updated 07:26 pm EDT, Thu July 4, 2013
Crowd-sourced traffic reports, auto-regulating volume based on seal
The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has published new patents for Apple as they do nearly every day; two of particular interest may foretell new services and new products from the company. The first is method for generating car travel routes based on crowd-sourced data on real-time traffic conditions and user preference, while the other describes a set of earphones that can adjust audio output levels based on how tight a seal the earphones have at a given moment.
Apple's strong emphasis on continually improving and revising Maps and its navigation functions may have been the impetus behind the Waze-like patent, though Apple was allegedly unsuccessful in trying to acquire Waze outright earlier this year; Google recently bought it instead, which may also have motivated Apple to invent its own method of accomplishing the same thing.
The patent describes a rating database that logs user preferences on routes and locations and a system that is intended for mobile devices that have built-in GPS, such as the iPhone. Users can assign a number to a route just travelled that is used to generate traffic reports and alternate routes for other users automatically. As with most mapping programs, inputting the start and end points will generate an "ideal" route and suggestions for alternate ways to get to the same destination.
Users can send alerts of adverse traffic conditions or obstacles, accidents, road construction or other changes, and the central navigation server will aggregate them and correlate the data, resulting in real-time traffic updates. At the end of the journey, users can rate the route in order to help recommendations to other drivers.
The patent for the self-adjusting headphones describes a system of automatically modifying volume based on the fit of the earbuds, using built-in microphones and electrical current measurements to judge the quality of the seal. The volume would adjust itself based on the measured fit of the earphones, requiring less volume when ambient noise is more effectively blocked or in very quiet environments, while raising volume to compensate for noisier environments.
The mapping and routing methodology application was originally filed in December of 2011 and credited to Jorge S. Fino. The self-adjusting earbud application was first filed in February of this year, and lists Victor Tiscareno, Jeffrey J. Terlizzi, Wendell B. Sander and Christopher Todd Beauchamp as the inventors.