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Apple may build video cams into future Macs

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
A recently published Apple patent application reveals that the company last year toyed with the idea of integrating a tiny video camera into the latch of a future laptop design, presumably with intentions of leveraging its iChat audio-video conferencing software.

The filing, made March 12, 2004, describes a design for a laptop computer that includes a base and a lid that pivots relative to the base. "The portable computer further includes a latch including a data capture device such as a camera that is configured to secure the lid to the base," the filing reads.

According to the filing, the invention includes a positioning device for controlling the rotation of the latch (and hence the camera) about an axis. The camera also includes a charge coupled device (CCD) image sensor or a complimentary oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor.

While it's unlikely that Apple will release a PowerBook with a built-in camera in the immediate future, reliable sources have recently reported sightings of a PowerPC-based iMac prototype that is said to sport similar functionality.

The sources describe the iMac G5 prototype as being marginally thinner than the current model and including a scaled down version of Apple's iSight video camera that is built into the computer's display bezel. The iMac design, which could see the light of day in coming months, is also said to sport a memory card reader and Bluetooth remote control capabilities.

Apple has so far sold iSight video cams separately for its computers, coining them the "eyes and ears" of its iChat AV software that allows users to video-conference with up to three people simultaneously (or audioconference with up to ten). The latest version of the software, iChat AV 3.0, is one of the most touted features of Apple's new Mac OS X "Tiger" operating system.

Although much of the hoopla lately has surrounded Apple's music products, the potential and quality of its iChat video-conferencing solutions have not go unnoticed. As recently as last month, CNN announced that it had begun experimenting with iChat AV to conduct face-to-face interviews on the show "Situation Room", which is hosted by Wolf Blitzer.





"What really is important about this is by using cheap Internet technology, they will be able to reach people all over the world on very short notice," said Joi Ito, one of the first interviewees to appear on the CNN show. "I think that there are a lot of interesting possibilities and I hope they experiment with the format and break some new ground."

Apple itself has flirted with broadening the possibilities of iChat video-conferencing in recent years. Back in 2003, the company began beta testing a service referred to as 'AppleCare Video.' It was designed to allow iMac customers with a video cam and iChat AV to video-conference one-on-one with an Apple customer support representative. The concept bled with promise of redefining customer support for the average personal computer user, but for reason's unknown to AppleInsider the service never got off the ground.
post #2 of 30
First post, neener neener nee-ner...

Anything to keep costs high, I guess...
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post #3 of 30
the success of video-chat hinges upon any two people being able to do it at one time. like the fax machine, it had NO foothold so long as only one person would buy one. no one wanted to take that first step. i have flirted with the idea of an isight, but who would i talk to? no one else has gotten one that i know of. and i'm not sure they'd get one just to chat with me.

but if it's built into each shipping mac, then ichat's video conferencing (which apple is investing and marketing the crap out of) might actually take off before anyone else can.

they do, however, have to work on bandwidth management, though, after this hurricane, i have a new found respect for the dial-up connection. i had become spoiled by broadband, thinking everyone has it., actually, no, and in many cases, especially during natural disaster, cable connections go down much faster and much MUCH longer than a good ol' fashioned landline phone.
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post #4 of 30
If this weren't a year old patent App I would think that this was just Apple trying to add value to their machines to maintain sales during the run-up to the transition period. I guess it could be, depending on how long Apple has been seriously considering the transition.

On the software side, I'm sure many of you remember CuSeeMe; a large part of its popularity was the fact that you could have many people conferencing in a "video chatroom" of sorts with 10 or more feeds going. For some reason this just hit me, but if Apple used an excellent quality, fast lens (say f/1.2 or in that range) to seriously limit depth of field, they could actively mask out the out of focus background (as an alternative to carrying around a greenscreen) and create a truely "virtual" video chat room.

Of course the problem with something like that is you know porn type sites and the more exhibitionist population would run hogwild (hopefully not literally) with such a thing.
post #5 of 30
While I'm sure Apple would make a elegant implementation combining software with hardware, the whole integrated video camera in a laptop is already here.

Asus does this here
post #6 of 30
Quote:
Originally posted by satchmo
While I'm sure Apple would make a elegant implementation combining software with hardware, the whole integrated video camera in a laptop is already here.

Asus does this here

Sony's long had models with this feature as well, going back at least 5 years.
post #7 of 30
Quote:
Originally posted by satchmo
While I'm sure Apple would make a elegant implementation combining software with hardware, the whole integrated video camera in a laptop is already here.

Asus does this here

Of course...Apple is very rarely the first at anything...but they're the first to make some things worth buying.

I, for one, would love to see all computer displays with built-in cameras, especially laptops. The bandwidth might not be there yet but it will be...and things like H.264 are helping alleviate some of the bandwidth issues.
post #8 of 30
"The concept bled with promise of redefining customer support for the average personal computer owner, but for reason's unknown to AppleInsider the service never got off the ground."

...because no one wants to be reminded visually of the fact that they're talking to someone from India. It's bad enough you can't make out what the heck they're saying.
post #9 of 30
Quote:
While I'm sure Apple would make a elegant implementation combining software with hardware, the whole integrated video camera in a laptop is already here.


The iPod wasn't the first mp3 player. But its practically the only one that matters now.
post #10 of 30
I remember writing in to a thread, probably a year ago, that Apple should put a video camara into their iMacs. iChat AV is so cool, but there are so few people to chat with. It really needs to be pushed from Apple's end.
post #11 of 30
iChat AV seems to be gathering steam.

It's catching on in the music community as a method of giving remote music
lessons, for instance.

Kevin Callahan

And, as an example of gratuitous self promotion, let me direct you to the
world's first automated billing system for any video conferencing system:

FlavorSofa

iChat AV is the first system with enough quality and ease of use to make
audio and video conferencing mainstream.

My only question is why in the world hasn't Apple shipped a Windows version
yet? Might as well sell iSights to the whole world.
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post #12 of 30
Quote:
Originally posted by Tom Mornini
iChat AV seems to be gathering steam.

It's catching on in the music community as a method of giving remote music
lessons, for instance.

Kevin Callahan

And, as an example of gratuitous self promotion, let me direct you to the
world's first automated billing system for any video conferencing system:

FlavorSofa

iChat AV is the first system with enough quality and ease of use to make
audio and video conferencing mainstream.

My only question is why in the world hasn't Apple shipped a Windows version
yet? Might as well sell iSights to the whole world.

I'm afraid a windoze version would mean a usb isight. :-(
post #13 of 30
Quote:
Originally posted by warfang
I'm afraid a windoze version would mean a usb isight. :-(

1) It didn't mean that for the iPod (at first)
2) Why would you care?
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post #14 of 30
Quote:
Originally posted by Tom Mornini
1) It didn't mean that for the iPod (at first)
2) Why would you care?

yes... at first... it's usb ONLY now, albiet some you can still buy firewire cables for.

Firewire is a better technology. USB2 maybe more popular, but has more limits to them. The more people settle for inferior technology, the pro users gets the shaft with higher prices for firewire equipment.
post #15 of 30
I suspect there is more impetus for the iSight to remain firewire than the iPod; because the iSight uses standard signaling for DV camcorders, compatibility is much cheaper. get into the realm of USB2 and not only do you have to add unique circuitry to the camera to send the video over USB, you have to write drivers on the OS end and deal with all sorts of customer service issues with people wondering why their iSights sucks when they plug it into the same hub/bus as their keyboard and mouse.

Not an ideal situation, and I don't see the cost advantage; whereas with the iPod they had to maintain hardware interfaces for both USB2 and Firewire. My guess is the Nano lost Firewire for space considerations, and since USB is much more ubiquitous in their customer base of course it won out. Really for the iPod I think the firewire/usb arguement is more an emotional one than a logical one.

Video and storage are a different matter for now. SATA and SATA II I think will end up trumping Firewire in the long run for storage, leaving just Video to Firewire.
post #16 of 30
Quote:
Originally posted by warfang
yes... at first... it's usb ONLY now, albiet some you can still buy firewire cables for.

Firewire is a better technology. USB2 maybe more popular, but has more limits to them. The more people settle for inferior technology, the pro users gets the shaft with higher prices for firewire equipment.

While that is true, the Nano was so small hat they could only fit the chip for one interface - so if you were Apple R&D, which would you pick? bear in mind that nearly all Apple computers since 2003 have USB2, same with PCs, yet there are many low end NEW PCs that STILL do not have firewire.

Firewire may be better, but sadly, the war is over and it is a draw - consumers get USB2 and pros/prosumers get firewire.

It is an industry thing, not an Apple thing
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post #17 of 30
Quote:
Originally posted by a_greer
While that is true, the Nano was so small hat they could only fit the chip for one interface - so if you were Apple R&D, which would you pick? bear in mind that nearly all Apple computers since 2003 have USB2, same with PCs, yet there are many low end NEW PCs that STILL do not have firewire.

Firewire may be better, but sadly, the war is over and it is a draw - consumers get USB2 and pros/prosumers get firewire.

It is an industry thing, not an Apple thing

You're stating the obvious. but wrong about one point: It is indeed an Apple thing. They failed to promote firewire, a standard they created. There are plenty of people with pre 2003 usb2 macs (im not one of them, but know many with) and are now stuck without usb2 or have to buy a new mac. I'm sure Apple feels their pain.
post #18 of 30
if it's any consolation, there are propably plenty of people with pre 2003 usb2 windows boxes as well. Just because some technology is "advanced" than other, it still wold be stupidity to select a standard that has only like 30%(FW) market penetration against a standard that has 90%(usb).And no I don't know the real market shares, just guessing here
post #19 of 30
It could work out, and add feature seperation for the powerbook lineup versus the iBooks. Very interesting.
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post #20 of 30
Quote:
Originally posted by AppleInsider
As recently as last month, CNN announced that it had begun experimenting with iChat AV to conduct face-to-face interviews on the show "Situation Room", which is hosted by Wolf Blitzer.

Internet based conferences could save TV channels a lot of money - and allow for easy video-Podcasts. The problem is that the resolution and framerate and compression makes the picture quality below what we expect (though they were using satellite video-phones for some field reports of the Iraqi war I guess)

Anyway, why can't iChat AV allow a realtime video conference at the best quality the connection can do - PLUS record a high resolution copy to disk. After the interview, the machines could send the high resolution copy to a central computer - so if they show the interview half an hour later it'll be in great quality?

Ahhh technology. Sorry to get off the gist of the article.
post #21 of 30
Greg,

No reason why they can't do what you say. Since any digital camcorder/video camera that outputs DV over firewire can work with iChat, they could record to DV at the same time as they are conducting the interview. Big file to send, however. More likely if they wanted higher quality over a relatively high bandwidth link they could have asked Apple to enable iChat to compress with H.264, or just a custom version that allowed H.263 to scale to a higher band link. My guess, however, is that part of the appeal is the cost effectiveness of being able to use standard broadband for easy remote setup. Also note a lot of the quality issues you see with video over iChat are more strongly associated with the quality of the capture device, lighting, and the light gathering capabilities of the recording device, not so much the compression, especially when you consider that most people with digital cable/satellite are just getting MPEG2 feeds to their house anyway.
post #22 of 30
Xrist, I hope Apple stops doing this kind of value-add crap. I work in a classified government installation and Apple could well end up making themselves unusable in my environment. Their love of BlueTooth and AirPort, while laudable in the mass market, is making it difficult to obtain Macs for use "inside". Cameras would be an absolute, no-work-around nail in the coffin.
post #23 of 30
I don't think an attached cam is a good idea, You cam still buy a UniBrain Fire-i cam for much cheaper then an iSight AND it comes with all of its accessories, mini tripod and Clip for Power/i Books.
Quote:
Originally posted by jimhill
I work in a classified government installation and Apple could well end up making themselves unusable in my environment. Cameras would be an absolute, no-work-around nail in the coffin.

Put a 5ยข nail in the lens. Issue over.
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post #24 of 30
Quote:
Originally posted by jimhill
Xrist, I hope Apple stops doing this kind of value-add crap. I work in a classified government installation and Apple could well end up making themselves unusable in my environment. Their love of BlueTooth and AirPort, while laudable in the mass market, is making it difficult to obtain Macs for use "inside". Cameras would be an absolute, no-work-around nail in the coffin.

The fact of the matter is that Apple makes the majority of its money in the consumer market, not the business market. The business market, when it is bigger than five people and big enough to care about that crap would probably by powermacs, and if not, someone put it explicitly well - put a 5C nail in the lense. You could probably get the nails from that coffin you mentioned.

I understand that it is illegal to have a camera phone in a workplace environment in the U.S (I'm not sure, correct me if I'm wrong), but camera makers have found a solution. They release two models one with/without camera.
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I DONT trust your haircut.

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post #25 of 30
Quote:
Originally posted by pyriX

I understand that it is illegal to have a camera phone in a workplace environment in the U.S (I'm not sure, correct me if I'm wrong), but camera makers have found a solution. They release two models one with/without camera.

It's not, and they don't. The application he was talking about is for military facilities. Any country with secure facilities shouldn't be allowing camera phones, video cameras, and regular cameras, attached to a computer or not.
post #26 of 30
Quote:
Originally posted by ChevalierMalFet
It's not, and they don't. The application he was talking about is for military facilities. Any country with secure facilities shouldn't be allowing camera phones, video cameras, and regular cameras, attached to a computer or not.

Umm...that's why the solution was brought forward: One model with the camera...the other *without*.

Nobody said BTO would stop existing.
post #27 of 30
Doesn't work that way. Either the laptop has the camera or not. Highly unlikely they will give you the option due to cost.
post #28 of 30
I would like to see some way to cover the lens if the cameras were built into the laptop (something more elegant than a nail). When I was overseas last year a lot of people had iSights and other little cameras for talking to their families back home. One of the techs at the studio was able to hack into the computers and route the video elsewhere pretty easy. I would be very worried about that happening as a general thing.

Just a paranoid thought.
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post #29 of 30
Quote:
Originally posted by ChevalierMalFet
Doesn't work that way. Either the laptop has the camera or not. Highly unlikely they will give you the option due to cost.

So, are you implying it would be similar to Apple not offering BTO options to buy current iBook/Powerbook models without AirPort and/or Bluetooth hardware?
post #30 of 30
Apple includes bluetooth and airport now, so unless you are going to rip your machine apart, you can't have them removed. and if you make a hole to casing for camera, it would look quite silly if there wasn't camera inside, naturally ripping your computer to pieces solves that problem as well...
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