The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted Apple a patent for a wireless accessory that can control an iPhone's camera functions, allowing users to preview, snap and review photos remotely.
While the application of Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,675,084 for "Systems and methods for remote camera control" may not be immediately apparent, the property could be helpful when taking "selfies," vacation pictures and recording sports training sessions, among other uses.
The invention is straightforward and describes a remote control that connects to an iPhone or iPod via wireless link, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, to take photos and record video. In addition, the accessory can also display the photographed content on an embedded screen.
Unique to the patent is a notification system that informs the accessory of a camera's state. For example, if a camera just took a picture, the accessory reflects that information back to the user through lights, UI changes or other visual indication. In other words, instead of returning to the iPhone for positive confirmation that a picture was indeed taken or the device is still recording, users would be able to monitor camera status remotely.
In some embodiments, the remote can take over higher camera functions like changing modes from photo to video, or changing shutter speeds and frame rates. This control also covers the activation of an iPhone's Camera app if the accessory receives notification that the software has closed or the device has powered down.
Users can also switch between camera views, including a live remote preview that allows for remote framing of shots. This function would be especially helpful for group portraits where the subject or subjects are near the edge of the frame.
As for replaying images, Apple notes that both immediate previews and after-the-fact slide shows are available for perusal. Along with playing back static images and video, users can remotely edit, delete or otherwise manipulate images already stored in an iPhone's memory.
Devices similar to Apple's invention are already on the market, though most merely take advantage of the iOS Camera app's volume button shutter release. With these Bluetooth-enabled remotes, a single button is slaved to the "volume up" control which, when activated, takes a picture.
Apple's invention, on the other hand, allow for a fully-functional display and, most importantly, an asynchronous notification system that informs users about an iPhone's camera status.
Apple's remote camera control patent was first filed for in 2009 and credits Lawrence G. Bolton, Sylvain R.Y. Louboutin, Shailesh Rathi, David J. Rempel and Peter T. Langenfeld as its inventors.