar alarm. Thus, the same gesture may correspond to different messages depending on the particular operating state of the electronic device.


In other applications, it may be beneficial to power off the device and employ sensors within the docking station, powered with a separate power supply, to continuously monitor for contactless user input such that the electronic device only wakes when the user interacts with it.


One particular embodiment employs an accelerometer within the docking station configured to sense vibration of a surface on which the docking station and electronic device are disposed. In further embodiments, the docking station may also contain a processor configured to notify the electronic device when a user commands the electronic device by impacting the surface. In some embodiments a user may impact (e.g., a knock, tap, etc.) on the surface once for one command, twice for another command and three times for yet another command. In other embodiments the docking station may be powered by an independent power supply.


In further embodiments, a training and/or calibration mode may be used to aid the docking station in distinguishing a user command (knock) from other impacts on the surface. For example, in one embodiment a user may mate the electronic device with the docking station and set them on the surface that the user intends to interact with. A user may then activate a training mode on the electronic device and program certain impact events into the device. These impact events may be analyzed by the electronic device such that it only responds when an impact event having similar parameters is detected.


Other embodiments may incorporate one or more contactless gesture sensors in the docking station and/or the electronic device such that a user may command the electronic device in a contactless manner. A message may be transmitted by the docking station to the electronic device based on the operating state of the electronic device and the attribute value of the contactless gesture. The electronic device may then perform an action based on the message.


Apple's patent FIG. 6 below is a simplified schematic of an electronic device mated to a docking station; FIG. 9 is a method of using contactless gesture input. 



Apple patent application 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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