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Thursday, April 27, 2006, 01:00 pm PT (04:00 pm ET)

Interesting Apple filings surface in patent databases

Apple Computer has recently filed for patents on several interesting technologies that cover iPods wirelessly communicating with TVs, an online teleconferencing whiteboard, an integrated sensing display, and virtual keys of a touch-screen virtual keyboard.

Wireless iPods and TVs

A patent originally filed with the United States Patent and Trademark office on Oct. 25, 2004 and published on Thursday describes a wireless network in which data and images can be transfered wirelessly from a digital music player to a TV or from a host machine to a digital music player.

In the filing, titled "Image scaling arrangement," Apple describes the invention as "methods and system for transferring images between devices is disclosed. For example, differently scaled images by a host device may automatically and/or selectively be transferred to a media player for display. In turn, appropriately scaled images may be transferred automatically and/or selectively to another display device for example a TV, camera or printer. The selectivity may occur either at the host level or at the player level."

iChat whiteboard

Last week, a patent filing credited to Apple Computer and titled " ">Method and apparatus for establishing communication between two teleconferencing endpoints" turned up at the European Patent Office.

The filing is being discussed heavily on the Internet as it includes diagrams that suggest Apple could be working on a virtual whiteboard technology that may eventually make its way into applications such as iChat.

In addition to chat and video conferencing windows, figures in the filing appear to show a live communication window in which the residing media content can be manipulated in real-time by parties on both ends of the communication spectrum.

"Such applications sometimes also include data sharing wherein various types of data such as documents, spreadsheets, graphic data, or other types of data, can be shared and manipulated by all participants in the teleconference," Apple software engineers explained in the "Background" to the filing.

Integrated sensing display

Another Apple patent filing — originally overlooked by the media — has alos suddenly garnered attention from various online outlets. The filing, titled "Integrated sensing display," was first filed on Jun. 21, 2004 and later published on Jan. 12, 2006.

In the filing, Apple engineers describe a new kind of computer display that can simultaneously take photos while displaying media on the screen.

The idea behind the invention is to wedge thousands of microscopic image sensors between the LCD cells that make up the display. Each sensor would be responsible for capturing a piece of the overall photo. These pieces would then almost instantly be pieced together by software to form a complete image.

Virtual keys of a touch-screen virtual keyboard

Yet another recent patent filing — credited to familiar Apple fellows Bas Ording and Andre Bartley — is titled "Activating virtual keys of a touch-screen virtual keyboard."

The invention in the Sept. 16, 2005 filing is described as "a method of operating a touch screen to activate one of a plurality of virtual keys is provided. A touch location is determined based on location data pertaining to touch input on the touch screen, wherein the touch input is intended to activate one of the plurality of virtual keys. Each of the plurality of virtual keys has a set of at least one key location corresponding to it. For each of the virtual keys, a parameter (such as physical distance) is determined for that virtual key that relates the touch location and the set of at least one key location corresponding to that virtual key. The determined parameters are processed to determine one of the virtual keys. For example, the determined one virtual key may be the virtual key with a key location (or more than one key location, on average) being closest to the touch location. A signal is generated indicating activation of the determined one of the virtual keys."