Apple filed in 2009 an interesting patent called “Systems and methods for receiving infrared data with a camera designed to detect images based on visible light.” In a nutshell, the camera captures a picture or a video, attempts to detect the presence of an infrared signal. If present the camera decodes the payloads and acts correspondingly. This is what claim 1 protects.
Claim 1. A method for using a camera, comprising: using the camera to detect an image based on at least visible light; determining whether the image includes an infrared signal with encoded data; in response to determining that the image includes an infrared signal with encoded data, routing at least a portion of the image to circuitry operative to decode the encoded data in the infrared signal; and in response to determining that the image does not include an infrared signal with encoded data, routing the image to a display operative to display the image.
The obvious application is to block the capture, or decrease the quality, in presence of such signal. For instance, a movie theater (or a classified facility) could beam such infra-red signal. The compliant camera/phone would then block the capture. The claims 4-7 clearly highlight this feature.
4. The method of claim 1, further comprising: decoding the encoded data in the infrared signal; and modifying a device operation based at least on the decoded data.
5. The method of claim 4, wherein modifying a device operation comprises applying a watermark to a detected image.
6. The method of claim 4, wherein modifying a device operation comprises disabling a device function.
7. The method of claim 6, wherein the device function is a record function.
Another usage, which is not related to content protection, is that the payload is analysed by an application that may display specific information on the screen. The typical example would be a museum which would provide an application. Each room or specific item would beam a code, the application would use this code to ask a server contextual information to display. Obviously, if you would combine captured video + contextual display, you have an augmented reality device :Happy:
8. The method of claim 1, further comprising: decoding the encoded data in the infrared signal; displaying information on the display based at least on the decoded data.
Potential applications are numerous as described in subsequent claims.
Is this the solution against camcorders in theaters? I don’t think so. According to me, there are at least two issues:
- It requires the camera to be equipped with the system. Unless all manufacturers of cameras would adopt it, which is highly unlikely, there will be models without this system. Pirates will use these ones.
- Infra-red can be filtered by correctly tuned IR filters. Soon the pirates would find the frequency of IR, and use the corresponding filter. This is why IR jamming in theater did not work. Some companies tried to blast IR beams towards the audience to blind cameras. It was not a success.
The patent is available at http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PG01&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=”20110128384″.PGNR.&OS=DN/20110128384&RS=DN/20110128384