updated 10:13 am EDT, Tue March 19, 2013
Whiteboard patent refers to Surface-like tables
Apple has won two new patents from the US Patent and Trademark Office, including one for what appears to be a form of digital whiteboard technology. Titled Collaboration system, the patent describes a mix of "large digital surfaces" and styluses, used to collaborate on projects. The styluses capture movements visually or through motion sensing, in some cases allowing people to write on paper, but have the data show up on a digital surface. A device like an iPhone could be used to bridge a pen to a server; in any case, the server would facilitate sharing collaborators' content, whether to a whiteboard or some other form of interactive display.
For styluses that can actually be used directly on a digital surface, the patent talks about dealing with occlusions in the form of a person's hand or shadows cast by the hand. Onscreen radial menus would therefore change based a person's handedness, orientation, and position on the surface. The menus could be activated via a stylus gesture or button.
The other patent covers a form augmented reality adapted to iOS devices, exploiting their cameras, Internet connections, and multi-touch screens. In a given example, holding a device over a circuitboard could be used to identify components like a processor and capacitors, and display a barcode. Overlays could take the form of text, images, or URLs; to perform recognition, a device could handle the information itself or fetch data online.
A unique element is that if recognition fails, Apple's system allows people to create their own annotations. People can also feed live view content over to another device, or turn on a splitscreen view, in which the live and CG content is split into separate windows. Apple uses the example of looking at a view of downtown San Francisco; the CG window could be a real-time 3D composite of the view, used to create directions and markers that could be sent to another person. The recipient might be able to pair the composite with their own camera view, and tap on the markers to launch communications apps. Alternately the whole of one person's splitscreen data could be fed to a second device, and vice versa, helping two people to find each other.