Correction, 4:05 p.m. June 23: The headline and this story have been changed to reflect that this was a newly published patent application, not a patent.
A newly published patent application indicates that Apple is apparently tinkering with the idea of a sophisticated infrared system for the iPhone--one that could help in Cupertino's quest to become BFFs with the music and movie industries.
What's really going on here is basically a way for an iPhone to receive data about its surrounding environment. The entertainment industry could come in if, for example, a band--or more likely, its record company--doesn't want a concert to be recorded illegally. They could place infrared transmitters around the stage, which, when picked up by an iPhone camera pointed at them, could trigger a disabling of all recording on the phone.
But the possibilities for this kind of technology detailed in the patent application titled "Systems and methods for receiving infrared data with a camera designed to detect images based on visible light" aren't all so Big Brother. Imagine infrared transmitters next to a museum exhibit that communicates information about the display or points to a related video online. Of course, that transmitter would probably also disable photography, too--didn't you see the sign about no picture taking in this wing of the museum? Then again, if photography is allowed, applying infrared data could automatically generate a place stamp or watermark for each picture you take.
Apple applies for a lot of patents, so there's no guarantee this awesome/scary infrared technology will come to pass. But if it does, it might be the end of stage-diving and crowd-surfing photos forever, so rock on while you still can!
(Via Patently Apple)