Triumph For The Shy: Apple Patents Infrared Photography Prevention

Thanks to the US Patent and Trademark office, we can get a glimpse of the future of massive adoption of digital cameras.  We’ve already seen what happens when you put a video or still camera in everybody’s pocket or purse: a shit-ton of photos and video.  Which, predictably, is not a favorite development of the more bashful in the law enforcement community.   (“Bashful” meaning “shy or retiring” as well as “likely to bash you on the head for no reason”.)

But what happens when iPhone maker Apple applies for a patent that prevents its cameras from working if the camera detects a coded infrared (invisible to the eye) signal?  Such as, say the kind of signal that could be emitted at concerts or theaters to prevent “piracy”?  Or might come one day as standard equipment on police uniforms?

Well, here’s the patent application, anyway.  Good night.



Abstract: Systems and methods for receiving infrared data with a camera designed to detect images based on visible light are provided. A system can include a camera and image processing circuitry electrically coupled to the camera. The image processing circuitry can determine whether each image detected by the camera includes an infrared signal with encoded data. If the image processing circuitry determines that an image includes an infrared signal with encoded data, the circuitry may route at least a portion of the image (e.g., the infrared signal) to circuitry operative to decode the encoded data. If the image processing circuitry determines that an image does not include an infrared signal with encoded data, the circuitry may route the image to a display or storage. Images routed to the display or storage can then be used as individual pictures or frames in a video because those images do not include any effects of infrared light communications.


4 Responses to “Triumph For The Shy: Apple Patents Infrared Photography Prevention”

  1. 1 stylembe
    July 2, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    Kind of creepy.

  2. 2 Mr. Rick Remaley
    July 24, 2011 at 10:25 pm

    I always wonder if this DRM stuff is just a sop for the entertainment industry. After all, some clever youngster always finds the way around it – and, there’s always a way around it – and posts it on the net for me and you. I admit, at times DRM has been inconvenient. I don’t know how many hours I spent unlocking and jailbreaking my first iPhone. But for the most part, DRM hasn’t affected me much.
    Obviously, neither Apple, nor any other manufacturer has any interest in crippling their own product, but must do so to satisfy the entertainment industry, who’s had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the present, for as long as I’ve been around. I’m sure this’ll be broken – weeks, if not hours, after it’s release.

    • July 25, 2011 at 9:08 am

      Totally agree that culturally speaking, Apple is likely to be an agent in the service of entertainment business first and of other institutions later. Also agree that added features for DRM purposes will likely fall to circumvention by the hacker subculture probably forever. Though, in the case of in-band video processing like this, it’s my guess that the feature implementation would be at the device driver level, significantly upping the decompilation/programming/reinsertion skills required to circumvent without bricking the phone or disabling the camera.

      Looking in the abstract at the technical story of video in the new media landscape, it’s interesting how far it hasn’t really come. Notice there’s no free/open source “equivalent” of Final Cut/Permiere, even at this very late date. Is that because of a low interest by the open source development community in video, or is it because digital video processing is a very rarefied programming skill? I tend to believe the latter, but that’s gut more than anything.

  3. 4 Mr. Rick Remaley
    July 25, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Yeah, you might be right. They’re still trying to get the Airport Extreme API’s worked out. But there might be a bigger effort for something like this, than try to get packet injection to work in Airport. I have no clue as to what’s involved in something like that, though. It must be difficult.
    As I thought more about this topic, I found myself conflicted. While I’m for absolute freedom with devices that you own, as well as in other areas, I do hate all those idiots holding their phones over their heads at concerts. But I really don’t want to be one of those assholes who support, whether passively or actively, curtailing the rights of others because it benefits them personally. God forbid!

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