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Apple's Presence Detection Patent covers unique Features coming to Apple TV someday, but it's not about Face ID

1 COVER  presence patent


There have been a few facial recognition patents published by the U.S. Patent Office in 2017. One in March definitely focused on facial recognition that could have been a part of Face ID for the iPhone while two others (one and two) were mainly focused on facial recognition (now Face ID) coming to the Mac.


Yesterday the US Patent & Trademark Office published a continuation patent application from Apple relating to facial recognition, though in context with 'user detection' and not Face ID as we now know it as today for unlocking an iPhone or any device.


To prove that the patent isn't about Apple's current Face ID found on the iPhone X, the patent illustrates and describes several forms of 'detection' and not face ID alone. Apple has distinct segments of their filing regarding presence broken out under gaze determination; audio-based presence detection; distance determination and finally presence determination.


More specifically the patent states "Identifying the face of the second person optionally includes determining the shape and/or location of the face in the image, and not necessarily the identity of the person to whom the face belongs …" Is that clear enough that it's not really about facial recognition in the classic case of Face ID? Facial recognition is just one of many 'presence' related techniques Apple is considering on using and the only one that Apple is 'protecting' in their patent claims is gaze detection.


One part of Apple's patent describes presence detection in relation to Apple TV. If you've ever put Apple TV on hold then you know that at some point it stops the program to give you a UI of different recorded video images of global locals before eventually turning off.


With new presence detection sensors built-into Apple TV Apple TV won't turn off if there's a person in the room that it could detect.


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For 'Distant Determination' Apple notes that displaying different user interfaces on a device based on whether a person is far away from the device or close to the device can enhance the person's interaction with the device. For example, a television can present a user interface with large user interface elements that provide summary information (e.g., information about the current program and the next program) when a person is far away from the television, and can present more detailed information (e.g., a program guide with information about programs from multiple channels and multiple time slots) when the person is close to the television.


The embodiments described in the patent describe ways in which a person's interaction with a device can be enhanced by providing different user interfaces at different distances. Enhancing a person's interactions with a device reduces the amount of time needed by the person to perform operations, and thus reduces the power usage of the device and increases battery life for battery-powered devices.


In another example, Apple notes that a first device optionally transfers activity (e.g., playback of media content or video chatting) from the mobile device to the first device (e.g., set top box), and/or provides mobile device status information (e.g., incoming phone call, new email notification, etc.) on the display device (e.g., television). For example, if the first person is engaged in a video chat on a mobile device, when the first person and the mobile device are present at the display device, the first device optionally transfers the video chat from the mobile device to the first device so that the first person can continue the video chat on the display device, which could be a device such as a television.


The patent filing covers various methods of presence detection with many examples, far too many for this report. So for those wanting to explore Apple's presence related patent #20170308163 for more detail, check it out here. Apple's continuation patent was filed back in July 2017, though its original patent goes way back to 2014.


In reality, this isn't a new patent as other reports may suggest. It's a continuation patent and what's really "new" to the table is limited to the scope of the patent claims.


You could compare the patent claims of patent of the 2017 patent here with their 2015 patent here. Noteworthy is the fact that "facial recognition" isn't even listed in either of the patent claims that once again proves that the patent isn't about Face ID although in general and in context with presence, facial recognition is one of the techniques considered. But if it's not in the patent claims, it's not the focus of the patent.


In the 2015 patent claims a person's "gaze" is mentioned once. In the 2017 continuation patent published yesterday, the term 'gaze' or 'gaze location' is mentioned 19 times. That's the big change in the 2017 patent, not facial recognition and definitely not Face ID.


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