Apple Tries To Patent A 'Solution' To The 'Analog Hole': Transmitters That Block Your Camera From Working

from the you'll-never-photograph-steve-jobs-again... dept

A few folks have sent over the news of an ongoing attempt by Apple to patent a sensor system that would allow people to set up transmitters that would send a signal to mobile phones that would prevent the camera from working.
By pairing an infrared sensor with the camera already on board, portable devices could receive data from transmitters placed, well, wherever. Beyond simply blasting out text and opening links like a glorified QR code, transmitters could disable certain features, such as the camera, to prevent recording at movie theaters and music venues. If completely shutting off the cam seems a bit heavy-handed, watermarks can also be applied to photos identifying businesses or copyrighted content.
The patent was filed in 2009, which seems pretty late. I remember having conversations about how such things were technically feasible back in 2003 or 2004, just as cameraphones were starting to catch on, and there were a few early moral panics about them. It's difficult to see how this should be patentable, considering how widespread the idea was (along with discussions on how it could be implemented) way before this patent application was filed. Of course, the bigger issues are that (1) there are always going to be easy ways around that kind of thing, and (2) for theaters it seems like a pretty expensive proposition for pissing off your customers. Of course, it's not worth reading too much info into patents like this as an indicator of where Apple is going. The company files lots of patents, many of which are never really touched.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Pickle Monger (profile), Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 11:46am

    logical evolution

    How long do you think before the police cars come equipped with this technology that would block all those pesky prying eyes?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 7:26pm

      Re: logical evolution

      I doubt that they will officially come equipped with this technology, but cops could unofficially carry this technology on them and deny it.

       

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    Michael S. (profile), Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 12:33pm

    Police and government

    I see police and governments buying into this rather quickly.

     

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    David Muir (profile), Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 12:36pm

    Cell phones killed in theaters

    I am not sure if people would be more pissed off at having their cell phones and cameras killed in a specific theater while and only while a movie is running than they are at people who hold up a camera, text, or talk on a cell during a movie. This may be one situation where, if properly implemented, customers would be happy that rude and arrogant technology users are shut down for a short time.

    Of course, patenting it and actually implementing it properly without overreaching are two very different things.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 12:42pm

    Awesome, I can't wait until somebody hacks this thing before launch and we can have a remote controller that disables phones

     

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    Justin (profile), Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 12:43pm

    Only Phones

    So this only block phone cameras? I know that they are getting better, but a regular camera still takes much better pictures and can have much more storage available for photos/video. Sounds like a solution to a problem that doesn't really exist.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 2:04pm

      Re: Only Phones

      Yeah, but it's pretty difficult to sneak a full sized camera into a theater and not have anyone notice it being used. Cell phone cameras/portable cameras, not so much....

       

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 12:46pm

    infrared sensor?

    I see why they went infrared, if they use a system that's not line of sight it risks bleeding over outside of where you want it and then it's a problem. But that kinda leaves a huge loophole. The infrared sensor is kinda noticeable and kinda easy to block. Just put a little peace of tape over it and it's not a problem any more. Or do they expect that the camera is already able to see IR and it's the software behind it that disables it? Easily circumventable ether way and just another way that it's going to piss of legitimate users.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 12:50pm

    the IR sensor is part of the chip that takes the photo, not an external external item.

    Photo copiers already have this technology built in, when you copy money with them they will put water markets or simply refuse to copy the money.

    All this system did was change the trigger from paper money to an IR signal.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 1:09pm

    Theaters already blast IR signals from behind the screen to prevent recording. Seems like a much easier and elegant solution. Total crap, but better total crap.

    http://www.fareastgizmos.com/other_stuff/ir_light_from_behind_the_cinema_screen_prevents_pi rates_from_recording_films_at_movie_theaters.php

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 1:11pm

      Re:

      "The damage caused by bootleg film recordings is estimated at around 3 billion dollars a year, according to the American Film Institute."

      Heh, totally forgot about that last quote in the article. Makes sense that Apple would want to cash in on that number I guess; the MPAA thinks they are losing 3 Billion, we can charge them 6 Billion and claim a 2 year ROI. Now I'm sad I didn't file the patent :P

       

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    Qritiqal (profile), Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 1:26pm

    Mr. Invisible

    You're telling me I could just have a bunch of infrared transmitters all over my body sending out the correct signals and no one would be able to take my photo?

    Can we have traffic cameras abide by this rule, too?

    I'm starting to like this idea!

     

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      The Groove Tiger (profile), Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 2:50pm

      Re: Mr. Invisible

      My old Palm handheld could record and retransmit any infrared signal it detected with its "universal remote" application. I'm sure a lot of other devices can do that too. Shouldn't be that hard.

       

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    ASR, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 1:44pm

    And film makes a comeback! Where's that old polaroid...

     

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    Griff (profile), Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 1:44pm

    Who'd want this camera ?

    for theaters it seems like a pretty expensive proposition for pissing off your customers

    And for phone manufacturers. Or will it be illegal to sell a camera that doesn't have this (thus forcing everyone to license Apple's IP ?).

    Hardly a selling point for a new camera that it can be disabled. Or will people just find some jailbreak code to "fix" the phone when they get it home. In which case you are just punishing the innocent.

    Will UK prominent soccer players be able to get "IR injunctions" to prevent the Paprazzi from photographing them with their mistresses ?".


    My suggestion for a better technology ? Continuously (randomly) varying frame rate & interlacing. This means there will be a periodic interference with the camera's fixed frame sampling rate causing a poor end product noone will be able to watch. But the human eye won't be fazed by it in the theater.

    Oops, should have patented it first...

    Doesn't fix the ANALOG hole, but who is using analog video recorders in theaters these days ?


    But I guess that would need new projectors and (maybe) cameras. Or could conventional digital recordings be post processed into this format ? In which case just new projectors.


    Why not just mandate that all new build cameras must emit a signal when filming ? Then the police could run into the theater armed with a receiver and arrest the terrorists / sorry, bootleggers, without any change to theater infrastructure.

    Or would that be overreacting ?

     

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    nelsoncruz (profile), Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 1:47pm

    I bet this will be mandatory somewhere

    I bet some country will make this mandatory, and have not only movie theaters but the police use it to prevent people recording them!

    Like those ridiculous arrests at the Jefferson Memorial.

     

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    Spaceboy (profile), Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 1:50pm

    Or if you were so scared of having your photo taken you could carry around a bright infrared light and have it on all the time, blinding the digital cameras.

     

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    rubberpants, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 1:54pm

    There is an enormous amount money to be made in technology that let's a government control and monitor it's citizens. Our brightest minds are hard a work. What a golden age we live in.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 2:41pm

    It's difficult to see how this should be patentable

    LOL. It's the USA Mike, come on. They approve the most ridiculous patents. Why would it be different this time?

     

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    Jeffrey, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 3:28pm

    Uh oh

    You know, why is Apple applying for patents to stuff it doesn't make? To me, it sounds like they just want control over stuff so you can't use it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 5:29pm

    blasting out text and opening links like a glorified QR code

    Hungry? Why not have
    lunch in our food court?


    (Free internet cookie to anyone who recognizes this popup.)

     

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    The MPAA, Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 6:31pm

    An expensive way to piss off customers? Where do we sign up?

     

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    Greevar (profile), Jun 3rd, 2011 @ 6:57pm

    Why bother?

    If you're going to go that far to break other people's cameras, why do you just rip it out of their hands and smash them on the floor? Honestly, could this be anymore childishly pathetic?

     

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      DannyB (profile), Jun 4th, 2011 @ 12:07pm

      Re: Why bother?

      Here's why.

      Because my mobile phone can be recording video that is uploaded to YouTube before you can smash it.

      Yeah, take the phone. Smash it. Beat me up. The video is already out there.

      Someone else (possibly halfway around the globe) can download it, and then re-upload it. Maybe even to different video "tube" websites. There's no putting the genie back in the tube of toothpaste.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2011 @ 1:51am

    Yet another reason to jailbreak your phone.

     

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    DannyB (profile), Jun 4th, 2011 @ 12:13pm

    A way to not infringe the patent

    So if I use a camera that is NOT paired with this receiver, then I'm not infringing the patent, and can also photograph whatever I want.

     

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    Carl Barron_agpcuk (profile), Jun 4th, 2011 @ 12:26pm

    i Phone censored cameras

    Now you have a very good reason' NOT' to buy an Apple i Phone censored cameras. Are they positively MAD sabotaging sales of their own products with such concepts?

    Signed Carl Barron chairman of agpcuk

     

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    MetalSamurai, Jun 4th, 2011 @ 3:45pm

    Patent to prevent this

    What this patent actually does is prevent this technology from being used.

    Nobody else will bother implementing it as Apple has the (frankly shonky) patent.

    Apple won't bother as only their phones would be affected.

    Other manufacturers are not going to pay for a license to cripple their phones.

    There is no way for anyone to make this work. Or make money off this idea.

    Thankyou Apple.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 4th, 2011 @ 4:42pm

    So let me get this straight, they've developed technology to stop people using a camera in a movie theatre, including cameras in phones, despite the fact that nowadays most "cams" of movies are done from inside the projection booth. And yet they still haven't found out a way to stop peoples phones ringing during movies?!?!?

     

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