Patent report: Touch ID for your palms (and cheeks!), dual purpose headphones, 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 today’s patent highlights: 

A newly granted patent (number 20160110027) hints at future iOS devices (and, theoretically, Macs) that could offer multi-touch input discrimination. Their touch screens would not only recognize your fingerprints and thumbprints, but also your palm, and even your cheek, patterns using a using a “patch eccentricity parameter.”

Apple says that, unlike earlier input devices, touch surfaces now becoming available are capable of simultaneously detecting multiple objects as they approach and/or contact the touch-surface, and detecting object shapes in much more detail. To take advantage of this capability, it’s necessary to measure, identify and distinguish between the many kinds of objects that may approach or contact such touch-surfaces simultaneously. 

Prior art touch surface systems (including their supporting software and/or circuitry) don’t provide a “robust”ability to do this. Apple wants to provide methods and devices that identify and discriminate multiple simultaneous hover or touch events such as, for example, two or more closely grouped fingers, palm heels from one or more fingers, fingers from thumbs, and fingers from ears and cheeks. 

Moving on, Apple will reportedly drop the headphone jack in the upcoming iPhone 7, and a new patent application (number 20160112787) seems to enforce the rumor. The patent is for “audio class-compliant charing accessories for wireless headphones and headsets.”

The headphone includes a wireless transceiver, a wired communication module, a power storage device, a speaker, and control circuitry. In other words, it could switch between wired and wireless use. There are current headphones that can do the same, but Apple wants to resolve issues such as instances where such headphones don’t automatically connect to the proper Bluetooth device (an iPhone, an iPad, or a Mac). 

Finally, Apple has also been granted a patent (number 20160110764) for a targeted content delivery system that maintains a profile for each user known to a content delivery system and selectively excludes delivery of certain content to some users based on past performance. One obvious scenario would be the use of such a system in the company’s various app stores.

In the patent filing, Apple says that targeted content delivery has long been an accepted means of conveying a desired message to an audience. Instead of creating a single message and delivering it to every member of the general public, content providers want to identify the intended audience and shape the message so that it appeals to that audience. The development of digital content has enabled new techniques of targeting content to an audience.

However, Apple says that these techniques are often overly simplistic because targets are often selected based on a limited number of inputs. For example, if a user purchases a particular item on a website, additional related items can be suggested, or if a user visits a travel website, travel related content can be presented. 

Such methods are overly simplistic and fail to consider other important factors when targeting content to an audience, according to Apple. The company’s invention looks to change this and deliver a “personal information data can be used to deliver targeted content that is of greater interest to the user.”