Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

Patent applications offer hint of what Apple has in store

By Peter Evans, CBCNews.ca

The Twitterverse is all, er, a-twitter, at the possibilities suggested by a slew of patent applications that Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Inc. has filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

An intriguing proposal for an RFID-capable iPhone has people excited by the potential impact on wireless communication, as well as raising some troubling security questions.

Radio-frequency identification tags are microscopic chips that emit radio waves that can be read to identify and monitor anything they're attached to. They're already used extensively in places like retail stores and libraries to track inventory and discourage shoplifting, but in recent years, as the capability to miniaturize them has expanded, their use has expanded to things like credit cards and passports. Toll Highway 407 outside Toronto uses RFID technology to identify and charge customers using the highway without need for cumbersome toll booths.

There's even been baby steps made toward RFID-implantation into humans, which has been met with a predictable outcry over just how much Big Brother would be able to know about you the day we're all walking around with microchips embedded under our skin.

That Apple is aware of RFID's potential is nothing new, but as Apple's pitch for an RFID-transponder embedded into next-generation iPhones suggests, the move towards mobile devices becoming more of an extension of our lives, as opposed to mere implements of technology, is well underway.

The right touch

On the other side of the security spectrum, a fingerprint-sensitive iPhone application hints that Apple sees potential in devices that can be uniquely tailored to work for individual users. A touchscreen that could distinguish fingerprints could theoretically be used to "lock" the device for use only by specific people, to use the most obvious example.

But perhaps even more interestingly, the application opens the door to the possibility that in a certain mode, the device could be trained to identify the prints of individual fingers to perform certain tasks. Want a little more volume during that boring subway commute? Tap the screen with your right index finger -- no need to fiddle with the knob. You don't even have to look at it. Too loud now? Just touch it with your ring finger. The possibilities are endless.

Lastly, it's been argued that part of what made the iPod and iPhone such a roaring success were their minimalist, smooth, svelte and sexy design. But future versions might have a slightly different look. Or feel, to be precise.

Haptic technology, in a nutshell, is the science of touch. Or more specifically, scientists' attempts to create realistic copies of what things feel like to sensitive human skin.

It's always been comparatively easy for technology to produce realistic visual and audio cues. But creating a believable sense of touch is a bit trickier. Haptic technology is the study of how to create things that "feel" right. It's very much in its infancy, but it's already made baby steps into the world of cellphones.

In 2008, Samsung unveiled their SCH-W420 model. Dubbed the "AnyCall Haptic" the phone boasts the ability to use vibrations and other tactile stimuli to give you feedback on what you're doing. When Aunt Mabel calls, the phone rings with one particular vibration -- very handy for call screening. You sure you want to turn down the volume a little? The AnyCall will give you a specific vibration and clicking sound to confirm.

Apple appears to be getting in on the act with something similar, if this patent application ever lives to see the light of day.

Feel the feedback

It's something that's been on Mac's radar for a while, but if it comes to pass, the popular iPhone touchscreen would get a makeover, complemented by a grid of piezoelectronic actuators. That's a $10-word for touch-sensitive, and the grid would "provide vibrational feedback to a user, while the user scrolls around a click wheel, slides across a trackpad, or touches a multi-touch display screen," as Apple puts it.

So the pad would feel different as your finger moves across it. You could have some sort of virtual click wheel which vibrates at a different frequency as you move across it, letting you sense the difference and use the click wheel without having to look at it, for example.

The idea, it seems, is not that this new iPhone could do anything more than it can do now -- but rather that you wouldn't have to interact with it visually or aurally. The element of touch just gets added to the equation.

As to why a web-enabled cellphone you can apparently use without the use of those pesky eyes and ears is a good thing, we'll leave that up to you.

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

This discussion is now Open. Submit your Comment.

Comments

Erich N B Davies

Nothin in this patent has not been in the lab for over 10 yrs, how do they make claim to patenting near public domain idea's about HCI interfacing.!?

Posted July 2, 2009 05:51 PM

James W

Toronto

^^ Funny meeting you here Erich... Completely by chance I might add... no searching involved...

I can't wait until those RFID chips are used in combination with Behavioral Advertising to better understand when to target mass crowds on large screen satellite feed billboards with corporate messages and their own personal agendas... whatever those agendas might be ten years down the road who knows?

Posted July 4, 2009 06:27 PM

Stef

Ottawa

To Erich:

Apple is not trying to patent haptic technology itself... it does want to patent how haptic technology is implemented in their own devices (ie: hardware/software). That's just a smart & responsible business practice.

It helps keep the obvious copycats at bay, for a while at least.

Posted July 4, 2009 11:04 PM

GIV

toronto

Interesting post. These new doo-dads sound great and all, but we're still a long way off from me being able to get an iPhone without having to deal with Rogers!

Posted July 7, 2009 09:33 AM

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

Post a Comment

Disclaimer:

Note: By submitting your comments you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that due to the volume of e-mails we receive, not all comments will be published, and those that are published will not be edited. But all will be carefully read, considered and appreciated.

Note: Due to volume there will be a delay before your comment is processed. Your comment will go through even if you leave this page immediately afterwards.

Privacy Policy | Submissions Policy

Story Tools: PRINT | Text Size: S M L XL | REPORT TYPO | SEND YOUR FEEDBACK

World »

U.S. gay pride parades sound a note of resistance — and face some of their own
Gay pride parades Sunday in New York, San Francisco and other U.S. cities are spotlighting resistance to what participants see as new pressure on gay rights, while contending with the prospect of protests over the events' own diversity and direction.
Istanbul police enforce ban on gay, transgender pride march video
Turkish police stopped people from gathering in large numbers for LGBT pride in Istanbul on Sunday, but smaller groups made impromptu press statements defying a ban imposed by the governor.
Updated At least 9 dead, 28 missing after tourist boat sinks in Colombia
A tourist ferry packed with around 170 passengers for the holiday weekend capsized Sunday on a reservoir near the Colombian city of Medellin, officials say.
more »

Canada »

Live Blog Toronto Pride parade draws revellers from around the world
One of the biggest parties of the year took over city streets today, bringing a month full of events celebrating Canada's LGBT community to an end.
Canadian softwood producers brace for 2nd wave of U.S. lumber duties
Canada's softwood lumber industry is bracing for a second wave of U.S. duties expected to come Monday that could put further pressure on producers, particularly smaller ones, to cut jobs.
Via figuring out how to retrieve train from Churchill cut off by rail closure
There are no roads or other rail lines to Churchill and two locomotives and five passenger cars are sitting, silent, at the station.
more »

Politics »

CRA wants tougher rules for tax-cheat amnesty program
The Canada Revenue Agency is proposing tougher rules for tax cheats who voluntarily come forward looking for amnesty. The rules would hit sophisticated taxpayers with more penalties and require them to identify advisers and firms who helped with dodgy offshore tax schemes. Critics welcome the changes, but say more needs to be done.
How a rookie MP from Victoriaville became Scheer's new Quebec lieutenant
Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer has chosen Alain Rayes, the MP for Richmond-Arthabaska and the rookie who helped him woo Quebec voters during his party's leadership race, as the new political lieutenant for the province.
Canadian softwood producers brace for 2nd wave of U.S. lumber duties
Canada's softwood lumber industry is bracing for a second wave of U.S. duties expected to come Monday that could put further pressure on producers, particularly smaller ones, to cut jobs.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

Professor fired for racially charged remarks on Fox News
A New Jersey community college has fired an adjunct professor after officials say she made racially insensitive comments on Fox News.
Transformers tops box office, Big Sick's limited release finds success
Michael Bay's Transformers: The Last Knight scored a franchise-low debut but still easily topped the North American box office with an estimated $43.5 million US in ticket sales over the weekend.
Lady Gaga on Pride: It's a time to shine light on equality
Lady Gaga, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, says Pride weekend is a time to shine a light on equality.
more »

Technology & Science »

Blog It's worth the drive to totality: perspectives from an eclipse chaser: Bob McDonald
A veteran eclipse chaser gives a preview of the solar eclipse that will be visible in the U.S. in August.
Want to do business in Russia? Be ready to hand over your source code
Authorities are asking Western tech companies to allow them to review source code for security products such as firewalls and anti-virus applications before they can be sold.
Research into exoskeleton walking devices big leap forward for human-robot interactions video
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. have developed a new system for human assistance with robotic devices known as exoskeletons that could have widespread impact on the way human performance is enhanced by devices of many kinds.
more »

Money »

Coming soon to a mall near you: condos and office space video
Canadian mall owners and developers were already in the process of getting approval for major makeovers - now Sears gives them all the more reason to move fast.
Airbag maker Takata expected to file for bankruptcy Monday
Drowning in a sea of lawsuits and recall costs, Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. is expected to seek bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the United States early Monday.
Warning labels might be coming to cheese: CBC's Marketplace consumer cheat sheet
Miss something this week? Here's the consumer news you need to know.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page
 
CBC.ca

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Recap Osuna returns to help Blue Jays finish off Royals video
Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna struck out three in a scoreless ninth inning a day after saying he was dealing with anxiety issues, and Toronto avoided a sweep by beating the Kansas City Royals 8-2 Sunday.
Video Lance Stroll is making Jacques Villeneuve eat his words video
The Canadian rookie raced to a record-setting finish at the Azerbaijan GP despite the former champion's criticism
Canada's Lance Stroll makes history at Azerbaijan Grand Prix video
Canadian driver Lance Stroll finished third on Sunday at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, becoming the youngest rookie to race to a podium finish on the F1 circuit.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »