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Apple's Electronic Devices with Eye Gaze Detection Capabilities: Hey, for an iWatch?
Wearable Tech World Feature Article
June 05, 2013

Apple's Electronic Devices with Eye Gaze Detection Capabilities: Hey, for an iWatch?

By Tony Rizzo
TMCnet Senior Editor

The headline for this story is the title of a just filed Apple (News - Alert) patent application. The patent application was filed on May 30, 2013 and goes into a fair amount of detail on what exactly Apple might have up its sleeve. What is intriguing is that with Apple’s World Wide Developers’ Conference just around the corner, perhaps we can use it as a clue as to what Apple might be showing off next Monday.

Maybe it won’t be a fingerprint scanner after all. Perhaps it will prove to be eye scanning technology that will be able to deliver the same – though we would hope far superior – eye scanning capability such as has been introduced by Samsung (News - Alert) and LG. So far eye scanning tech sounds cool but in reality it has hardly worked with the easy aplomb that demos have shown us. At best the current stuff is finicky and in many cases is downright annoying – enough so that many people simply turn the feature off. We have yet to find a sweet spot that actually works for us with our Samsung Galaxy S4…yet. But we’ll keep trying.

Here are excerpts of the patent filing abstract itself:

An electronic device may have gaze detection capabilities that allow the device to detect when a user is looking at the device…When the device detects that the user has looked away from the device, the device may dim a display screen and may perform other suitable actions. The device may pause a video playback…The device may resume the video playback operation when the device detects that the user is looking towards the device. Gaze detector circuitry may be powered down when sensor data indicates that gazed detection readings will not be reliable or are not needed.

That sounds, on its face, like Samsung’s eye scanning tech.

But…and it is a big but…as much as we’re not really very interested in eye scanning for our smart phones, we are not completely sure we are that uninterested in, say, manipulating a wearable tech watch on our wrist with eye scanning tech. Now that in fact would be something extraordinarily useful to us! Perhaps a flick of the eye to one of the four corners of an iWatch screen might easily bring up collections of different functions – using completely hands-free eye gestures. Well, now we’re entering the realm of interesting possibilities!

There are 20 claims associated with the filing. Many of them have to do with conserving battery power, which we find quite interesting. Following the claims there are a number of general descriptions that apply. Here is one we are interested in:

·         To satisfy consumer demand for small form factor portable electronic devices, manufacturers are continually striving to reduce the size of components that are used in these devices. For example, manufacturers have made attempts to miniaturize the batteries used in portable electronic devices.

Yes, the above states the obvious perhaps, but it is interesting that a short time ago Apple was granted a patent for a curved battery. The existence of such a patent, coupled with a detailed patent filing describing all sorts of ways to ensure that power management is carefully controlled within an eye gazing context, begins to look to us like the makings of an iWatch with eye gazing capability. Admit it – that would be cool, and certainly more interesting than eye tracking technology for a smartphone.

A further extension of eye-gaze, eye-gesture iWatch control also suggests that it becomes possible to manipulate your iPhone (News - Alert) as it sits in your pocket. No need to pull it out – simply use the eye gaze technology and the iWatch to control everything.

Although the eye gazing patent application is new, it does not mean that we won’t be given some interesting things to mull over next week when WWDC kicks in.

The entire, detailed Apple eye gazing patent filing and the Apple curved battery filing are both available for your viewing pleasure. Do check them out – if you happen to uncover another possible angle for what Apple might be doing here, do share with us!

Edited by Jamie Epstein

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