Eye tracking, tattoo watch faces and more are some of Apple’s latest patents

Eye tracking, tattoo watch faces and more are some of Apple's latest patents

Tech Highlights:

  • Some of these newly-filed patents indicate forthcoming innovations in eye-tracking technology, in-air gestures, tattoo Apple Watch displays, and anti-overheating accessories. Combining Eye Tracking and In-air Hand Gestures In a patent released last month, Apple reported a UI (user interface) navigation technology using eye-tracking and (or gaze-tracking) combined with in-air hand gestures. Eye and gaze tracking system able to interpret in-air gesture commands. Image courtesy of Apple.

  • Apple has filed three new patents, covering anything from practical overheat prevention to watch faces that show a user’s wrist tattoos. While Apple is typically tight-lipped about its future hardware intentions, the patents it files with the US Patent and Trademark Office reveal a lot. In the last month, the Cupertino-based corporation has filed many new patents aimed at improving iPhones and Macbooks with new functional and cosmetic features.

The eye and gaze tracking system is able to interpret in-air gesture commands. Image used courtesy of Apple and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Initially used for cognitive and psychological studies, eye-tracking is an emerging augmented reality (AR) technology. This technology uses eye movements as an input, which then enables a computer to gain more contextual information about the user’s tasks and makes the interface more intuitive.

Many developers have been researching a system that reduces the cognitive burden for users, minimizes false activations, and enables more intuitive and efficient interaction. Apple’s new UI navigation patent describes a system of cameras, sensors, and voice inputs that capture the movement of the user’s eyes and hand relative to the graphical user interface (GUI).

However, eye and gaze input is challenging because the eyes are not stable, deteriorating the accuracy of the eye-tracking data. In addition, eye trackers require precise calibration for high accuracy. Eye movements are not always deliberate like keyboard or mouse inputs; these noisy eye movements can lead to false activations.

The hand gestures include pinching, scrolling, tapping, and other motions for a number of interactions, including image editing, drawing, presenting, word processing, spreadsheet making, game playing, telephoning, video conferencing, e-mailing, instant messaging, workout support, digital photographing, digital videoing, web browsing, digital music playing, note-taking, or digital video playing.nMacBook Accessory. Here 1410 refers to the wireless communication circuit, 1408 refers to the magnetic assembly, and 1413 refers to fan. Image courtesy of Apple.

MacBook accessory. Here 1410 refers to the wireless communication circuit, 1408 refers to the magnetic assembly, and 1413 refers to the fan. Image used courtesy of Apple and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office The new attachment eliminates this issue by embedding a thermal control system including temperature sensors and software. The system can monitor multiple processors, and when the temperature exceeds a threshold, the control system restricts the operation of the processor.

The accessory device can also exchange data with the computing device via near-field communication (NFC). If the device is within a predefined distance and is authenticated by the inbuilt authentication protocols, the accessory can exchange vital data that can improve the device’s performance. When the computing device is aware that it is covered by a material, it can adjust the setpoint temperature of the control system, allowing the processors to perform better for a longer amount of time.

Since filing these patents, Apple has already received word on several—most notably regarding the eye-tracking technology. According to Patently Apple, the U.S. Office of Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple 67 patents, one of which included its eye-tracking AR/VR system. The company is still awaiting approval on several other filed patents, including the tattoo watch display and the overheat protection accessory for Macbooks.

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