Apple invention adjusts display brightness according to on-screen content

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
A patent discovered on Tuesday outlines a system in which displays like the iPhone and iPad's Retina panels are automatically dimmed based on what type of content is showing on screen, allowing for portable devices to conserve precious energy.

Brightness
Flowchart of method. | Source: USPTO


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded Apple's patent No. 8,358,273 for a "Portable media device with power-managed display," which describes a unique method of adjusting the intensity (brightness) of a device's screen depending on what is being displayed.

Other techniques like photosensor-based display controls have been in use for years, but Apple's method goes further by managing display brightness based on the monitoring of actual content. Currently, devices may auto-dim in dark-lit rooms or when they haven't been used for a set amount of time. With the '273 patent, both the type and characteristics of displayed content is taken into consideration, allowing for further refinement of auto-dimming procedures that could translate to power savings.

The method relies on identifying the type of content being displayed and setting an output intensity for the display device based on either a predetermined configuration or a set of user preferences. Content types are described as images, photos or video, among others.

After determining what type of content is on a device's screen, the system then takes into account the characteristics of said content. For example, if a light image is being displayed, the brightness may be lowered. This process becomes more complex for video content, which must be monitored frame by frame and weighted by metrics like contrast, darkness, lightness and color. In some embodiments, the system may sample at stepped intervals like every 10 frames to keep brightness consistent throughout viewing.

The management system offers users more control over screen auto-dimming by allowing a set of preferences to override automatic controls. An example user-configurable setting could be "Brightness Mode," which would act much like a modern HDTV to provide levels of brightness referenced by the control module.

Module
Illustration of user preferences menu.


It is unclear how much processing power the system would require, though there are various embodiments that leverage software, hardware or a combination of the two to achieve the desired results.

The patent is credited to Andrew Bert Hodge, Guy Bar-Nahum, Shawn R. Gettemy and David John Tupman.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 29


    Now that's a useful patent.


     


    How the patent office can both award patents for useful techniques and "tap to zoom" or "slide to unlock" baffles me.

  • Reply 2 of 29
    chabigchabig Posts: 624member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by lightknight View Post


    Now that's a useful patent.


     


    How the patent office can both award patents for useful techniques and "tap to zoom" or "slide to unlock" baffles me.



    They are novel methods for accomplishing things. That's the definition of invention. Every invention is supposedly "useful" or it wouldn't have been created.

  • Reply 3 of 29

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by chabig View Post


    They are novel methods for accomplishing things. That's the definition of invention. Every invention is supposedly "useful" or it wouldn't have been created.



    Yes, I agree that my word wasn't the most appropriate. What I should have said is "un-obvious".

  • Reply 4 of 29
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Of course after something is implemented it looks obvious. If pinch to zoom on a smartphone was so obvious how come we didn't see it on any phone prior to iPhone?
  • Reply 5 of 29
    kdarlingkdarling Posts: 1,640member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post



    Of course after something is implemented it looks obvious. If pinch to zoom on a smartphone was so obvious how come we didn't see it on any phone prior to iPhone?


     


     


    Non sequitor.  Being obvious, and being sold, are not related.   Pinch-zoom was obvious for multi-touch screens and had been shown for decades in the touch field.   it just wasn't being marketed on phones... yet.


     


    However, multi-touch was coming.  It had been shown off on phone prototypes during 2006.  Pinch zoom was even announced for a phone a couple of months before the iPhone was revealed, as a feature for an open Linux smartphone that was originally designed to have a multi-touch capacitive screen:


     


     



     


    As for this patent, it sounds like they were watching football on someone's plasma screen, and they noticed that all-white commercials showed up as gray. .


     


    "Hey, your whites aren't white!"


    "Yeah, it's the usual plasma screen ABL."


    "ABL?  What's that?"


    "Automatic Brightness Limiter.   It lowers the intensity when the content is too bright.  Been around for years."


    "Hey... that gives me an idea ..."

  • Reply 6 of 29
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    I'm talking specifically about something being obvious to the average consumer. It's easy now to say pinch to zoom is obvious, but again if it was so obvious why was the iPhone the first smartphone to feature it? Why didn't Samsung or LG or Nokia or BlackBerry have it before iPhone?
  • Reply 7 of 29
    vorsosvorsos Posts: 302member


    iBooks already reduces the backlight intensity, if you use the 'Night' theme. I assume other apps can currently adjust, but OS-level automation is fine too.

  • Reply 8 of 29
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    vorsos wrote: »
    iBooks already reduces the backlight intensity, if you use the 'Night' theme.

    That's a different thing entirely.
    vorsos wrote: »
    I assume other apps can currently adjust, but OS-level automation is fine too.

    Don't make assumptions.
  • Reply 9 of 29

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post



    I'm talking specifically about something being obvious to the average consumer. It's easy now to say pinch to zoom is obvious, but again if it was so obvious why was the iPhone the first smartphone to feature it? Why didn't Samsung or LG or Nokia or BlackBerry have it before iPhone?




    The patent system doesn't state "obvious to the average consumer" but "obvious to any engineer in that field" as a condition for invalidation.


     


    If it wasn't so obvious, why did OpenMoko think of it?

  • Reply 10 of 29
    The Microsoft Surface does this already - it dynamically changes the brightness based on content today.

    Bloody annoying. We don't want it anywhere near an iOS device.
  • Reply 11 of 29
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    realwarder wrote: »
    The Microsoft Surface does this already - it dynamically changes the brightness based on content today.

    If that's true (I haven't used Surface), then there are two considerations:
    1. Did MS start using that before Apple filed for this patent in 2006?

    2. Is it covered by any of the cross-licensing agreements between Apple and Microsoft?

    You'd need to answer those questions to determine whether your statement would invalidate Apple's patent.
    realwarder wrote: »
    Bloody annoying. We don't want it anywhere near an iOS device.

    One would hope that it could be turned off.
  • Reply 12 of 29
    bdkennedy1bdkennedy1 Posts: 1,459member
    I am so tired of this nitpicking. Now we have another option to add to the million Settings. Last week I turned on a Privacy setting and Siri didn't work anymore and it took me 4 days to figure out why.

    Apple has a real opportunity to revolutionize battery technology. Imagine what it would do to their market share if Apple's phones got 24 hours of talk time.
  • Reply 13 of 29
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,949member
    rogifan wrote: »
    Of course after something is implemented it looks obvious. If pinch to zoom on a smartphone was so obvious how come we didn't see it on any phone prior to iPhone?

    I think to narrow the criteria down to just phones and then calling that something special is a reach. Pinch to zoom was shown in multitouch demonstrations years before iPhone. Maybe it wasn't a phone, but the idea of pinch to zoom has been very openly shown to the public. I think it calls to question why the "on a phone" modifier has merit.
  • Reply 14 of 29
    kdarlingkdarling Posts: 1,640member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post



    It's easy now to say pinch to zoom is obvious, but again if it was so obvious why was the iPhone the first smartphone to feature it? Why didn't Samsung or LG or Nokia or BlackBerry have it before iPhone?




     


    Two finger zoom has been around since the beginning of multi-touch input in the early 1980s.  This is very well documented, and I presume you're not questioning that.


     


    As to why the iPhone was the first to feature it, we've been over this topic before:


     


    Other manufacturers were held back by legacy issues....  display sizes (some quite small), touchscreen and other input types, app compatibility.   None were willing to throw away their known customer base.  At least, not abruptly.  (Even after the iPhone came out, notice that others were at first only willing to add touch features to their current OS, not totally rewrite it.  The decision to drop their legacy OSes took longer and was more painful, costing them lots of faithful users.)


     


    Apple, having no legacy phones to worry about, could go with any paradigm they wished.  


     


    By late 2005 and early 2006, touchscreens and especially capacitive multi-touch screens, were all the rage in phone concepts from major companies like Black Box and Nokia (the Aeon).   In mid 2006, Synaptics even had a working demo model (the Onyx) that they showed everywhere, in hopes that manufacturers would adopt their technology.  


     


    By late 2006, even minor parties such as that Linux group, were publicly talking about using multitouch and pinch zoom (the Moko).  


     


     



     


    So it's not surprising that Apple was also interested in using the latest technology.  More importantly, they could do so because they were starting with a zero phone user base.


     


    Now, six years later, with millions of users, Apple itself is facing similar display/ input/ app legacy issues.  That's why they had to update so carefully (and oddly), first with brute force pixel doubling and then later, by simply adding some length to their phone screen.   They also are basically stuck with their single button paradigm, having the Back in the upper left, etc.  They cannot afford to make major UI changes at this point.


     


    I don't know what the next major paradigm shift will be, or who will do it, but it's a fair bet that it will again be a pain for every current manufacturer to either backfit or switch over to.


     


    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it - Santayana


     


    Cheers!

  • Reply 15 of 29


    Blah blah, natural progression, blah blah, everyone was femtoseconds away from doing it…


     


    I'm frigging sick of this nonsense.

  • Reply 16 of 29
    kdarlingkdarling Posts: 1,640member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


    Blah blah, natural progression, blah blah, everyone was femtoseconds away from doing it…



     


    Uh, no, that's the point...


     


    The other major manufacturers were not close to SELLING it... except perhaps with specialty devices... because of legacy issues with their core customer base (WinMo, Symbian, RIM, PalmOS) many of whom were business users at the time.   And businesses hate change.  Once more regular consumers came into the mix, then it was more likely.


     


    That is quite different from the demonstrably incorrect claim that no one else thought of doing it.  


     


    They simply had a different timeframe in mind, and it's why I'm glad that Apple came in and kicked everyone into bringing stuff out of R&D and into the market.  (I was an experienced mobile touch developer.  Apple instantly made me worth my weight in gold.  I love them for that :)


     


    Arguing who is "first' to do something is silly if everyone knows about a method, but simply hasn't sold it yet.   Was the iPhone the first phone to have apps, location services, 3G, MMS, video cam, notifications, etc?   Heck no.   In fact, it was missing all of those common smartphone features when it first came out.   It doesn't matter now, though, because it does.

  • Reply 17 of 29
    This is not new technology, my Galaxy S II, a model which is nearly three years old has this.
  • Reply 18 of 29


    Originally Posted by agk71 View Post

    This is not new technology, my Galaxy S II, a model which is nearly three years old has this.


     


    [Obligatory post where I ask the obvious question again, specifically to you, and await an answer.]

  • Reply 19 of 29
    kdarlingkdarling Posts: 1,640member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by agk71 View Post



    This is not new technology, my Galaxy S II, a model which is nearly three years old has this.


     


    You're probably talking about automatic brightness level depending on the ambient light.  (Unless perhaps they have a similar algorithm for AMOLEDs to lessen burnout.)


     


    This patent is for (also) changing the brightness based on the actual content being displayed.   More white = lower brightness.


     


    It's the same basic idea as the Automatic Brightness Limiter used on plasma screens, but applied to static pages as well.  


     


    Edit: no it's not.  I was fooled by the lead article post.   See explanation down below.

  • Reply 20 of 29
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    kdarling wrote: »
    <span style="font-size:13px;line-height:1.231;">Uh, no, that's the point...</span>


    <span style="font-size:13px;line-height:1.231;">The other major manufacturers were </span>
    <em style="font-size:13px;line-height:1.231;">not </em>
    <span style="font-size:13px;line-height:1.231;">close to SELLING it... except perhaps with specialty devices... because of legacy issues with their core customer base (WinMo, Symbian, RIM, PalmOS) many of whom were business users at the time.   And businesses hate change.  Once more regular consumers came into the mix, then it was more likely.</span>


    That is quite different from the demonstrably incorrect claim that no one else thought of doing it.  

    THINKING of doing it is totally irrelevant. Patents are awarded on the basis of reduction to practice. You can think of things all day, but if you don't reduce them to practice, it's not patentable (at least in theory - I'm sure the patent office occasionally makes mistakes).

    I'm not going to get into whether it was obvious or not because I'm not familiar enough with the technology to know. I do know, however, that your statement is false.
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