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Apple gains patent for location-based smartphone control via infrared
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Jun 29, 2016, 11:39 AM
Apple has come up with a way to control functions of a smartphone, via infrared light. The recently published patent for "Systems and methods for receiving infrared data with a camera designed to detect images based on visible light" (9,380,225) suggests infrared light received by a sensor could be used to transmit data to the device, forcing functions to work in specific ways, or in some applications, temporarily disabling some elements entirely.

The filing spotted by Patently Apple relies on an infrared emitter located at strategic positions, depending on what is needed by the venue. This emitter would transmit data to all nearby devices, giving instructions for what a device must do while within its range, and potentially even transferring files to devices in order to perform the commands.

One example given allows for a user to hold their iPhone up in front of an antique in a museum, framing the object with the camera. The emitter in this case could command the smartphone to offer up basic information about the artifact as a caption, buttons to press for more information, or even a watermark that appears if the user takes a photograph. Another, more extreme, example revolves around concerts and stage performances. An emitter could order a smartphone to not take photographs or record video or audio of the performance.

The concept seems like a natural extension to existing beacons used in some locations, though it handles matters in a different way. The use of infrared means it relies on line of sight, so it can be confined to within a single room, unlike Bluetooth-based beacons that could have a further range. In the example of the concert, the line-of-sight element could potentially allow for audience members to take photographs of themselves at the event, but when facing away from the stage and the emitters.
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