iPhone Patent Watch: Haptics, Biometrics, RFID, and... Karaoke?!


A slew of new Apple patent applications have come to light covering a rather odd range of functionality that may -- or may not -- make it into future iPhone software and hardware models.

First up is haptic feedback via a "grid of piezoelectronic actuators", which would provide a varied tactile response when touching the iPhone screen to better orient users (and let them type without locking their eyes on the keyboard, ideally).

Second is a technology that seeks to identify fingerprints -- i.e. not only that a user has touched the screen, but which specific finger touched the screen. So, for example, touching with the index finger would produce a different reaction than touching with the middle finger.

Third is for placing a RFID (radio frequency identification) reader in the screen so that, in addition to finger touches (and multi-touches), it could identify the unique tag given to objects as well.

Lastly is a method for letting users sing to the iPhone, and having the iPhone provide feedback on tone, pitch, etc. Basically, rating the quality of your karaoke -- or of the latest pre-packaged Hollywood auto-tune single, we imagine.

Again, there's no telling when, or if at all, Apple will release real-world products based on these patents, but they do give some hint as to which direction(s) Apple's thinking.

Anyone want any of the them now?


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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

iPhone Patent Watch: Haptics, Biometrics, RFID, and... Karaoke?!


Oh, god Apple please NO!!
All we need is a bunch of pod-heads running around with earbuds wailing into their phones!!
This would be about as welcome as a cactus in an outhouse.

@icebike LOL
I could see the Karoke thing happening in a firmware update... After all we have voice control in the 3Gs... ooOOoo wouldn't it be cool to have dragon Naturally Speaking app (or something of the like) for the iPhone... that would be totally awesome...

Yes, I've often thought that if Apple could steal some of Google's Voice Recognition technology (Or license from Nuance - the big dog in VR) the iPhone would be much improved.
If you've ever used Google's voice search, you know its uncannily accurate. (At least for North American English speakers).
Imagine being able to recite an email rather than type it!
But I don't think any of these patents cover that. Apple is too late to that party.

The fingerprint thing would be nice, you could tie certain apps to certain fingers and not have to search for the icon. It could also be used to unlock the phone.
I doubt the current screen technology that Apple is deploying is capable of the detail and precision to read finger prints. However finger print scanners are common on Laptops these days. They are getting very cheap at the component level. Apple could add on on the back or somewhere.
It would be cool to just touch that to invoke an unlock, or a specific app.
Does anyone else see the irony here? Everyone bitches about the iPhone being a finger print magnet, and Apple turns around and uses that to its advantage. !!
We grouse about Battery Life too. Patent THAT Apple, and make us LIKE it.

These are the times when you really say..
"I'm fucking glad, Steve Jobs is back".
See? there's a huge difference from when he was away, and when he got back. Let's move back on track again iPhone Team, Speed just doesn't cut it for me yet.

This just in. Apple just applied for a patent on a new feature where you highlight text, copy it to something they call a "clipboard" and can then place that text in another field. This is why Apple is so great! Slurp slurp…
In other news... General Motors just applied for a patent on the wheel.

Make the iPhone file my taxes. Better yet, pay them.
What may be down the road for Smartphones: mobile security, ie. car break-in alerts, deter dogs by high frequency, home security applications, retina-scan and other digital ids...perhaps more advanced data management and reporting software...maybe we will live long enough to see virtual intelligence in a handheld device; the truly interactive/intuitive smartphone...or, maybe Smartphones will sweep completely into the world of entertainment/gaming...we are almost there now...
but...will someone make sure the battery lasts? We may never know.