Rumor: Apple Adding Sonar to Future iPhones?

If the rumors pan out to be true, the iPhone 6 (or 7 or…) could give a whole new meaning to “I’ll ping you about this” because via Patently Apple Apple has patents for using sonar in iOS devices.

From the 3D mapping that we saw in Dark Knight to proximity locators to better noise canceling for built-in mics, the possibilities just boggle the mind. Here’s a section from Patently Apple about the patent:

In one embodiment, Apple’s invention may take on the form of an audio detection system having a display assembly. The display assembly may include a screen and at least one electromagnetic energy emitter configured to direct energy at an inside surface of the screen.

The described invention states that at least one sensor could be configured to sense the emitted energy after it is reflected from the inside surface of the screen and generate electrical signals corresponding the sensed reflected energy. A processor coupled to the at least one sensor generates an audio signal representative of sound waves that impact an outer surface of the screen.

In a second embodiment, Apple’s invention may take the form of a computer system having a display that includes a screen having an interior surface and an exterior surface. The exterior surface is visible to a user. One or more sensors are coupled to the display and configured to detect vibrations of the screen generated by sound waves impacting the exterior surface of the screen. A processor in communication with the one or more sensors is configured to generate an output representative of sound waves.

In a third embodiment, Apple’s invention may include a method of operating a computing device. The method includes obtaining an electrical signal corresponding to vibration of a screen of the computing device resulting from sound waves impacting the screen and filtering the signal to remove noise components. The method also includes generating an output signal representative of the sound waves that impacted the screen.

Via Apple Invents Displays with Hidden Audio Sensors for the Mac, TV, iDevices, Video Glasses & More – Patently Apple

The article goes on to guess at possible applications, but I thought it would be much more interesting for us to come up with some of our own ideas.

How about assisting the visually impaired? Plug in your EarPods have your iPhone X on a lanyard or something and it could give someone warnings if there was an object in their path. Think Daredevil, but without the cool images-via-sound.

Maybe Apple won’t even put this into an iPhone at all, but use it for devices to help map the world around us? Put a device in a room and it calculates all the dimensions and objects.

How about sonic laser tag? Games could certainly tap into this with the ability to have multiplayer games in the real world. Gives a whole new twist to hide and go seek.

What are your ideas? What could Apple do with this patent to truly enrich and help our day to day lives?

Photo via Flickr from the U.S. Navy

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