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Apple collects a flock of patents today

Above: From Apple's patent on "Avatars reflecting user states"

Today is Patent-palooza for the patent-generating machine otherwise known as Apple, as 46 of its patents were granted and published. In this batch, what kinds of innovations interest the Colossus from Cupertino?

The unlocking-a-device patent stands out, particularly because Apple is accusing Samsung of infringing its previously patented Slide-to-Unlock feature. The new patent describes unlocking through “a predefined gesture” and offers a variety of ways to unlock.

Another patent that appears to be looking backward is #8,694,041 for Push-to-Talk. Such walkie-talkie features had been a popular feature on Nextel smartphones, and the single button press for communicating remains appealing to anyone whose thumbs need a rest.

The patent acknowledges that PTT has existed as a digital two-way radio feature. “However,” Apple says, “a network does not yet exist that can provide communication to other users via a wireless packet data network.”

There are two patents relating to avatars, those onscreen stand-ins for users. One describes “avatars reflecting user states.” Triggered by such things as the state of the device or user-entered texts, these visual surrogates could indicate “a facial expression, body language, accessories, clothing items.” One would have thought that user states are a natural extension of avatars, but – hey – that’s why they’re Apple and we’re not.

The other involves 3D, customizable avatars that are automatically generated from images of an individual. But it could be more than just skin deep. The patent says “a genome” describing the user’s particular features could be used to search existing avatars or to create a new one. So, one assumes, you could carry your avatar genome from environment to environment.

One wonders if Apple is planning a subsequent patent application to cover the genetic disposition of offspring from two individualized avatars.

There’s also an eyebrow-raising patent, “location based services,” since this seems to describes many services already out there:

“Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer program products, for location-based services. An event or device condition is detected at a device. A current geographic location of a device is determined. Location-based information based on the determined current geographic location is received. The location-based information includes information relevant to the event or device condition. The information is presented.”

Other patents include generating personalized streaming content, backlighted structures for electronic device displays, and smoothing curved plastic objects such as earplugs.

Via Patently Apple

More information:

Apple designs and markets consumer electronics, computer software, and personal computers. The company's best-known hardware products include the Macintosh line of computers, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Apple software includes t... read more »

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