Apple’s latest patents hint at sleep tracker and continued work on AR

apple file system

Apple often files patents for new tech, even if in the end it doesn’t end up using those patents. The company has filed for a series of five new patents this week alone, making for some very interesting speculation about the future of some of its biggest and most important products.

The patents could relate to Apple’s future endeavors in augmented reality, as well as its attempts to keep the iPhone’s camera relevant in the face of increased competition from the likes of Google. Here’s a quick rundown of the patents we’ve seen from Apple this week.

Accessory lenses for the iPhone

One of the more interesting patents seems to be related to developing accessory lenses for the iPhone. The patent is titled “Adapting Camera Systems to Accessory Lenses,” and it seems to show Apple is considering small lenses that could attach or mount to the camera lens on devices like the iPhone, helping give them better zooming capabilities, among other things.

Of course, the overall system could be pretty complex. In order to get the best image quality, the optical axis of the phone’s camera has to be lined up with the optical axis of the accessory lens. That could be difficult, unless Apple adopts some kind of standard for attaching lenses to the camera.

Apple continues work on AR

Apple has been developing quite an interest in Augmented Reality, and its latest patent confirms that isn’t going to change anytime soon. The patent, called “Transparent Electronic Device,” is slightly different from a patent that was filed back in November. Most notably, the new patent, which describes an electronic device with a transparent display, places a heavier emphasis on an adjustable opacity layer, along with a dedicated processor arranged to specifically configure an opaque portion and transparent portion.

It’s not immediately clear what this device will be used for, but a report from Patently Apple notes that Apple has been working on an AR display specifically for the Mac.

Different refresh rates for different portions of the display

The third new patent discusses a new display technology that Apple seems to be developing related to display refresh rates. Notably, it seems that Apple wants to develop a display that can refresh at different rates in different parts of the display.

It’s an interesting proposition, and basically means that when a portion of the display is static, it doesn’t need to be refreshed as often — which could ultimately save on battery life, depending on how the technology works.

Apple seems to be specifically developing the tech for its mobile devices, though if it continues to pursue it we could see it showing up on its computers, too.

Setting an alarm based on when you get to sleep

The final two patents relate to sleep tracking, with the first specifically designed to set an alarm and change that alarm depending on when you get to sleep. Now, that may not work if you have to get up to go to work, for example, but in some situations that could be pretty handy — especially for those who find they have trouble getting to sleep at night.

The systems seems to go a step further too by predicting when the user goes to sleep, based on previous sleep rituals. Those rituals can include any number of tasks one might perform before going to bed, like brushing your teeth.

Vital signs monitoring

Last but not least is a vital signs monitoring system, which seems to work through sensors placed in the user’s bed. It would make sense — Apple acquired sleep tracking company Beddit last year, and hasn’t really released any sleep-tracking technology since then.

According to the patent, the technology would be used to track sleep and then give feedback on ways to improve sleep — all without having to attach any devices to the users themselves.

Despite the fact that it makes sense that Apple would be developing a sleep tracker after the Beddit acquisition, according to a report from Patently Apple, the two inventors listed on the patent have no history with Beddit — so it’s possible that Apple was working on this tech before the Beddit acquisition.

Mobile

McLaren puts the pedal to the metal in special-edition OnePlus 6T

The OnePlus 6T is yet another flagship killer smartphone, bringing powerful specifications to a much lower price than the competition. Now, OnePlus has teamed up with McLaren for the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition.
Wearables

Our favorite fitness trackers make it fun to keep moving

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Mobile

The Galaxy S10 may be announced before MWC, sell for up to $1,750

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Business

Chinese court upholds Qualcomm's complaint that Apple infringed on two patents

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Apple

Patent highlights Apple's sky-high ambitions for AirPower wireless charger

At its September event last year, Apple unveiled the AirPower -- its new wireless charging mat that will allow you to charge multiple devices at one time. It has not yet been released. Here's everything we know about the device so far.
Mobile

G’day, Google: U.S. users can now give Assistant a British or Australian accent

U.S. Google Assistant users can give their Assistant a different voice. Google has updated Assistant with the ability for users to give it either a British or Australian accent, which could make it a little more personal for some.
Computing

Microsoft’s latest patent paves the way for Andromeda dual-screen mobile device

The latest patent discovery from Microsoft showcases a new hinge design for quickly opening a dual-screen mobile device with a single hand. Could this be additional proof surrounding the rumors of the company's Project Andromeda device?
Music

Tune in to the best internet radio stations for your listening pleasure

Even in the streaming era, radio stations get some of the best exclusives and curate some of the finest handpicked playlists around. Here are the best internet radio stations, for your listening pleasure.
Mobile

Need to record calls on an iPhone? Check out our handy guide

Are you wondering how to record calls on your iPhone? It isn't as easy as you might think, but we'll walk you through the process of doing so with Google Voice, and identify several other apps and external voice recorders that can help.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best true wireless earbuds around.
Mobile

Apple is spending $1 billion to hire up to 15,000 new employees in Austin

Apple has announced a series of expansions across the U.S. -- including a massive expansion to the company's Austin campus that will see it spending $1 billion to accommodate for up to 15,000 new employees.
Outdoors

Google Maps makes it easier than ever to find a Lime bike or scooter

Google Maps has added a new feature that helps you find a Lime bike or scooter in just a few taps. The feature currently works in 11 U.S. cities served by Lime, with more coming next year.
Mobile

Leave the laptop at home, the iPad Pro is the travel buddy to take on vacay

The iPad Pro is a powerful tablet that's perfect for creatives and professionals. How does it fare when traveling with it as a laptop replacement? We took it on a two week trek in Japan to find out.
Mobile

Quirky smartphone accessories you never knew you needed

Looking for a few accoutrements to make your smartphone even better? If you, or someone you know, is a sucker for accessories, you'll want to check out our collection of quirky smartphone accessories you never knew you needed.