Apple has filed for a patent (number 10,254,840) for a “guidance device for the sensory impaired.” If realized, it could, among other things, allow an iPhone to double as a virtual cane.
Or it could result in an “Apple Glove” with sensory input features. Other possibilities include an Apple Watch with such features, or even Apple-made smart clothing.
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. However, many folks 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, and so on.
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.
Here’s the 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.