updated 12:20 pm EDT, Thu July 9, 2009
Face recognition patent
The US Patent and Trademark Office has published another batch of Apple patent applications, relating to a variety of technologies. Among these is face recognition, which in Apple's description could be used to detect one or more users of a device without requiring active input. The technology could further be used to authorize control, or initiate commands.
While the device conducting the recognition is nominally expected to be a computer with a webcam, Apple suggests that other devices could adapt face recognition as well, such as an iPod or iPhone. Devices like the latter could be configured to send or receive communications, such as voice or video, only when the right face is detected. Such an implementation could require a front-facing camera, depicted in one of Apple's illustrations as a module embedded in a touchscreen.
Miscellaneous patents cover concepts like monitoring devices, which could be related to the MobileMe Find My iPhone feature, and a similar idea for a "personal items network," which could track more precise object movement in fields like sports, shipping and medicine. An an example Apple notes that when a company like FedEx delivers a package, there are number of gaps in the tracking process, making it difficult to tell when and where something may have been broken on the way to delivery.
Apple has also applied to patent a hybrid antenna assembly with directly-fed antenna slots, combining Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals onto one antenna, while leaving another dedicated to 3G cellular broadcasts. The technology is primarily geared towards "ultraportable" computers, and cellphones like the iPhone, but could be used in other hardware. Some suggested applications are watches, earpieces, gaming systems, GPS units and media players.