A new piece of technology unearthed on Tuesday shows Apple has developed iPhone technology that automatically shuts off texting capabilities when it is determined that a user is driving, helping to mitigate potential accidents resulting from in-car distractions.
With Apple's automotive projects — Car Play and Siri Eyes Free — rolling out in more vehicles throughout the year, the company has been beefing up its in-car technology suite. A document discovered on Tuesday, however, shows Apple's "iOS in the car" initiatives go back much further than iOS 7.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Apple U.S. Patent No. 8,706,143 for "Driver handheld computing device lock-out," a system that intelligently determines whether a device user is driving and shuts off distracting phone functions accordingly.
There are two main embodiments to Apple's invention. The first concentrates on a lock-out mechanism that requires no input from a vehicle and instead uses on-board sensors to determine when a user is driving. In the second embodiment, the car is able to transmit blocking signals to an iPhone, effectively stopping a user from receiving and sending texts, or using other smartphone functions while in the driver's seat.
Without input from the car, an iPhone relies on data from a motion analyzer and a scenery analyzer to trigger a lock-out mechanism. As described, accelerometers, cameras, light sensors, GPS receivers and other sensing components can be deployed to harness raw data.
The motion analyzer monitors device speed up to a certain threshold that, when reached, is indicative of a car in motion. Making the system more accurate is data from an iPhone's GPS and accelerometer, which can be used to discern whether a user is walking, running or in a moving motor vehicle.
The scenery analyzer is more complicated in that some embodiments require image acquisition and processing to determine when a device holder is in a "safe" or "unsafe" operating area. For example, the analyzer algorithm may find that a user is in the driver's seat by analyzing a photo or video that shows one face and a steering wheel.
Alternatively, if the analyzer sees two faces, one in the driver's seat and another in the passenger or rear seat, the device may be classified as in a "safe area." Further, an accelerometer can be used to ensure the person holding the device does not pan away from the driving cockpit to avoid analysis.
Once recognition and analysis are complete, the lock-out
Apple has released its latest commercial, and it’s a doozy.
Called “Better,” the ad (which is narrated by Tim Cook) refers to Apple’s work in terms of its environmental efforts — describing the company’s push to reduce its carbon footprint, conserve resources, and inspire others to follow suit.
The text of the ad is reproduced below:
Better. It’s a powerful word, and a powerful idea. It makes us look at the world and want more than anything to change it for the better. To innovate, improve, to reinvent, to make it better. It’s in our DNA. And ‘better’ can’t be better if it doesn’t consider everything: our products, our values, and an even stronger commitment to the environment for our future. To use greener materials, less packaging. To do everything we can to keep our products out of landfills. Changes that will benefit people as well as the planet.
To us, better is a force of nature. It drives us to build things we never imagined. New data centers powered by the sun and wind. A new manufacturing facility that runs on 100% clean energy. And new product designs that make use of recycled materials. All ways to reduce our impact on the environment. We have a long way to go, and a lot to learn. But now more than ever we will work to leave the world better than we found it. And make the tools that inspire others to do the same.
The spot comes ahead of tomorrow’s Earth Day, which Apple will celebrate for the first time in eight years. To mark the occasion, Apple will cover its Apple Store logos with green, while employes at some stores will be given Earth Day shirts to wear.
Tim Cook has been outspoken about environmental change during his stint as Apple CEO, talking about his desire to make Apple “a force for good” in the world.
Considering Apple scored last in a Greenpeace report about green-friendly data centers just a few years ago, it’s symptomatic of a major turnaround.
Although the company definitely took it’s time getting there.
Come July 1, Mac users running various older versions of OS X won’t have the ability to use their mac.com and me.com addresses to log into the AOL Instant Messaging service via iChat.
Apple says that users who want to take advantage of the service must upgrade to at least OS X Lion 10.7.2.
If users are unable to upgrade for whatever reason, they’ll need to create completely new AIM IDs from the AOL site. This means rebuilding Buddy lists from scratch, and removing the old ID from the iChat preferences.
As with every aspect of its software — iOS and OS X — Apple tends to be quite successful at getting its users to upgrade to the latest available version. However, while more than half of Mac users are running OS X Maverick, according to Net Applications’ Net Market Share counter, the proportion of users likely to be affected by this transition still adds up to 19% — almost one in every five users.
Apple's flagship Fifth Avenue store is now powered entirely by renewable energy.
Nearly half of Apple's 254 retail stores in the U.S. — including flagship locations in Palo Alto, Chicago, and New York — are said to be powered entirely by energy from renewable sources, part of the company's plan to cast a wider net with its environmental initiatives.
News of Apple's retail milestone comes on the heels of a Greenpeace report that named the company "the most innovative and most aggressive" in Silicon Valley on the subject of environmental concerns. The disclosure was made as part of a Wired interview with Apple environmental chief Lisa Jackson.
Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple has reportedly made expanding its green energy footprint to more retail outlets a top priority in 2014, though it is not likely to be as simple as its widely-publicized datacenter efforts. Most of Apple's retail stores are located in shopping malls, so the company must work alongside utility providers who do not always offer green options.
Apple does have a history of success in such negotiations, however. Lobbying efforts from Apple, Google, and Facebook are credited with forcing major U.S. utility Duke Energy to adopt a clean energy purchase program from which Apple draws power for its Maiden, N.C. datacenter.
Alongside its retail and datacenter moves, Apple is also making efforts to revamp its supply chain. The company has reevaluated the way it accounts for the emissions generated by the mining of aluminum, for instance, and Jackson said that the iPhone maker is looking at a number of options for advancement but is careful not to harm the consumer experience.
"When I was at EPA I always told people that if you're looking for an administrator who camps out and only eats what she kills, you've got the wrong girl," Jackson said. "I grew up in the city. I don't sleep outside. I wear makeup. So I'm not one of those people who believe that environment should feel like a sacrifice. I do feel that we should challenge the most innovative company—which I think Apple is-to do everything it wants, but do it better. To give you all the data you could possibly want, but none of the emissions that go along with it."
Tactus Technology is a startup that has developed an accessory that can create transparent keyboard buttons on top of a touchscreen display. The company is working with Taiwan-based Wistron, Business Insider reports, to manufacture such a keyboard case accessory for the iPad, which should start shipping later this year.
The cases, which will cost between $80 and $100, will work with help of a liquid that forms the physical buttons when such a feature is needed. The cases have two components, including a thin display layer that looks like a screen protector, but allows fluid to pass through it, and a hard-shell backing which will supposedly store the liquid in addition to protecting the device. With a push of a button, the liquid can fill the areas of the screen where the virtual keyboard is located, creating transparent buttons on top of them.
The technology would allow the companies to come up with accessories for other devices including Android tablets and smartphones. Moreover, Wistron could pack the tech into future devices by replacing the Gorilla Glass screen with a Tactus display that allows micro fluids to flow through it. Such devices could arrive next year.
“[Craig] Ciesla and his co-founder Micah Yairi came up with the idea for Tactus in 2008 when Yairi was working with a company making micro-fluids for medical devices,” the publication wrote. “Ciesla, who had always used a BlackBerry, had troubling typing with the recently released iPhone’s touch-screen and longed for his keyboard back. The pair decided to try to see if they could use micro-fluids to create a dynamic keyboard. Six years later, they’re ready to ship their first product.”
A GIF image and a video showing how the technology would work on various devices, follow below.
Apple's FaceTime appears to be malfunctioning for iPhone and iPad users with devices running iOS 6, according to multiple tips received by MacRumors as well as a MacRumors forum post and a thread on the Apple Support Communities.
It appears that users who are running iOS 6 are unable to place or receive FaceTime calls, with reports of problems dating back to yesterday. Devices running iOS 7 appear to be functioning as normal, and Apple's System Status page is not reporting any outages.
One user mentioned being able to FaceTime with a device running iOS 6.1.6, while a device with iOS 6.0.1 was not able to access the service. Another has reported that Mac users running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion may also be experiencing problems with FaceTime.
Users who have had issues have contacted Apple Support and several Apple representatives have recommended an update to iOS 7 to fix the problem. It is likely the iOS 6 FaceTime outage is only temporary, however, and will presumably not necessitate an update to iOS 7.