Apple iphone Apple Patents Latest News Zachary Hiller Patent Attorney Houston TX

There has been an interesting development in the world of Apple patents. It appears that the tech giant has obtained a patent that would allow the company to utilize infrared sensors to remotely interact with phones. The blog Patently Apple reported that this is part of 44 newly granted patents for Apple this week. These patent filings seem to offer a glimpse into some interesting technology for the maker of the I-phone; interesting and potentially fraught with controversy. The crux of the technology would center on the camera function and its use of visible light.

A Deeper Look At The Technology Mentioned In New Apple Patents

Traditionally the technology in cameras in your I-phone is fairly limited. The camera can detect images based on visible light bouncing off an object.  Apple’s newest patent describes a technology that would allow the camera to not only receive information via visible light, but also allow the device to process data sent via infrared waves. This technology would couple the camera with digital processing circuitry that would decode the infrared data. Images without infrared data would would processed as a traditional picture and the user would take and store the picture just like any other. However the images with embedded data via infrared would be processed in the new circuitry and may affect what the user sees on their phone. Based on this decoded data, the phone could display additional information to the user or modify the operations of the device. The image below, from Patently Apple, highlights the basic premise of the new technology.

Drawing of New Apple Patents Law Offices of Zachary Hiller Houston, TX

Photo courtesy: Patently Apple

Some Applications For New Apple Patents

This new technology is part of the greater push for the indoor GPS trend, which allows for customize content delivery based on the physical location of the user. For example, Apple could work with zoos and museums to provide interactive information based on the users location. This technology would allow for guided tours on your I-phone as you walk through a museum or real time interactive maps of your favorite exhibits. The applications for this technology for use in tourism industry alone are really quite cool. This technology has another application, however, that has left many people crying foul. In addition to allowing new and interactive content to stream on your I-phone, this technology could also play a part in preventing copyright violations; and not everyone is thrilled about it.

The rise of the cell phone camera also means the rise bootleg videos. Zach Hiller Law Houston, TX

The rise of the cell phone camera also means the rise bootleg videos.

The same infrared beams that provide new content for the phone can also prevent users from taking pictures or videos. The patent mentions the use of this technology to prevent copyright violations at concerts as an example. The infrared beams could submit code that would prevent I-phone users from taking video at live concerts or filming in a movie theater.  While this seems like a clear cut win for copyright holders the broader implications of such a patent could be devastating.

Sure it is appealing to prevent bootleg copies of a concert or movie. It could drastically reduce the damaging affects of flash photography in museums, where photographs are often prohibited. The downside to such a technology, however, is where it can be abused. The ubiquity of a camera phone has led to some of the most compelling citizen journalism in modern time. How simple would it be for a despotic leader to further crack down on its citizens with this type of technology? Civil rights proponents worry about the opportunity for misuse and have pointed to the rise of cell phone camera footage in police brutality cases. In contrast, comedians like Dave Chappelle have turned to various forms of technology to prevent the unauthorized recording of their performances, citing not only copyright infringement but also backlash from comments taken out of context.

This is an argument that is bound to get more robust as technology advances. It is not certain if Apple will even pursue a commercial application for these patents; opting instead to sit on the technology. Regardless, the fight between copyright protection, advancing technology, and civil liberties is only going to heat up. This is a story that we will be following closing in the months to come. For more on patent, copyright or trademark news be sure to follow us on Facebook.

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