A pair of new patents filed recently by Apple hint that the tech giant is looking into how to make future iPhones fully functional while completely submerged underwater, and using the Face ID system to determine the device’s orientation.
As AppleInsider reports, the first patent — titled “Underwater User Interface” — focuses on the usability of the OS while the phone is completely submerged, specifically how to simplify it.
“Current methods for displaying user interfaces while an electronic device is under water are outdated, time consuming, and inefficient,” explains the patent, while going on to say that “some existing methods use complex and time-consuming user interfaces, which may include multiple key presses or keystrokes, and may include extraneous user interfaces.”
The patent places emphasis on the fact that cumbersome and time-consuming processes place more of a strain not only on a devices power consumption, but are also a ‘cognitive burden’ on a user.
Apple’s patent argues that by streamlining these processes and eliminating ‘redundant user inputs’, the strain on the processor and battery power can be mitigated while making things easier for the user.
The second patent aims to address the issue of how devices orient themselves relative to the user, and looks to solve this problem using the camera.
Titled “Using Face Detection to Update User Interface Orientation”, this patent argues that by using the face detection capabilities of a device, the position of that device relative to the user’s face can be determined better than with existing methods.
Currently, all iPads and iPhones contain an accelerometer — tasked with determining the orientation of the device relative to gravity — that tells the OS which way the screen content should be displayed.
Is it common however, for these accelerometers to become confused and ‘cannot accurately or confidently determine the orientation of the device’, forcing the user to manually rotate the phone or tablet until it is corrected.
“[The] device may not be able to provide the content in a proper orientation to the user when the device is lying flat (e.g., face up on a flat surface),” write the authors of the patent. “When lying flat, even though the sensors may be accurately aware of the position of the device, the orientation relative to the user may be unknown.”
Their solution to this problem is to use the facial recognition technology already in the newer generations of the iPhone (and the iPad Pro) to identify which way the user is holding the device in relation to the angle of their face.
The patent explains that the data obtained by the facial recognition process can be used to determine which way we are looking at the screen, updating the orientation whenever the device is picked or if the device has sufficient doubt that its other sensors are correct.
The process would not require a full Face ID recognition scan, but rather use the existing sensors behind the tech to keep the device display oriented in the correct way.
As is the case with all patents, there is no guarantee either of these will find their way into a device anytime soon, if ever.