If anything, Google's Glass has excited the market once again as we await its arrival in the summer of 2014. The next leg in the mobile device revolution will be about wearable computers of one sort or another. And with that, comes an opportunity for old and new players in the market to make a new mark for themselves. In 2007, out of the blue came Apple with their iPhone that catapulted them to being the richest tech company in the world. Apple's success meant RIM's downfall and it happened rather quickly. Now RIM, or should I say BlackBerry, is on a bit of a comeback of late and today we report that BlackBerry is jumping into the wearable computer race with a very interesting accessory that will work with future smartphones and tablets.
BlackBerry's conceptual accessory is rather Double-O-7'ish in that you could wear a pair of glasses or a tie, a broach, or wireless headset that beams out an invisible IR light that will allow you to see your confidential information on your smartphone display. But when but look away, the IR light is moved away from the display and your confidential information is shown on the screen as one big mess of static to someone with peering eyes. All in all, it's a nice peek at one of the next generation accessories and you could read all about it now.
BlackBerry's First Wearable Computer Accessory Concept
There are many electronic devices that include display screens, such as televisions, smart phones, DVD players, remote controls, global positioning system devices and e-book readers, to name a few. Many of these electronic devices are portable.
Information displayed on a display screen of a conventional electronic device may be viewable by any person who looks at the display screen, regardless of the confidentiality of the information or the relevance of the information to the person. The information may also be viewable even when no one is looking at the display screen.
A Novel Way of Hiding Confidential Information Shown on a Display
Concepts behind BlackBerry's wearable computer accessory include displaying information on the display screen when a user is looking at the display screen, and dimming or turning off the display screen when the user is looking away from it. These concepts may be useful in advancing confidentiality, or may help conserve power in the portable electronic device, or may realize other advantages as well.
Making certain items of information viewable only by a particular user of the portable electronic device and not viewable by other users of the portable electronic device may satisfy security concerns.
Alternatively or additionally, accommodating individual preferences of multiple users of the same portable electronic device may be of interest, such that, for example, when a particular user is looking at the display screen, only information that is relevant to that particular user is displayed.
The Wearable Accessory
BlackBerry states that the accessory will be paired to an electronic device such as a smartphone (or tablet). The device will have a built-in light receiver and the accessory will have a light transmitter. The accessory may be embodied as a component having its own functions, such as a headset or headphones or eyeglasses, or an article worn by a user of the device, such as a hat, jewelry or other article of clothing.
In a typical implementation, the accessory is worn facing forward so as to transmit light in the direction of the smartphone (or tablet).
The smartphone or other device may be configured to perform one or more behaviors in response to a property or quality of the light detected by the light receiver. For purposes of illustration, a quality of light that will be detected may be the intensity of the light.
The first set of one or more behaviors may include one or more methods of activating the display, unscrambling what is displayed on the display, turning on the electronic device, displaying confidential information on the display, displaying personal contacts on the display, and any other behaviors.
The second set of one or more behaviors may include one or more methods of deactivating the display, scrambling what is displayed on the display, turning off the electronic device, not displaying the confidential information on the display, not displaying the personal contacts on the display, and any other behaviors.
BlackBerry's patent FIG. 1 shown below is a schematic showing a light transmitter 100 attached to an accessory 102, illustrated as a wireless headset, and an electronic device 104, illustrated as a portable electronic device, having a light receiver 106 and a display screen 108.
The wireless headset may be, for example, a Bluetooth headset that is to be worn on an ear of a person using the device. In a variation, the accessory may be headphones (or another accessory) electrically connected to the portable electronic device with a wire.
In the case where the device is configured to have a first set of behaviors and a second set of behaviors that include, respectively, activating and deactivating the display screen, frequent activations and deactivations may create a potentially jarring visual effect.
Users Can Set a Time Delay that Deactivates the Display
For example, the user may prefer that the display screen is not deactivated each time the user briefly glances away from the device and then quickly returns his or her gaze to the device, but that the display screen is deactivated only if the user looks away from the device for a longer period of time. Thus, the device may be configured to deactivate the display screen only after a certain delay since the light receiver last received light from the light transmitter. The delay could be, for example, 2 seconds to 30 seconds, and could be configured according to the user's preferences.
A Feature Similar to Samsung's Smart Pause
In addition to activating and deactivating the display screen, and scrambling or otherwise altering what is displayed on the display screen, numerous other examples of behaviors of the device are contemplated.
If the device is playing a movie, the movie could be paused in response to the user looking away from the device and the movie could be played in response to the user looking back at the device.
Other Features on the Same Theme
In the first example, if the device is playing music, the music could be paused in response to the user looking at the device and the music could be played in response to the user looking away from the device.
In the second example, the user's status on an instant messaging application on the device could be changed depending on whether or not the user is looking at the device. If the user is communicating with someone via the instant messaging application and the user suddenly stops looking at the device, the user's status could be updated to "Away", and the person at the other end of the conversation could be informed of the change in the user's status. Once the user looks at the device again, the user's status could be updated to "Available".
For Business: More Information on Hiding Confidential Information Shown on a Display
According to BlackBerry, the configuration of the device to perform different behaviors in response to changes in the incident light intensity and corresponding changes in the output of the receiver may be used to enhance security of information on the device.
For example, outputs of the light receiver that are functions of lower incident light intensities may result in the display of non-confidential information, whereas outputs of the light receiver that are functions of higher incident light intensities may result in the display of both non-confidential and confidential information.
In one example, if high intensity light is detected (for example, when the user is looking at the device), all emails that have the word "confidential" in the title may be displayed in the user's inbox, whereas if low intensity light is detected (for example, when the user is looking away from the device), all such emails may not be displayed in the user's inbox.
In another example, outputs of the light receiver that are functions of lower incident light intensities may result in the display of certain contacts in a list of contacts, whereas outputs of the light receiver that are functions of higher incident light intensities may result in the display of alternative or additional contacts in the list of contacts. For example, only business contacts could be displayed when the user is looking away from the device, while both business contacts and personal contacts could be displayed when the user is looking at the device.
Example behaviors that may be performed in response to an output that is a function of an increase in incident light intensity may include turning on the device, unlocking the device, activating the display screen, unscrambling a signal output to the display screen, opening an application, resuming play of a paused movie, changing a user's status on an instant messaging application, modifying information displayed within an application, and any other suitable behavior.
Example behaviors that may be performed in response to an output that is a function of a decrease in incident light intensity may include turning off the device, locking the device, deactivating the display screen, scrambling or altering a signal output to the display screen, closing an application, pausing play of a movie, changing a user's status on an instant messaging application, modifying information displayed within an application, and any other suitable behavior.
To reduce a risk of signal hacking, encoded light could be time-stamped and the encoding scheme could be changed after a certain amount of time. Time-dependent encoding schemes may require that the device and the accessory be synchronized. The accessory may comprise some time-keeping mechanism, for example, one or more oscillators.
Different Forms of Accessories
While the main accessories of BlackBerry's system were presented as both a wireless headset and/or pair of specialized glasses, the fact is that the accessories may come in varying forms. For example, a light transmitter could be attached to or included in a piece of wearable jewelry, such as a necklace or a brooch, or an item of clothing, such as a hat or a vest or a jacket or a necktie or a scarf. In the case of two light transmitters, each light transmitter could be attached to an earring of a pair of earrings, or to left and right portions of a set of headphones, for example.
The next wave of the mobile revolution sounds like it's going to be very exciting for savvy geeks, business people and the general consumer. Obviously in the case of BlackBerry's device, they may very well be aiming their new system for the enterprise market and professional user who are seeking to possess advanced security features such as those outlined in this report.
BlackBerry filed their patent application under serial number 271281 back in Q4 2011. The patent application was recently published by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
A Note for Tech Sites covering our Report: We ask tech sites covering our report to kindly limit the use of our graphics to one image. Thanking you in advance for your cooperation.
Patent Bolt presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. About Comments: Patent Bolt reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.