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Apple renews interest in 'gaze detection,' possible response to Samsung's 'Smart Scroll'

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
A patent application discovered on Thursday reveals Apple is once again looking into so-called "gaze detection" eye-tracking technology for its iOS device lineup, possibly in response to Samsung's latest Galaxy S4 smartphone, which boasts a similar feature dubbed "Smart Scroll."

Gaze
Source: USPTO


The invention published on Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, titled "Electronic Devices With Gaze Detection Capabilities," is a divisional patent application that claims priority to a September 2008 filing covering the same topic.

Apple's patent describes a system that leverages a portable's front-facing camera to determine whether a user's gaze is directed at the device. Also noted in the language is the use of an accelerometer which, when motion is recognized, shuts off the gaze detection circuitry.

In practice, if a user's gaze is determined to be directed at the device, the screen will remain on and at relative brightness. Conversely, if a user's gaze is found to have drifted away from the device, or if the accelerometer detects motion above a certain threshold, the screen is dimmed.

In some embodiments, the entire device enters standby mode when gaze conditions are not met. Once a user looks back at the display portion of the device, the portable moves out of standby and activates all functions. In addition, physical input like button presses can also trigger the device to return to an active state.

While the invention is in many respects a power saving measure, there is one embodiment discussed in which gaze controls media playback functions:

For example, the electronic device may be performing a video playback operation while in the active mode. In this example, when the electronic device detects that the user's gaze is no longer directed towards the electronic device, the electronic device may enter one of the standby modes, dim the display screen that was being used for the video playback operation, and pause the video playback operation. If desired, the electronic device may resume the video playback operation when it detects that the user has redirected their gaze towards the electronic device (e.g., towards the video screen).


Gaze


As the 2013 filing was divisional, it necessarily removed certain claims from the original application, which was published in 2010. It appears that Apple concentrated on the workings of the eye-tracking tech rather than its implementation in the second filing, removing the first five claims of the original application. These dealt with playback functions and power saving features that would benefit from the gaze tracking system.

Such functionality is now being touted by Samsung as a major feature of its latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4. Dubbed "Smart Scroll" the system operates in much the same way as Apple's invention, using the device's front-facing camera to track a user's eye movement to dim the screen and pause media. Samsung's implementation goes further, however, and includes webpage and email scrolling functionality.

Interestingly, a trademark filing with the USPTO on January 24, 2013 for "Eye Pause" is credited to Samsung. That date is just one day before Apple entered its divisional patent filing. A subsequent filing for "Eye Scroll" was lodged in February, while the final "Samsung Smart Scroll" trademark was filed for on March 8, 2013, six days prior to the Galaxy S4's unveiling.

While Apple's original gaze detecting patent application dates back to 2008, Samsung also has similar eye-tracking properties on the books, including U.S. Patent No. 6,611,613 for "Apparatus and method for detecting speaking person's eyes and face," which was awarded in 2000.

It can be speculated that Apple is attempting to establish prior art for eye-tracking in preparation of a theoretical case leveraged by either itself or Samsung as part of the two companies' ongoing feud, though it is more likely that the filing dates are mere coincidence. As of now, no allegations have been made by either party regarding the tech.

Apple's gaze detection patent is credits Andrew Hodge and Michael Rosenblatt as its inventors.
post #2 of 13

Although the idea is potentially neat, the implementation on my brother-in-law's S4 is not great. I'm still not convinced I want my phone to decide when to move the page. 

 

Eye "gestures" might be cool -- double blink to go forward, triple to go back, or something. I should take out a patent...

post #3 of 13

I'll admit that I have no direct experience with this sort of technology.  But this struck me as a horrible idea when Samsung announced it, and it doesn't sound any better here.  Then again, maybe I'm just an old fuddy-duddy.  Maybe my watching habits are different from others'.

 

I dunno.  As long as you can turn it off, I guess it doesn't really matter.

post #4 of 13

Nooo... smart scroll was a ridiculous idea. dont do it Apple. Please.

post #5 of 13
Maybe if Apple implements this it will actually fucking work. Because try as I might in the S4, it never once did what I wanted it to do. A perfect example if a bullet point feature that is completely broken in real works use. I doubt Samsung even tested it. They just threw it in there for the marketing, and to day they did it first
post #6 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post

Maybe if Apple implements this it will actually fucking work. Because try as I might in the S4, it never once did what I wanted it to do. A perfect example if a bullet point feature that is completely broken in real works use. I doubt Samsung even tested it. They just threw it in there for the marketing, and to day they did it first

This is the same ol' story with technology and one reason I trust Apple over other vendors. If Apple implements this it's likely the logistics have been well thought out before release.

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

 

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

 

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post #7 of 13
I'm still trying to figure out the math of how the public publishing by a third party office of a patent filed way before the other side mentioned their tech is 'renewed interest'
post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

I'm still trying to figure out the math of how the public publishing by a third party office of a patent filed way before the other side mentioned their tech is 'renewed interest'

Outstanding observation!

post #9 of 13
Apple also has patents regarding stylii. Yet I have never seen a stylus for an iDevice yet.

Companies do R&D in many areas. Some yield actual tech to be used in products and others don't. But they will still patent them all. After all, they spent time and money developing it, and it might be useful in some other form later on.

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post #10 of 13
I doubt this is in response to Samsung. These things take time to come up with. Apple has undoubtedly been working on this for awhile.
post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by jobsisgod View Post

Just another example of Samesung copying Apple. I hope the Samsung patent gets invalidated and the Apple one goes thru so Apple can sue the pants off of Scamsung for copying them.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by iSteelers View Post

I doubt this is in response to Samsung. These things take time to come up with. Apple has undoubtedly been working on this for awhile.

 

Someone on Cnet comments posted following link

 

http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.htm&r=1&p=1&f=G&l=50&d=PTXT&S1=6611613.PN.&OS=pn/6611613&RS=PN/6611613

 

Looks like Samsung applied for eye detection patent in June 2000 and got their patent approved in August 2003.

post #12 of 13

"Apple also has patents regarding stylii. Yet I have never seen a stylus for an iDevice yet."

 

 

Apple Newton.

post #13 of 13
Getting fewer fingerprint smudges on a screen is a universal goal, hardly unique to Sam.

Now whether it will work (as it doesn't on the Galaxy "IIIs")? Perhaps.

As long as (as they very wisely did with the Galaxy) an "off" switch setting is included: fine by me either way.

ETA: How's people's experience with that sort of control for camera's? IIRC Canon (?) has that feature for controlling either point of focus or exposure on some of their cameras, though as that's a lot less intrussive that having the displayed materials move it is somewhat a different issue...
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