updated 12:20 pm EDT, Tue April 23, 2013
Neither patent used in shipping products
Apple has won rights to two more US patents, says AppleInsider. The first covers a "digital handshake" between mobile devices, using an image to generate an authentication key. One device takes a photo of the other, capturing either a dynamic key from an app or information permanently embedded within a device's housing or bezel. Filters, flash, or infrared might be needed to register key data, or even a specialized chip integrated into the camera.
Handshakes can be established between multiple devices, and in cases where several units are all present in the same space, a device can be set to judge which one is requesting a key via its location, distance, and onscreen content. Ultimately the purpose of the handshake would be to allow secure file or data transfers without having to manually type in a key to establish a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi link. Even with the photo system, a user-created code might still be needed to connect.
The other new patent documents the idea of "virtual input tools," in which an onscreen UI mirrors the physical input a person has access to. The given example is that of a trackpad; a virtual trackpad might contain various interactive elements that map directly to space on a real trackpad, making control of items like windows, icons, and folders more intuitive. Multi-touch gestures could allow for more complex interactions.
Neither patent is being used in any shipping Apple products. The company originally filed for the handshake concept in 2010, and the virtual input system in 2009.