Category Archives: haptics

Apple patent would let your pants talk to coffee shops

One of my favorite geek activities is to skim through Apple’s patents, which are updated nearly every day. Apple files for many cool ideas, such as holographic TV sets or haptic-sensory gloves, and the patents hint at real products to come.

Now, Apple wants to watch your body. In a recent filing, Apple described the need to move body-movement sensors beyond its current Nike+ sneaker systems, frankly admitting that the current Nike+ is limited in what it can do (basically log and share running miles, although Nike+ has started progressing into wristbands and watches):

The use of devices to obtain exercise performance information is known. For example, simple mechanical pedometers have been used to obtain information relating to walking or running… unfortunately, however, it is becoming more commonly practiced to place the sensor at locations on a garment (shoes, for example) that are not specifically designed to physically accommodate the sensor and/or calibrated to accurately reflect data…

The problem is twofold: athletes can move in many ways without shifting their feet, and there is a vast market beyond athletes if Apple found new ways to monetize other body-movement data. So Apple continues with this new concept — sensors in all clothing:

An embodiment of this invention pertains to linking an authenticated sensor with one or more authorized garments (such as running shoes, shirts, slacks, etc.) that can provide in addition to current physiologic data of the user, garment performance statistics (i.e., rate of wear of a running shoe), location of the garment and any related information (location of near-by eating establishments, for example) and any other garment related data.

The expansions of Nike+ would improve human tracking in a way that moves more Apple entertainment content. Clothing that tracks nuances in movement would allow Nike+ to work on bicycles, indoor trainers, or weight training; all of this data could expand the social functionality, and also tailor music playlists and content sales, a nice source of profit. The next way could be using physiologic data and LBS tracking to align Apple mobile devices with retail network partners (coffee shops, clothing outlets), telling you when and where you can find offers to refuel from workouts, another source of revenue for Apple. And Apple could even get into the payments game: if Apple integrated NFC into its mobile devices, it could capture a slice of each transaction as you use your iPod instead of a wallet.

Your physical condition, movement, content preferences, and buying mechanisms could all revolve around Apple. You’d get better feedback and personalized content (“Nice workout! And your favorite coffee shop is just ahead!”), and Apple would make a lot more money.

All you have to do is wear the right clothes.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Image: Patrick Caire
Originally posted on Google+.

Ready Player One: Understanding Apple’s haptic future

Soon, Apple will let you touch artificial reality.

Haptics is a term meaning touch, the non-verbal forms of communication such as shaking hands or kissing on the cheek that involve sensations of the flesh. But if you read sci-fi such as Ernest Cline’s excellent “Ready Player One,” haptics provide touch feedback for a virtual future. Sure, you’ve seen 3-D movies. But imagine immersing yourself in a 3-D virtual world, either via giant flatscreen TV panel or a pair of goggles, and having gloves, leggings or a body suit that provides tactile feedback. You touch something, and via minute pulses in the gloves or suit, that something touches you back.

With high-definition virtual projections and haptic feedback, you could leave this world for an entirely new one.

Apple is playing around in this space now, adding teeth to speculation it may soon launch high-end TV sets with glasses-less 3-D. This patent details Apple’s plan for a haptic “feedback device” which uses a grid of sensors to (a) track where your body part is and (b) provide a feedback sensation when you move your hand, or whatever, through space. In technical terms:

“The haptels are coordinated such that force feedback for a single touch is distributed across all haptels involved. This enables the feel of the haptic response to be independent of where touch is located and how many haptels are involved in the touch. As a touch moves across the device, haptels are added and removed from the coordination set such that the user experiences an uninterrupted haptic effect.”
What does this mean? If you see a bottle floating in front of you in a future TV commercial, you could reach out, touch it, and feel the glass curve. If you play a video game on a giant 3-D screen, when you punch your opponent, your fist will feel the impact. Other than the obvious porn implications, computer and entertainment interfaces may soon no longer need keyboards or glass pads or remotes. Because unlike Kinect-type technology that only tracks your motion in space, you will be able to “touch” the projected elements in the space in front of you.

In “Ready Player One,” Cline imagines a lonely teenager who rents an apartment, staying inside to play virtual games clothed in a haptic suit, running on a circular treadmill, lost in a brilliant artificial world far away from this one. Now, Apple is making it real.

Microsoft Word, we hope you can keep up.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Image: Edward Drake