updated 11:00 pm EDT, Mon July 11, 2011
Future hardware may have ubiquitous GPS
Imagine a phrasebook on an iPhone where touching a word brings up the same word in a user's native language, or a children's book where touching a character name shows a picture or video of that character. Apple has submitted a patent that would let apps have this ability backed right into the OS and much more, according to a report from Patently Apple. The idea, if patented, could also have commercial implications.
The specialized triggers would have a different gesture associated with them than just the normal "highlighting" swipe, perhaps associated with a "touch and hold" gesture that is similar to the "click and hold" maneuver that works on some operations in the Mac OS. A future version of iBooks could allow users to call up images, animations, interactive or video content related to a word or phrase. A different gesture might signal the device that the reader now wishes to have the machine read the book to them, for example.
A certain kind of slow swipe could signal the device to offer a proper pronunciation of the swiped word, or certain kinds of words or abbreviations would be recognized by the OS to offer the option of additional information. Where this differs from features currently offered in some interactive e-books would be that it would be the OS laying the foundation of recognizing words or a standardized set of movements on the screen rather than the publisher having to hand-code such customizations into the work, making e-publishing interactive books both easier and less expensive even while adding new levels of interaction.
As an example, a future version of iBooks could recognize stock symbols, for example AAPL, and when that was touched on by a finger would know to offer the option of pulling up a current quote on the stock's performance. Magazine publishers might get a standard way to hotlink key words to advertising messages in iOS devices, instead of each publisher having to come up with their own method.
Another portion of the patent application dealt with a new type of "indoor mapping" that would work in a manner similar to GPS, but allow positioning users in large indoor spaces like malls or arenas. This would involve adding hardware to future versions of Apple's mobile devices, as the system would rely on technology developed by the Rosum Corporation (who are named in the patent application).
The technology uses the same triangulated geo-positioning idea that non-GPS iPhones and other such devices have long employed, but using far more powerful radio and television signals as the beacons upon which to base their distance and location calculations. It would coordinate with GPS software to allow location information in areas where presently GPS doesn't reach, not just indoors but in practically all areas that radio and TV signals cover.
As with many of Apple's patented or patent-application ideas, little or nothing may actually come to market from granted patents due to a variety of factors, but the specific mention of a third-party company in an Apple patent application is unusual and could presage the inclusion of the company's chips in future devices. [via Patently Apple]
Illustration of TV-based GPS location via Rosum Corporation