Interesting new patents show Apple’s next step to improve accessibility

The US Patent and Trademark has published two new Apple patent application with very interesting implications for the company’s future endeavors to improve accessibility in its devices. The first is a totally new unlock interface, which would require the user to correctly state an object (or objects) in an image before the device proceeds to its home screen.

To prevent the possibility that a pesky opportunist thief may see your unlock method, the interface would contain a number of user-defined objects, with precise identifying words. The mechanism would also require authentication data to ensure that its unlock-er is in-fact the owner of the device.

This has been proposed as a replacement/second option to the usual passcode that iOS devices use. One scenario that Apple noted was that a picture of a person would appear on the display, followed by a list of names. The user must use the typical ‘slide to unlock’ motion to select a name, and unlock the iPad, iPod or iPhone (see above picture). One of the pros for this method over using a passcode is that there would be no need to memorize, and risk forgetting a four digit number, as you would know the question’s answer immediately.

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The other of the recently published applications is Apple’s idea for automatic hearing aid detection. The proposition states that the technology would make use of proximity sensor and a magnetic field sensor to discover whether its user is wearing a hearing aid, then adjust the device’s settings accordingly, without the need for human intervention.

Apple’s reasoning for such a feature is the fact that many iPhone users share their device, so if one of these users has impaired hearing, they shouldn’t have to change settings to accommodate their disability.

The detection system would make the iOS device change the sound frequencies it produces to suit those that are better detected by the user’s hearing aid.

Unlike most of the patents we see, I imagine that the chance of seeing these features on an upcoming device from Apple is really quite high, as they would increase the product’s ability to accommodate the disabled, but without the need for extra bulk or a change in design. Plus, let’s not forget that the Apple community has been begging for some substantial updates to iOS in its next update, and the question-based unlock system could be something Apple has in store for us in its iOS 7 software.


Via: Apple Insider 

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  • The problem with that kind of unlocking is that a thief may luckily guess an answer to unlock your phone (if you give them a multiple choice question). I’m sure it’s optional and we’ll see how this turns up
    The other problem is if you don’t want your friends to be playing around with your phone. Since most friends know each other, this means everyone can unlock each others’ phones :)