Details published over the past week about patents from Microsoft, Google and Apple could shed some light on what these tech giants have in store for us.
Two patents relating to Microsoft have been published this week. The first, filed in March 2011, is for a "whack-based audio control module." In other words, hitting or slapping a phone to stop it from ringing. The idea, according to the patent filing, is that there are situations where there isn't time to interact with a phone's interface -- i.e. embarrassing situations when you thought the phone was on silent, but it wasn't. It could be argued that many people -- especially those who have been disturbed by the ringing -- already resort to those gestures in order to silence it.
The other patent could bring a new aspect to gaming, as long as you're got plenty of space or are prepared to move the furniture before starting. The patent describes a device that would project a peripheral image onto environmental surfaces so that users have a 360° game-playing experience. The device would take into consideration the size, shape and color of the room as well as any furniture to match the images to the player's surroundings. There is also a suggestion in the filing that it could be used in conjunction with 3D glasses.
The search giant who has been investing heavily in wearable technology has just had another ‘wearable' patent published, this time for a wristwatch with a touch screen and a second flip-up display. Though not clear, this screen could provide location-based augmented reality -- directions, advice or background about a product in the wearer's field of vision, etc. The other thing that isn't obvious from the filing is whether it would be a self-contained item or would need to connect to a smartphone or other device to function. However if it is to serve as a companion or an alternative to its Google Glasses, a wristwatch is a much more graceful and subtle solution to augmenting and informing your reality without people stopping and staring at you.
The world's most valuable company has also been busy. Of several recent patents that have been published, two seem much closer to coming to fruition in the coming months. The first is a patent published on Thursday but filed in March 2011 that details a set of hybrid headphones. They can connect with or without wires to a device and are aimed at people undertaking physical activity such as running or working out where cables tend to get in the way.
Another patent unearthed details a novel way to access the printing menu -- by shaking your iPhone or iPad. The patent details a raft of movement-based instructions for defining and canceling commands in Apple devices.