Apple's angled camera concept could enable virtual keyboard docks

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2015
Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent for a new type of camera that could capture images at indirect angles --?a concept that the company says could be used to enable projected, virtual keyboards on any flat surface.




In the newly awarded invention, published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple states that electronic devices often have front and rear cameras, but that these cameras are normally fixed in a direction perpendicular to the surface they're embedded in. This makes them impractical for recording some subjects.

The iPhone maker's proposed solution, a patent entitled "Camera Accessory for Angled Camera Viewing," would use a system of reflectors to bounce light into the camera lens, and might attach via methods like magnets, clamps, a suction cup, or even removable adhesive. Apple also suggests the possibility of using rotational mechanisms or fiber bundles in the accessory's construction.

Apple further offers the possibility of using a stand. Significantly, a featured diagram depicts an iPad-sized device sitting in a dock that can image both a person's face and their hands, the latter for detecting input from a person's fingers, for instance when typing on a projected virtual keyboard.

Apple originally applied for the patent in September of 2012. It is credited to a single inventor, Nicholas G.L. Merz, and is officially identified as U.S. Patent No. 9,154,677.

The invention isn't the only interest Apple has shown in virtual keyboard and input methods. AppleInsider also detailed another patent earlier this year that would use a 3D camera system to allow users to type in the air, without the need for a surface to place their fingertips.

Apple's interest in virtual input methods led the company to acquire Israeli 3D sensor firm PrimeSense in 2013. Though PrimeSense technology has yet to appear in any Apple products in obvious ways, the company's creations are perhaps most famous for powering the first-generation Kinect sensor for Microsoft's Xbox 360.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,594member
    I am not sure about typing in the air, although it would be very entertaining to see some geek wearing Glass type spectacles typing in the air on the subway :) . The idea of a virtual keyboard is potentially great. It is years since I suggested one day we'd be able to place our iPhone in a stand and have a keyboard projected in front and a monitor projected on the back (wall?). I was promptly told by someone here why this was not possible, and possibly it still isn't, but I like the idea, nonetheless.
  • Reply 1 of 23
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 30,989member
    Meh. The laser projected keyboard has been out for quite some time and it still looks like a bad compromise in terms of capabilities. I'd much rather have a real keyboard for serious amounts of typing.
  • Reply 3 of 23
    jasenj1jasenj1 Posts: 912member

    See https://www.playosmo.com/en/

    It sounds like Osmo already does what this invention claims.

     

    We have one and my daughter really enjoys the "Masterpiece" app.

  • Reply 4 of 23
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,594member
    Meh. The laser projected keyboard has been out for quite some time and it still looks like a bad compromise in terms of capabilities. I'd much rather have a real keyboard for serious amounts of typing.

    Nothing will replace the keyboard for 'serious amount of typing'. Like no tablet will replace the traditional computer (laptop or desk top) for 'serious computer work', and electric commuter cars will never replace pro grade trucks for the kind of work those trucks are designed to do. I thought we had established this a long time ago. And then again repeatedly.
  • Reply 5 of 23
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    paxman wrote: »
    I am not sure about typing in the air, although it would be very entertaining to see some geek wearing Glass type spectacles typing in the air on the subway :) . The idea of a virtual keyboard is potentially great. It is years since I suggested one day we'd be able to place our iPhone in a stand and have a keyboard projected in front and a monitor projected on the back (wall?). I was promptly told by someone here why this was not possible, and possibly it still isn't, but I like the idea, nonetheless.

    it wasn't possible when you suggested it. that this will one day change doesn't negate that person's statement of what was possible.

    whether it is a good idea is another question altogether.
  • Reply 6 of 23
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member
    Apple patents a lot of stuff. Most they never intend to use.
  • Reply 7 of 23
    I use the iPad keyboard a lot. You can get a good speed on it. The trouble with it is that being a flat unyielding surface it can be hard on the fingers. A proper keyboard is always the best option for me.
  • Reply 8 of 23
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    jasenj1 wrote: »
    See https://www.playosmo.com/en/
    It sounds like Osmo already does what this invention claims.

    We have one and my daughter really enjoys the "Masterpiece" app.

    not the same implementation, thus it being a different patent, even if the idea is similar.
  • Reply 9 of 23
    nolamacguynolamacguy Posts: 4,758member
    nagromme wrote: »
    Apple patents a lot of stuff. Most they never intend to use.

    I think there's a difference between intending not to use something, and tucking it away for when/if there's an appropriate time to use it.
  • Reply 10 of 23
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,161member
    paxman wrote: »
    I am not sure about typing in the air, although it would be very entertaining to see some geek wearing Glass type spectacles typing in the air on the subway :) . The idea of a virtual keyboard is potentially great. It is years since I suggested one day we'd be able to place our iPhone in a stand and have a keyboard projected in front and a monitor projected on the back (wall?). I was promptly told by someone here why this was not possible, and possibly it still isn't, but I like the idea, nonetheless.

    You have obviously never played around in Second Life. ;)

  • Reply 11 of 23
    jasenj1jasenj1 Posts: 912member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by NolaMacGuy View Post



    not the same implementation, thus it being a different patent, even if the idea is similar.



    "The iPhone maker's proposed solution, a patent entitled "Camera Accessory for Angled Camera Viewing," would use a system of reflectors to bounce light into the camera lens, and might attach via methods like magnets, clamps, a suction cup, or even removable adhesive."

     

    This is exactly what the Osmo is. It's a mirror in a housing that hangs on the top of an iPad. 

     

    "Apple further offers the possibility of using a stand."

     

    For the Osmo, the iPad sits in a stand holding it vertical so the camera can see the area in front of the iPad.

  • Reply 12 of 23
    jasenj1jasenj1 Posts: 912member

    I think this is the key difference between Apple's patent and the Osmo:

    "A camera accessory configured to be mounted over first and second cameras in an electronic device having an electronic device housing, wherein the electronic device housing has first and second opposing sides, the camera accessory comprising: a camera accessory housing; a first reflector in the camera accessory housing that is configured to reflect light for the first camera to point a portion of a field of view of the first camera in a first off-axis direction; a second reflector in the camera accessory housing that is configured to reflect light for the second camera to point a portion of a field of view of the second camera in a second off-axis direction;"

     

    So it is not an accessory that deals with a single camera - like the Osmo. But an accessory that interacts with two cameras, one on each side of the device.

     

    I think I shall submit a patent for a device that interacts with three cameras!

  • Reply 13 of 23
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by paxman View Post





    Nothing will replace the keyboard for 'serious amount of typing'. Like no tablet will replace the traditional computer (laptop or desk top) for 'serious computer work', and electric commuter cars will never replace pro grade trucks for the kind of work those trucks are designed to do. I thought we had established this a long time ago. And then again repeatedly.



    Dictation and predictive typing will very much replace the keyboard. Also, over the next 10 years, laptop and desktop hardware will be all but non-existent. The cloud has already made huge strides to see that productivity will be handled off-site. Companies like Adobe are already in the process of making their productivity tools fully cloud based. Meaning, all you will need is input devices, a screen, and a network connection. All the processing is done server side. For a time, World of Warcraft had the option to run strictly as a client. You could essentially stream the full game using crap hardware.

  • Reply 14 of 23
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,979member
    tommy0guns wrote: »
    paxman wrote: »
    Nothing will replace the keyboard for 'serious amount of typing'. Like no tablet will replace the traditional computer (laptop or desk top) for 'serious computer work', and electric commuter cars will never replace pro grade trucks for the kind of work those trucks are designed to do. I thought we had established this a long time ago. And then again repeatedly.


    Dictation and predictive typing will very much replace the keyboard. Also, over the next 10 years, laptop and desktop hardware will be all but non-existent. The cloud has already made huge strides to see that productivity will be handled off-site. Companies like Adobe are already in the process of making their productivity tools fully cloud based. Meaning, all you will need is input devices, a screen, and a network connection. All the processing is done server side. For a time, World of Warcraft had the option to run strictly as a client. You could essentially stream the full game using crap hardware.

    I don't think so. As long as people type out personal, and very sensitive material the keyboard will exist.
  • Reply 15 of 23
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post





    I don't think so. As long as people type out personal, and very sensitive material the keyboard will exist.



    As hardware though? I've seen people type near 60 wpm on a virtual keyboard. Even coding software, arguably the most keyboard intensive task, is relying less on alpha-numerics, in favor of gestures. Plus in a world of customization and preference, the ability to change input methods on the fly is almost a necessity. Show me an emoji on a physical keyboard. Keeping a niche design because you might get a theoretical 1% increase in production is a poor trade off. Physical keyboards left the cell phone even though we all agree it's more comfortable. Design wise, it lost. Laptop/desktop keyboards are soon to follow.

  • Reply 16 of 23
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,594member
    tommy0guns wrote: »

    Dictation and predictive typing will very much replace the keyboard. Also, over the next 10 years, laptop and desktop hardware will be all but non-existent. The cloud has already made huge strides to see that productivity will be handled off-site. Companies like Adobe are already in the process of making their productivity tools fully cloud based. Meaning, all you will need is input devices, a screen, and a network connection. All the processing is done server side. For a time, World of Warcraft had the option to run strictly as a client. You could essentially stream the full game using crap hardware.

    Back to the thin client idea. Makes sense to me but I can't see media work being done on a cloud based system for the foreseeable future. To edit a video, or create a graphic campaign (or just about anything at all, for that matter), in a graphics software package is unlikely to ever happen. I also struggle to see when this kind of work will ever be entirely cloud based.
  • Reply 17 of 23
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,594member
    nolamacguy wrote: »
    it wasn't possible when you suggested it. that this will one day change doesn't negate that person's statement of what was possible.

    whether it is a good idea is another question altogether.
    Yes, it probably isn't realistically possible even now. It is a fancy idea - one of those that pop up when you try and device the perfect system in your head. ;)
  • Reply 18 of 23
    jasenj1 wrote: »
    I think this is the key difference between Apple's patent and the Osmo:
    "A camera accessory configured to be mounted over first and second cameras in an electronic device having an electronic device housing, wherein the electronic device housing has first and second opposing sides, the camera accessory comprising: a camera accessory housing; a first reflector in the camera accessory housing that is configured to reflect light for the first camera to point a portion of a field of view of the first camera in a first off-axis direction; a second reflector in the camera accessory housing that is configured to reflect light for the second camera to point a portion of a field of view of the second camera in a second off-axis direction;"

    So it is not an accessory that deals with a single camera - like the Osmo. But an accessory that interacts with two cameras, one on each side of the device.

    I think I shall submit a patent for a device that interacts with three cameras!

    Or just make the entire surface of whatever is being typed on a camera.
  • Reply 19 of 23
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,594member
    sog35 wrote: »
    This won't always be true.

    I remember the early days of the laptop and people said the laptop would never replace serious computing on desktops.

    Tablets will be able to fully replace laptops eventually.  The big barrier is input. They need to make 'keyboards' on tablets that give feedback so you can type by touch.
    Tablets may replace laptops. I just don't know. I just think it is a little early to say yet. I think input is the important but in the future any input could probably be hooked up to a tablet. For me it is all about screen size. There are many environments where the tablet portability just isn't required and where screen real estate is critical. Anywhere where a multi monitor set-up is desirable or as in my case, where a 27" monitor comes in handy most days.

    But who knows where tablets will go. I have been toying with the idea of switching to a Mac Mini with a monitor at my home office and the same at my work office. But there are so many ways of achieving pretty much the same thing so I perpetually vacillate and never act :(
  • Reply 20 of 23
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by paxman View Post





    Back to the thin client idea. Makes sense to me but I can't see media work being done on a cloud based system for the foreseeable future. To edit a video, or create a graphic campaign (or just about anything at all, for that matter), in a graphics software package is unlikely to ever happen. I also struggle to see when this kind of work will ever be entirely cloud based.



    Media work is the ultimate concept for cloud. Consider editing video. The number one bottleneck for video production is rendering. This often takes hours and even days on some of the most high end home desktops. Now imagine using the same hardware that was used for Avatar. You could get the same result in a fraction of the time. You upload the raw footage to the cloud, edit it in real time on the remote servers, render it, and download it or serve it up from the cloud. The user NEVER needs to update any hardware since it's all server side. This IS the essence of cloud computing. Getting the same result, no matter the platform. Google itself is entirely cloud. You can search their entire database in nano-seconds from your refrigerator, car touch screen, or watch...and get exactly the same result. The only thing you need is a connection. The same with online multi-player games. Your computer keeps some basic info and textures, but the intense data crunching is all done in a giant warehouse somewhere. 

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