In late December Patently Apple posted a report titled "Family Sues Apple for not using a patented iOS Feature Designed to shut Off Certain Apps while Driving." The patent involved in the lawsuit was filed by Apple in December 2008 and granted in April 2014. Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that shows us their latest invention related to shutting off messaging apps from both an Apple Watch and an iPhone while driving. This is a safety feature that all smart device makers should be forced to adopt as all drivers are at risk when a driver is distracted. The problem noted in the patent filing is that Apple only commits to reducing the amount of messages coming to an iDevice while driving and not all messages. It sounds like they're purposely building in a legal safety valve which is a little disappointing. That aside, let's hope this feature goes from theory to action in the not-too-distant future. In the end, it's a safety issue that all hardware and software companies should be forced to deliver.
A wearable device can be worn by controllers or passengers in vehicles. A passenger may wish to enjoy full use of the wearable device, such as by interacting with applications, receiving notifications, or issuing commands by voice or touch. In contrast, a user controlling a vehicle may not want, or may not be able, to safely interact with the wearable device in the same ways that a passenger could. For example, a vehicle controller may not be able to take his or her eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel to interact with the device.
The wearable device can also include motion sensors to collect data about the wearable device's position and orientation in space and to track changes to the wearable device's position and orientation over time. Because a user can wear the wearable device, the motion data can provide information about the user's movements. For example, when a user is running, the user's arms are typically swinging back and forth over a particular distance and at a particular frequency. If the user wears the wearable device on the user's wrist, the wearable device may be able to infer that the user is running by sensing the way the user's arm moves back and forth.
Because controllers and passengers may prefer or require different uses of the wearable device, it may be advantageous to detect automatically whether a user is controlling a vehicle and adapt its behavior accordingly to better suit the user while the user is controlling a vehicle.
Apple's invention in-part includes a wearable device (such as an Apple Watch) and techniques for accurately detecting whether a user is controlling a vehicle based on motion data or other information from wearable devices or other iDevices.
Embodiments of the present disclosure may adapt the behavior of Apple Watch according to whether the user is controlling a vehicle (e.g., driving a motor vehicle, steering a bicycle, flying an airplane, navigating a boat or ship, etc.).
For example, the wearable device may reduce the type or quantity of notifications that the user receives while the user is controlling a vehicle.
In Apple's patent FIG. 4 noted above we're able to see a set of vectors #450, 460, 470, and 480. These vectors may be measured directly or estimated from motion data.
Vector #450 represents the direction of gravity. In the example of FIG. 4, the vehicle is on relatively level terrain (relatively little or no pitch), and the direction of gravity acting on the vehicle is shown as "down," approximately perpendicular to the road or other terrain.
Vector #460 is an "axial vector" or "pseudovector" representing the angular velocity of the vehicle when the vehicle is turning. In the example of FIG. 4, in which the vehicle is on approximately level terrain, the axis of rotation of the vehicle may be correlated with the direction of gravity vector #450.
Vector #470 is an axial vector representing the angular velocity of the steering wheel when the steering wheel is turning. In the example of FIG. 4, the axis of rotation of the steering wheel may be correlated with the angle of the steering column #440. In some embodiments, the angle of the steering column in a vehicle may be adjustable.
And lastly vector #480 is an axial vector representing the angular velocity of the wearable device 420.
Apple's patent FIG. 5 represents the iPhone communicating to the Apple Watch any extra information it is gathering to the Apple Watch as further described below.
Apple further notes that in some embodiments, the motion sensors may include, for example, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a barometer or altimeter, a magnetometer or compass, etc. The wearable device may also include a motion coprocessor, which may be optimized for low-power, continuous motion sensing and processing.
In some embodiments, the wearable device may be capable of communicating with a companion device such an iPhone. The wearable device may communicate with a companion device wirelessly, e.g., via a Bluetooth connection or similar wireless communication method. The additional sensors in the companion device may include a Global Positioning System (GPS) sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer or altimeter, motion co-processor, etc. The companion device may, for example, communicate location information based on data from the GPS sensor to the wearable device.
In one aspect, the present disclosure relates to a method, including receiving, by a wearable device, motion information from a motion sensor of the wearable device, determining, by the wearable device/Apple Watch using the motion information, that a vehicle is turning, and determining, by the wearable device using the motion information when the vehicle is turning, that a user of the wearable device is controlling the vehicle.
In some embodiments, this aspect further includes adjusting the operation of the wearable device while the user is determined to be controlling the vehicle, including wherein adjusting the operation of the wearable device comprises reducing an amount of notifications routed to a display of the wearable device. In some embodiments, adjusting the operation of the wearable device may include the wearable device ignoring a recognized gesture.
In some embodiments, this aspect includes wherein determining that a vehicle is turning includes determining an angular velocity of the Apple Watch, estimating the angular velocity of Apple Watch attributable to the vehicle, and determining that the vehicle is turning when the estimated angular velocity exceeds a threshold value of angular velocity.
In some embodiments, the system includes estimating a direction of gravity relative to Apple Watch based on the motion information from Apple Watch, determining a turning axis of the vehicle based on the estimated direction of gravity and the motion information from the wearable device, and estimating an angular velocity of the vehicle, wherein the angular velocity of the vehicle is used to determine that the vehicle is turning.
Apple's patent FIG. 6A noted above depicts a schematic representation of an Apple Watch moving while a user is controlling a vehicle; FIG. 6B depicts a schematic representation of movement of an Apple Watch while a user is controlling a vehicle.
Apple's patent FIG. 7A noted above illustrates a schematic representation of an Apple Watch moving while a user is controlling a vehicle; FIG. 7B shows a schematic representation of movement an Apple Watch while a user is controlling a vehicle.
Apple's patent application was filed back in Q3 2016. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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