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Apple invention would involve using an iPhone, smart clothing as a ‘guidance system for the sensory impaired’

Apple has filed for a patent (number 20180181204) for a “guidance system for the sensory impaired” that would use an iPhone as, among other things, a digital cane for the visually impaired.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that people use a variety of senses to navigate and interact with the various environments they encounter on a daily basis. For example, people use their senses of sight and sound to navigate in their homes, on the street, through workplaces and shopping centers, and so on. Such environments may be designed and configured under the assumption that people will be able to use senses such as sight and sound for navigation. 

However, many people are sensory impaired in one way or another. People may be deaf or at least partially auditorily impaired, blind or at least partially visually impaired. Apple notes that navigation through environments designed and configured for those lacking sensory impairment may be challenging or difficult for the sensory impaired. 

Some sensory impaired people use guidance devices or relationships to assist them in navigating and interacting with their environments. For example, some blind people may use a cane in order to navigate and interact with an environment. Others may use a guide animal. 

Apple’s idea seems to using an iPhone as a sort of sonar device that would offer auditory feedback or, for those who are hearing impaired, tactile feedback in “smart clothing” items. 

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “Sensor data is obtained regarding an environment around a guidance device. A model of the environment is generated based on the data. The model is mapped at least to an input/output touch surface of the guidance device. Tactile output is provided to a user of the guidance device via the input/output touch surface based at least on the mapping. Other output based on the model may also be provided. 

“The guidance device may include a variety of different components such as sensors that obtain data regarding the environment, input/output mechanisms for receiving input from and/or providing input to the user, processing units and/or other components for generating the model and/or mapping the model to various input/output mechanisms, and so on. Additionally, the guidance device may cooperate and/or communicate with a variety of different electronic devices that have one or more such components in order to perform such functions.”

Of course, 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.


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the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.

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