Apple patent outlines mobile app data sharing and collaboration over FaceTime

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2015
Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent for a method by which two or more mobile device users can share and interact with app data in real time, including the ability to see each other's screens during a FaceTime call.


Source: USPTO


As assigned by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,965,349 for "Interactive application sharing" includes provisions that allow multiple users to share and collaborate on projects in-app, much like Google's Web-based productivity services. Apple's invention adds in videoconferencing capabilities, however, making it a more personal collaboration tool.

Apple points out that existing mobile devices, like the iPhone and iPad, facilitate data sharing, but current solutions face a number of user experience obstacles. The document offers an example of sample drafts that might be emailed from one worker to another rather than shared in a single app. This disconnect costs time and in some cases money.

To bring back the human element, Apple imagines a system that allows users to share document data in a common app in real time, in some cases with screen and media sharing, or even live video. Screen sharing has become an everyday tool for many desktop computer users, but the technology has yet to make the jump to mobile.

As described in Apple's invention, a first user initiates a collaborative session with at least one other device, which in turn accepts to establish a wireless connection. The initiating device may host the session, providing screen and data updates to the second device over a suitable means of wireless communication.




The system allows for interactive application sharing, which transfers specific app data back and forth across an established wireless bridge. A standard user interface is not described, but the patent mentions app data can be overlaid on top of a FaceTime image, or vice versa. In some cases, the video feed can serve as a background for the iOS SpringBoard prior to selecting a common app for sharing.

While not described in the document text, one illustration shows what appears to be a mother reading "Winnie the Pooh" to their child from what is assumed to be a remote location. The scene is reminiscent of Apple's first FaceTime TV commercials that touted the ability to remotely connect to family from afar.

In some embodiments, users can elect to share data only when another type of communication is occurring between the two devices. For example, a host device can choose to limit data sharing to FaceTime calls, a protocol that already requires a substantial bandwidth cap. The idea is to piggy-back packetized data along with, or as part of, the videoconferencing feed over an established line of communication.




For security, users can set privacy designators to mark data private or public. As seen in the illustration above, a user may designate certain data to be "partially shared." In a calendaring app, for example, a first user can elect to share available times with a second user, while leaving event specifics obscured.

The remainder of Apple's patent discusses details relating to the proposed system's user interface, communications backend and operating workflow, among other minutiae.

It is unknown if Apple intends to bring a version of today's invention to market, but competitors like Google are already fielding similar real-time collaboration technology.

Apple's FaceTime collaboration patent was first filed for in January 2012 and credits Brandon Joseph Kieft and Catherine Rose Grevet as its inventors.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 11
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,990moderator
    A telePooh patent? Sweet!
  • Reply 2 of 11
    Boy, this would be perfect for homeschoolers and there are many business use cases that could be imagined... Heck, even gaming possibilities.
  • Reply 3 of 11
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,976member
    Great feature. Now, please add Conference FaceTime. That's a killing feature for enterprise. Forget about Net Meeting crap, probably WebEx too.
  • Reply 4 of 11
    fallenjt wrote: »
    Great feature. Now, please add Conference FaceTime. That's a killing feature for enterprise. Forget about Net Meeting crap, probably WebEx too.

    Yes, and tie the spatial audio panning to the position onscreen of the participants.
  • Reply 5 of 11
    When the hell are they going to bring multi-party video chat back???? IChat was actually a much better app than FaceTime. I used it all the time in my business.
  • Reply 6 of 11

    This is an excellent idea but they need to have this functionality work with OSX, not just between mobile devices(yeah, they're probably going to if they do it, but I just want to spell it out since I didn't see it mentioned in the article). That would be an excellent way to build on what they started with continuity and handoff. Assuming it works, in practice, as simply as continuity and handoff functionality has worked for us(and doesn't require new hardware), it eliminates even more pain points for us in our daily operation.

     

    It's funny to me how Apple has been quietly addressing the real day to day pain points of small businesses like mine, while seeming talking about the new functionality in a consumer context. Meanwhile, the other companies which are supposedly all about business, and talk about their products largely in a business context, keep putting out crap that requires IT departments and doesn't address any of our actual daily pain points.

  • Reply 7 of 11

    I have been hoping for something like this for a while, although I would like to see it work over WiFi.

     

    For example, I think it would be great if you could play a movie on one iPad/iPhone and have the same movie show up on other nearby iPad/iPhones at the same time so multiple people can watch together.  Imagine a family on a long car trip where each person has their own iPad/iPhone, being able to watch a movie together and listen to it over the car speakers, but each have their own screens.  Rather than everyone playing on their own with headphones in.

     

    Or being able to play a game as a group together, each on your own device.

     

    Pretty much just Airplay from one device to multiple other devices.

  • Reply 8 of 11
    fallenjtfallenjt Posts: 3,976member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by FreeRange View Post



    When the hell are they going to bring multi-party video chat back???? IChat was actually a much better app than FaceTime. I used it all the time in my business.

    Uh..."When the hell are they going to bring multi-party video chat back?" Apple never had that before to bring back. iChat is stand alone app, not like FactTime which's integrated app which can seamlessly switch from regular call, FT audio to video. When people like you bring up something like iChat, Tango or Viber to compare with FaceTime, I just want to laugh.

  • Reply 9 of 11
    freerange wrote: »
    When the hell are they going to bring multi-party video chat back???? IChat was actually a much better app than FaceTime. I used it all the time in my business.

    I miss multi-party video conferences also. Google's video chat is so-so at best.
  • Reply 10 of 11
    fallenjt wrote: »
    Uh..."When the hell are they going to bring multi-party video chat back?" Apple never had that before to bring back. iChat is stand alone app, not like FactTime which's integrated app which can seamlessly switch from regular call, FT audio to video. When people like you bring up something like iChat, Tango or Viber to compare with FaceTime, I just want to laugh.

    WTF kind of reasoning is that? iChat, an app that was part of OS X, just like FaceTime is an app that is part of OS X, had "multi-party video chat" and FaceTime doesn't. Saying the "multi-party video chat" feature of iChat never existed because FaceTime on Yosemite now has a Handoff feature with iOS 8 on the iPhone is ridiculous.

    I miss multi-party video conferences also. Google's video chat is so-so at best.

    Hopefully that will come back, especially as the Apple TV evolves into a more diverse product. HEVC would allow for the video streams to be smaller (assuming that is the common bottleneck, not the real-time encoding and decoding of HEVC.
  • Reply 11 of 11
    Of course Apple will do this, and of course it%u2019ll do group videoconferencing, screen-sharing, etc. before long. But the most important question is whether it%u2019ll be better than Skype, which would be a godsend. Skype%u2019s usually OK 1-to-1, but with groups it%u2019s often terribly frustrating, with lost connections, stuttering and such. While some of this is probably due to users%u2019 bandwidth, OS and app structure likely play a role, too. Hardware%u2019s a question, too. Limiting it to iOS and MacOS devices, like FaceTime is now, might ensure better performance; opening it up to Windows, etc. would enlarge the user base, but might degrade performance. I%u2019m anxious to see how this develops.
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