Patent report: explicit lyric removal, biometric device pairing, 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: 

Apple wants to you to be able to manage, replace, and remove explicit lyrics during playback of songs on iTunes. The company’s patent (number 20160093316) for such technology involves an audio player that can identify and remove unwanted audio while playing an audio stream. Unwanted audio may be replaced with alternate audio, such as non-explicit lyrics, a "beep", or silence. 

Metadata (e.g., within MP3 or AAC files) may be used to describe the location of unwanted audio within an audio stream to enable the removal or replacement of the unwanted audio with alternate audio. An audio player may switch between clean and explicit versions of a recording based on the locations described in the metadata. 

The metadata, as well as both the clean and explicit versions of the audio data, may be part of a single audio file, or the metadata may be separate from the audio data. What’s more, real-time recognition analysis may be used to identify unwanted audio during audio playback.

Apple also wants you to be able to unlock your Mac via your iPhone or iPad. A company patent (20160094550) for “biometric device pairing” involves an electronic device associated with a biometric sensor. Biometric data received by the biometric sensor is used to permit the first electronic device (an iPhone or iPad) to pair with, unlock, and/or access a second electronic device (a Mac).

Biometric identifiers are distinctive, measurable physiological characteristics related to the configuration or characteristics of the body that can be used to identify individuals. Example biometric identifiers can include face recognition, DNA, a palm print, hand geometry, iris recognition, retina recognition, and scent (hmmm, an iPad or iPhone that can “smell”? interesting). 

The system will identify the individual by comparing a biometric sample such as a fingerprint to stored fingerprint samples in the database. Biometrics may be used in place of, or in conjunction with, other methods of personal recognition such as passwords, PINs or keys. 

The use of biometrics may supplement or displace the use of a password to access a portable electronic device. A biometric sensor may, for example, be built into the home or start button of a smartphone (or any other input device or region) to sense or detect a user's fingerprint and grant or deny access based on that fingerprint. 

Speaking of love and cooperation among devices, Apple has filed for a patent (20160094076) for inductive charging among electronic devices that would allow one device (say an iPad or perhaps a Mac) to recharge another device (an iPhone, most likely). 

In the patent filing, Apple notes that some electronic devices include one or more rechargeable batteries that may require external power to recharge. Often, these devices may be charged using a common or standardized electrical connector or cable. For example, some devices may be charged using a universal serial bus ("USB") connector or cable. 

However, despite having standardized connectors and cable, each device may require a separate or dedicated power supply to charge. In some cases, having separate power supplies for each device “may be burdensome to use, store, and/or transport,” says Apple. The answer? A device with a battery that can be configured to provide electrical power to its display. Said device may also include a transmit inductive coil within the enclosure and configured to wirelessly transmit power to an external device that’s located close to, or perhaps touching, the “powering” device.

Finally, Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,300,083) for a “stackable magnetically-retained connector interface” — in other words a stackable Smart Connector. The Smart Connector, introduced with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro — transfers both data and power between the tablet and Apple’s Smart Keyboard with no batteries or charging required. 

Just attach the Smart Keyboard, then start typing. When you disconnect, an onscreen keyboard automatically reappears. Apple has made it possible for third-parties to make accessories that work with the Smart Connector. Apple’s invention would allow multiple devices to be used with the port, including — as show by the graphics accompanying the patent — a MagSafe-like power connector.