Apple Watch 'particle cloud' pairing method likely revealed in new patent

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 2015
Lost amidst a sea of flashy hardware technologies introduced with Apple Watch was a new image-based pairing technique distinguished by a "particle cloud" effect. On Tuesday, Apple received a patent detailing what appears to be the bedrock of this unique pairing procedure, hinting at its use in future products.




The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded Apple sequential U.S. Patent Nos. 9,022,291 and 9,022,292, both titled "Invisible optical label for transmitting information between computing devices," laying the foundation for machine readable codes like those seen with Apple Watch. Specifically, the invention outlines a method by which data-rich optical labels are encoded and decoded in a manner imperceptible to end users.

According to the patent, an optical label is used to transmit data from one electronic device to another, much like quick response codes (QR codes) that are themselves descendants of UPC barcodes. In fact, Apple's invention supports traditional 2D machine readable schemes, but applies a display process that makes the matrices invisible against a static or dynamic background.


Source: USPTO


The invention relies heavily on human pyschovisual perception. By encoding and coloring a specific portion of a matrix in two alternating frames, Apple can control how a user perceives that area's temporal chrominance, or essentially the color of the picture.

For example, first and second portions of frame A are encoded using two colors, perhaps blue and magenta. Third and forth portions generated on frame B correspond to the first and second portions of frame A are applied opposing colors orange and green. Alternating between the two frames, the temporal average equates to a lack of color, or gray. To ensure chroma space changes go unnoticed, frames alternate at frequencies of 60 fps to 120 fps and beyond.




Assigning temporal averages selectively across a matrix allows it to blend in with a variety of background images, from icons to wallpapers. For example, a portion of the alternating frames can be encoded to output a temporal average of blue to match the blue section of an image, while another area may correspond to an orange section.

Since the human eye is more sensitive to changes in luminance, or brightness, than chrominance, color changes to the specially encoded optical label will likely go unnoticed. For an imaging sensor, however, chrominance changes are easily distinguishable. By capturing encoded frames at a different rate than what is being displayed by a transmitting device, a recipient device is able to to pick out the underlying matrix for decoding and processing.

Finally, displaying matrices in alternating frames enables embeds in moving images, a major departure from static black-and-white or color QR codes.




It looks like Apple already applied its newly granted patent with Apple Watch. As seen in the image at the top of this article, Apple is using a visual pairing method to link Watch with iPhone. During the setup process, owners are instructed to use an iPhone to capture images of a dynamically generated optical code -- resembling a roiling Oort cloud -- displayed on their Watch.

As Apple's invention is designed to trick the human eye, it is difficult to prove inclusion in Apple Watch's pairing process. Taking the shipping version's pairing speed, accuracy and sophistication into account, however, Apple's invisible optical label technology seems like a good fit.

Apple's invisible optical label patents were filed for in July 2014 and credit Rudolph van der Merwe and Samuel G. Noble as inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    leavingthebiggleavingthebigg Posts: 1,151member
    When I paired my iPhone and Apple Watch, I thought of a camera app Apple provided developers back in 2010. The app was named iCone and recognized shapes and colors. Using that camera technology along with AirDrop technology (using Bluetooth), the iPhone and Apple Watch communicated with each other for the pairing. I think the Apple Watch is periodically sending out a Bluetooth signal to recognize other Bluetooth enabled devices to communicate with.

    To me, this patent seems to be something different... Something in the realm of 3D, virtual reality. I see an Apple app that scans an environment and recognizes encoded information that once decoded can be used to display information on Apple devices. Indoor mapping, treasure hunts, guided tours, furniture shopping, etc.

    I did get a nervous feeling reading about encoded information that the human eye cannot see though. Even though the eye cannot "see" the information, the information is there and can be recognized on a subconscious level. That felt Orwellian to me.
  • Reply 2 of 21
    rob bonnerrob bonner Posts: 232member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by leavingthebigG View Post





    I did get a nervous feeling reading about encoded information that the human eye cannot see though. Even though the eye cannot "see" the information, the information is there and can be recognized on a subconscious level. That felt Orwellian to me.

    Don't worry, I am sure they coded a 'Don't sweat it' message in there also, so all good.

  • Reply 3 of 21
    leavingthebiggleavingthebigg Posts: 1,151member
    rob bonner wrote: »
    Don't worry, I am sure they coded a 'Don't sweat it' message in there also, so all good.

    Thanks!

    While reading the actual patent, I learned I was on target with Bluetooth and AirDrop, but off target with the 3D, virtual reality stuff. Oh well.
  • Reply 4 of 21
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,191member
    Theoretically file or photo data could be represented similarly as a seemingly random swirl of dense data for faster transfers between devices via the camera.

    I could also see this as an in-person method for anonymous and secure funds transfer, a la Bitcoin or other blockchain-based transactions, including private contracts. Avoiding the Internet, email or texting ensures greater security and privacy.
  • Reply 5 of 21
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 19,223member
    The 'particle cloud' pairing did not work for me during set up.

    But set-up was easy and smooth nonetheless.
  • Reply 6 of 21
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,303member

    I did get a nervous feeling reading about encoded information that the human eye cannot see though. Even though the eye cannot "see" the information, the information is there and can be recognized on a subconscious level. That felt Orwellian to me.

    I hope it is saying 'Buy AAPL now' every few seconds ;)
  • Reply 7 of 21
    ericthehalfbeeericthehalfbee Posts: 4,078member
    This is what separates Apple from other companies. I think of CurrentC as a prime example. Instead of coming up with something secure (considering they're dealing with customer data and funds), they use chose to use those stupid QR codes.
  • Reply 8 of 21
    rwesrwes Posts: 167member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by EricTheHalfBee View Post



    This is what separates Apple from other companies. I think of CurrentC as a prime example. Instead of coming up with something secure (considering they're dealing with customer data and funds), they use chose to use those stupid QR codes.

     

    So true (about the separation). Were the watches being paired via QR codes, for example, I could see someone generating a QR code with the data encoded to possibly pair their phone with the watch of someone near by? Something as simple as messing with friends... or something a lot more sinister. (Can an Apple Watch be paired with multiple phones though?)

     

    Generating a QR code is a hell of a lot easier then an animated 'particle cloud' rendering generated on the fly, probably containing/encoding data (time/location/device orientation) that's being constantly updated and validated.

  • Reply 9 of 21
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by leavingthebigG View Post



    I did get a nervous feeling reading about encoded information that the human eye cannot see though. Even though the eye cannot "see" the information, the information is there and can be recognized on a subconscious level. That felt Orwellian to me.

     

    Nothing to worry about, move along.

     

  • Reply 10 of 21
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,599member
    Theoretically file or photo data could be represented similarly as a seemingly random swirl of dense data for faster transfers between devices via the camera.

    I could also see this as an in-person method for anonymous and secure funds transfer, a la Bitcoin or other blockchain-based transactions, including private contracts. Avoiding the Internet, email or texting ensures greater security and privacy.

    I can not remember the movie, but in the movie information was being moved about using embedded information in a picture. A person looking at the photo could not tell there was hidden information until the image was digitized and then translated was the information finally reveal. This is kind of what Apple is doing embedding information in a picture of sorts.

    Honestly. patents should not be granted on things which Hollywood thought up first in a movie. Like cell phones, the inventor of the cell phone publicly stated he got the idea from watch Star Trek back in the 60"s
  • Reply 11 of 21
    rwesrwes Posts: 167member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post





    I can not remember the movie, but in the movie information was being moved about using embedded information in a picture. A person looking at the photo could not tell there was hidden information until the image was digitized and then translated was the information finally reveal. This is kind of what Apple is doing embedding information in a picture of sorts.



    Honestly. patents should not be granted on things which Hollywood thought up first in a movie. Like cell phones, the inventor of the cell phone publicly stated he got the idea from watch Star Trek back in the 60"s

     

    But an idea and its actual implementation, I would argue, are two totally separate things though. Not in defense of, but just as a distinction, there is a big enough difference in the patent that Apple has been granted (& not assuming that you're saying its should not have been granted), and the method in which a static image could be digitized and 'read'. Nothing is going to prevent someone else from encoding information into a pictures (static or not) (because to your point, it's been done before).

     

    Just thought of this: at some point in Skyfall (Bond Film) there is the the scene where they were looking at what seemed like a mismosh of information (was it like a 'particle cloud' of sorts as well?) and it ends up being a 3D map of the London (?) tube system?

     

    A walkie talkie vs a cell phone? Cell (tower based) vs. (short/long wave) radio?

     

    Just one persons opinion.

  • Reply 12 of 21
    konqerrorkonqerror Posts: 685member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post



    Honestly. patents should not be granted on things which Hollywood thought up first in a movie. Like cell phones, the inventor of the cell phone publicly stated he got the idea from watch Star Trek back in the 60"s

     

    They had car phones and handie-talkies from the 30's. Did Star Trek show a system in which low power cells reuse frequencies, and the cell phone is dynamically handed off between cells? Did Star Trek show a voice communication system where the cell towers communicate on an embedded data channel to the handset, controlling when the phone is handed off? Did Star Trek show a telephone system where cell towers send all calls to a central mobile telephone switching office, which switches the voice path between towers, allowing calls to travel over wide areas without being dropped? Did Star Trek show a telephone system where idle phones listen to a control channel that is shared over a subset of the cells for incoming calls?

     

    The cell phone isn't so obvious, is it now? Clearly it was a Hollywood idea.

    This is the problem with laypeople talking about patents. They don't understand how hard it is to make technology work.

  • Reply 13 of 21
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,510member
    konqerror wrote: »
    They had car phones and handie-talkies from the 30's. Did Star Trek show a system in which low power cells reuse frequencies, and the cell phone is dynamically handed off between cells? Did Star Trek show a voice communication system where the cell towers communicate on an embedded data channel to the handset, controlling when the phone is handed off? Did Star Trek show a telephone system where cell towers send all calls to a central mobile telephone switching office, which switches the voice path between towers, allowing calls to travel over wide areas without being dropped? Did Star Trek show a telephone system where idle phones listen to a control channel that is shared over a subset of the cells for incoming calls?

    The cell phone isn't so obvious, is it now? Clearly it was a Hollywood idea.
    This is the problem with laypeople talking about patents. They don't understand how hard it is to make technology work.

    What's a layperson?
  • Reply 14 of 21
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    I did get a nervous feeling reading about encoded information that the human eye cannot see though. Even though the eye cannot "see" the information, the information is there and can be recognized on a subconscious level. That felt Orwellian to me.

    im not so sure about the science behind that notion. im of the impression that there is no way you can perceive the embedded barcode or whatever it is.
  • Reply 15 of 21
    kenlileskenliles Posts: 28member
    @maestro64
    "I can not remember the movie, but in the movie information was being moved about using embedded information in a picture."

    movie Contact used this to imbed information in video image
  • Reply 16 of 21
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    maestro64 wrote: »
    Honestly. patents should not be granted on things which Hollywood thought up first in a movie. Like cell phones, the inventor of the cell phone publicly stated he got the idea from watch Star Trek back in the 60"s

    er, no...it's not the ideas that get patented ("flying car"), it's the implementation of how it works that gets patented (details of your anti-grav propulsion engine).

    just dreaming up some shit and declaring it prior art doesnt hold any water. ideas are free...ideas are the easy part. implementation is the hard part.
  • Reply 17 of 21
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,191member
    maestro64 wrote: »
    I can not remember the movie, but in the movie information was being moved about using embedded information in a picture. A person looking at the photo could not tell there was hidden information until the image was digitized and then translated was the information finally reveal. This is kind of what Apple is doing embedding information in a picture of sorts.

    Honestly. patents should not be granted on things which Hollywood thought up first in a movie. Like cell phones, the inventor of the cell phone publicly stated he got the idea from watch Star Trek back in the 60"s

    You may be thinking of the movie Contact, in which a video signal contained 3-D instructions to help build an interdimensional travel device.
  • Reply 18 of 21
    markdomarkdo Posts: 18member
    Makes me wonder about the entire universe, encoded with information that our human senses cannot perceive.
  • Reply 19 of 21
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Flaneur View Post



    What's a layperson?



    A prostitute.

  • Reply 20 of 21
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by markdo View Post



    Makes me wonder about the entire universe, encoded with information that our human senses cannot perceive.



    The universe is a giant quantum computer.

    The answer is 42.

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