Friday, March 07, 2008

Apple’s accelerometer patent reveals a stunning tablet PC

...an oldy but a goody...

Posted by Dennis Sellers

imageOn Jan. 26, 2006, the US Patent & Trademark Office revealed a patent titled “Methods and apparatuses for operating a portable device based on an accelerometer.” Although no assignee was presented in the patent application’s template, a clear reference found under “description” does in fact provide patent number 6768066, which is an Apple patent published in 2004.

Just for the record, this patent presents 13 illustrations of a tablet PC and only 1 of a notebook. So make no mistake about it, this patent’s focus is on an Apple tablet!

In Apple’s brief “Background of the Invention” it states that “accelerometers are devices widely used for applications as diverse as vibration monitoring, appliance control, joysticks, industrial process control, space launches, satellite control, and many others.

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For example, an accelerometer has been used in a vehicle as sensor to detect a variety of operating conditions while the vehicle is moving.”

Interesting applications in Apple’s Summary

Methods and apparatuses for operating a portable device based on an accelerometer are described. According to one embodiment of the invention, an accelerometer attached to a portable device detects a movement of the portable device. In response, a machine executable code is executed to perform a predetermined user configurable operation.

According to one embodiment of the invention, an accelerometer of a portable device may constantly or periodically monitor the movement of the portable device. As a result, an orientation of the portable device prior to the movement and after the movement may be determined based on the movement data provided by the accelerometer attached to the portable device.

Depending on the particular embodiment of the invention, the patent states that an accelerometer may be used:

° To detect a movement of a portable device as a way to trigger whether a page of document or image may be displayed.

° In a gaming application, where the accelerometer may be used to detect a scene change during a video game running within a portable device.

° In a navigation application. For example, a portable device having an accelerometer attached therein may be used as a navigation tool to navigate a relatively large object or document that normally cannot be displayed entirely at once within a display of the portable device.

° To determine whether a portable device is moving (e.g., carried by a user) and the portable device should be put in a proper operating state (e.g., a sleep or hibernated mode).

° To detect whether a portable device is moved according to certain directions, in order to determine whether a password is entered correctly.

° To detect and record a sequence of movements of a portable device, where the recorded movement data may be used to recreate the moving history subsequently (e.g., off line).

° To detect and determine activities of a user (e.g., joggling) with a portable device having the accelerometer attached therein. [Hmm, is that a typo or the patent writer’s sense of humor?]

° To detect a movement of a portable device and an orientation of the portable device may be determined based on the movement data provided by the accelerometer. Thereafter, one or more interfaces of the portable device may be activated or deactivated based on the determined orientation after the movement.

Random Patent Claims: Multimedia

This patent packs a wallop with a total of 116 claims. Some of these claims would even make James Bond envious! Check out some of these excerpts of claims that go far beyond Apple’s summary of the Invention – displaying the tablet’s wide range of potential multimedia capabilities. Whoa!

20. …wherein the document page is one of a map, a newspaper, and a video game scene.

29. The method of claim 28, further comprising: activating at least one wireless transceiver that communicates with relative strong signals; and deactivating at least one wireless transceiver that communicates with relative weak signals.

30. …wherein the at least one interface includes one or more speakers.

32. …wherein the at least one interface includes one or more cameras.

33. …wherein the at least one interface includes one or more microphones.

39. …wherein the portable device is a digital audio player. [Yikes, King Kong iPod!]

58. …wherein generating the alert comprises transmitting a signal to a remote facility over a network.

60. …wherein configuring the portable device comprises disabling a wireless network interface and enabling a cellular interface of the portable device if the portable is associated with a mobile profile.

61. …wherein the portable device is one of a laptop computer, a tablet PC, a PDA (personal digital assistant), a cellular phone, a personal communicator, and a multimedia player.

On the business side of the equation

The following are random excerpts from Apple’s “Overview” section of the patent, geared more towards the business side of this tablet, as follows:

Partial excerpt from patent point # 56: “For example, the operating system may be a Mac OS from Apple Computer. Alternatively, the operating system may be a Windows operating system from Microsoft. Other operating systems, such as, for example, a UNIX, a Linux, an embedded operating system (e.g., a Palm OS), or a real-time operating system, may also be implemented.”

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Patent Point # 61: FIGS. 3A and 3B are diagrams illustrating an exemplary application that an accelerometer may be utilized according to one embodiment of the invention. In this embodiment, and throughout the application, a tablet device is used as an example of a portable device. But it is not so limited. It will be appreciated that other portable devices, such as, a laptop computer, a personal digital assistant (PDA), a personal communicator (e.g., a blackberry from Research In Motion), a cellular phone, or a multimedia player (e.g., an MP3 player), etc., may also be utilized.

Patent Point # 0073: In one embodiment, the second page of the document may be a next page or a previous page of the document. The document may be a word document produced by a word processor, such as, a word processor from Microsoft Office. Alternatively, the document may be a Web page presented by a browser, such as, Internet Explorer from Microsoft or a Netscape communicator from Netscape Communications. Further, the document may be a slide presentation, for example, presented by PowerPoint of Microsoft or by Keynote of Apple Computer.

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Patent Point # 0076: In response to the oscillation of the supporting surface 552, an accelerometer attached to the portable device 551 may detect such an oscillation. In response to the detection, the accelerometer may notify, via the firmware and/or the controller, etc., the associated application software. In response, the application software may display a next page, a previous page, or a specific page of the document, which may be user configurable via a user interface. It is particularly useful when the portable device is placed on a desk and hooked up with a presentation projector. A user who is doing the presentation may simply tab on the desk to advance a next page of presentation without having to press a key of a keyboard (e.g., the “Enter” key or the space bar) or a mouse of the portable device.

Excerpts from: Exemplary Portable Device Having an Accelerometer

Patent Point # 141: FIG. 20 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary portable device having an accelerometer according to one embodiment of the invention. For example, exemplary system 2000 may represent at least a portion (e.g., a subsystem) of the exemplary system 100 shown in FIG. 1 or exemplary system 2100 of FIG. 21. Referring to FIG. 20, exemplary system 2000 includes one or more accelerometers 2001, one or more microcontrollers 2002, a host chipset 2003 that may be coupled to a video adapter 2004 and an audio device 2005, and one or more peripheral devices 2006.

Patent Point # 0142: In one embodiment, the accelerometer 2001 is a 3-axis accelerometer, which may provide acceleration data on X, Y, and Z axes. The accelerometer is an electromechanical micro machine encapsulated in a chip package. It presents three analog outputs (e.g., X, Y, and Z axes) whose values are directly proportional to the acceleration being measured along corresponding axes in 3-space. In one embodiment, the accelerometer 2001 may be a KGF01 accelerometer from Kionix or an ADXL311 accelerometer from Analog Devices.

Neo’s Note: Also check out the Kionix PDF: The “World’s Smallest High-Performance Tri-Axis Accelerometer.”
Yes sirree, it’s a roller coaster ride

Under “Other Applications Based on an Accelerometer,” this excerpt was presented:

Patent Point # 130: This is typically useful when a user wishes to replot a trail of a roller coaster ride afterwards. For example, a user may carry the portable device having an accelerometer attached therein and go onto a roller coaster ride. During the ride, the accelerometer may detect and store the movement data into a storage device, or alternatively, transmit the movement data to a remote facility over a network. After the ride, the movement data may be used to recreate a plot of the roller coaster ride. The roller coaster ride is used as an example only, the techniques described above may be applied to other situations. For example, a user who carrying an accelerometer, either attached to a portable device or attached to a vehicle, may drive a vehicle to different locations to perform a survey, in order to create a map for those locations. The map may be subsequently created using the movement data collected by the accelerometer during the drive.

NOTICE

Macsimum News presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application and/or grant is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent applications and/or grants should be read in its entirety for further details.

Today’s patent: Methods and apparatuses for operating a portable device based on an accelerometer

This is a killer patent!

While I’ve enjoyed being the first to break the news on many exciting Apple patents over the recent months, this one had to be one of the most exciting to review and prepare. If you haven’t seen part two on gaming yet, then I’d certainly say that you’re missing all the fun!

The Mac community has been hoping for a tablet PC from Apple for some time now, and I think that this patent will be the answer to many a prayer. Apple’s tablet vision is sweeping. It’ll play exciting next generation games while the patent notes that future games based on virtual reality are on their way. For the enterprise, it covers business presentation software from Apple and Microsoft while it will undoubtedly double as a serious video conferencing tool. Tools that will definitely be of benefit in their educational markets. Based on this patent, I’d say that Apple’s big switch to Intel is looking smarter every day.

Yet let’s face it, Apple needs something to attract gamers – big time – and now! It’s the one big gaping hole in their platform that has to be addressed if they’re ever to win Wintel switchers over in big enough numbers to crack the PC market wide open. So with the great news that Apple has next gen gaming on their tablet agenda, you could be assured that Apple has a master plan for gaming overall. Yet if Apple even has a prayer at actually winning in this market, you know that a new alliance is now in the wings. That’s something that I present in part two of this report – so be sure to join in.

So, what about timing. Could Apple realistically pull this off in time for this fall? Maybe, maybe not. However, Apple’s patent for iSight in notebooks and the desktop came to be within 60 days. Their RDS radio patent was partially fulfilled at MacWorld within a record 30 days! So could this patent foreshadow a launch of their tablet PC? Yes, of course.

Although only time will truly tell whether or not Apple could actually pull this stunner off in time, I think that there’s a few million of you out there that are cheering Apple on to make it so – right? And yes, I happen to be one of them: Go Apple!