Patent report: avatar editing environment, Apple telephoto lens, 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: 

iAvatar, anyone? Apple has filed for a patent (number 20160086386) for an “avatar editing environment” that would allow users to create custom avatars (onscreen representations of a person) for use in online games and other applications. Starting with a blank face the user can add, rescale and position different elements (e.g., eyes, nose, mouth) on the blank face. The user can also change the shape of the avatar's face, the avatar's skin color and the color of all the elements. In some implementations, touch input and gestures can be used to manually edit the avatar. 

Various controls can be used to create the avatar, such as controls for resizing, rotating, positioning, etc. The user can choose between manual and automatic avatar creation. The avatar editing environment can be part of a framework that is available to applications. One or more elements of the avatar can be animated.

Apple has also applied for a patent (number 20160085059) for a “small form factor telephoto camera.” The company ants to make the camera inside its iPhones and iPads even more flexible and powerful. 

In the patent filing, Apple notes that the popularity of devices such as iPhones and iPads has resulted in a need for high-resolution, small form factor cameras for integration in the devices. However, due to limitations of conventional camera technology, conventional small cameras used in such devices tend to capture images at lower resolutions and/or with lower image quality than can be achieved with larger, higher quality cameras. 


Apple notes that achieving higher resolution with small package size cameras generally requires use of a photosensor with small pixel size and a good, compact imaging lens system. Advances in technology have achieved reduction of the pixel size in photosensors. However, as photosensors become more compact and powerful, demand for compact imaging lens system with improved imaging quality performance has increased. 

The patent is for a compact telephoto lens system that may be used in a small form factor cameras. The lens system may include five lens elements with refractive power. Alternatively, the lens system may include four lens elements with refractive power. At least one of the object side and image side surfaces of at least one of the lens elements is aspheric. 

Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,293,806) for an “electronic device with a display frame antenna.” Obviously, such an invention would allow to the iPhone and iPad. However, the graphics accompanying the article show a laptop, so perhaps Apple will add wireless broadband connectivity to future MacBooks, MacBook Airs, and MacBook Pros.

Having 4G LTE in a laptop is nothing new and there's no obvious reason why a Mac notebook doesn't have wireless broadband as an option. In the patent filing, Apple says it would be “desirable” to provide “improved wireless circuitry for electronic devices.”

Another patent granted to Apple this week is number 9,294,830 for a “wireless headset having adaptive powering.” In the patent filing, the company says the goal is “to design a headset that can be mass produced in an affordable fashion” and that meets its requirements for comfort, sound generation, microphone sound reception quality, and appearance.