Patent report: a micro-speaker suspension system, virtual camera for 3D maps, more

Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product, so here are this week’s patent highlights: 

The company has been granted a patent (number 9,271,084) for a suspension system for micro-speakers for use in iPhones, iPads, iPod touches, Mac laptops, and even iMacs.

Apple says there’s a range of consumer electronics devices that aren’t dedicated or specialized audio playback devices, yet can benefit from improved audio performance. For instance, smart phones are ubiquitous. These devices, however, don’t have sufficient space to house high fidelity speakers. 

Apple says this is also true for portable personal computers such as laptop, notebook, and tablet computers, and desktop personal computers with built-in speakers. Such devices typically require speaker enclosures or boxes that have a relatively low rise (i.e. height or thickness as defined along the z-axis), as compared to, for instance, stand alone high fidelity speakers and dedicated digital music systems for handheld media players.  Apple thinks its proposed suspension system for micro-speakers is a better idea.

Apple has also been granted a patent (number 9,269,178) for a virtual camera for 3D maps. The goal is to improve 3D maps on OS X and iOS devices.

Apple says that many map-based applications are available for a desktops, laptops, tablet devices, smartphones, handheld global positioning system (GPS) receivers, etc., and for various different purposes (e.g., navigation, browsing, sports, etc.). Most of these applications generate displays of a map based on map data that describes the relative location of streets, highways, points of interest, etc. in the map. 

The maps used in such applications are usually two-dimensional (2D) maps or three-dimensional (3D) maps. However, a large number of the applications use 2D maps due in part to the processing-intensive demands of viewing 3D maps. For the same reason, the applications that use 3D maps are “often slow, inefficient, plain, and/or simple, to the point that renders the application useless,” according to Apple. The company thinks it can do better.

Apple wants to make it easier to conduct financial transactions with your iOS devices. The company has applied for a patent (number 20160054989) for automated purposed-application creation that would let an iDevice automatically install and optionally personalize a purposed application on a secure element in the device.

Why? Apple says that interest is increasing in using such electronic devices to conduct financial transactions. To facilitate this functionality, an electronic device may include a secure element to provide: security, confidentiality, and one or more application environments. The secure element may include one or more applets or applications (such as a payment applet associated with a credit card) that execute in an environment of the secure element, where the applets allow the secure element to conduct a financial transaction with another electronic device, such as a point-of-sale terminal. This means theres a need for “a scalable and secure technique to update applets installed on electronic devices.” 

Finally, Apple has been granted a patent (number 20160054826) for ultra-based force sensing. It involves a force sensing device such as a touchpad or trackpad configured to determine an amount of force applied, and changes in amounts of force applied, by the user when contacting a device, such as a touch device. 

This can be incorporated into devices using touch recognition, touch elements of a graphical user interface, and touch input or manipulation in an application program. Apple says that, for example, it could be handy for a user to be able to manipulate a screen element or other object in a first way with a relatively lighter touch, or in a second way with a relatively more forceful or sharper touch. 

In one such case, it might be advantageous if the user could move a screen element or other object with a relatively lighter touch, while the user could alternatively invoke or select that same screen element or other object with a relatively more forceful or sharper touch. Additionally, the force sensing device may determine the amount of force applied, and changes in amounts of force applied, by the user when contacting a device, andprovide additional functions.