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Apple patent application eyes eye-tracking technology

A freshly published patent application points to a way for iOS devices to respond to your gaze, similar to a feature already found in Samsung's Galaxy S4 smartphone.


Apple may be aiming to challenge Samsung over eye-tracking technology.,

An Apple patent application, dubbed "Electronic Devices With Gaze Detection Capabilities," was published Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The application describes a feature in which your mobile device reacts to the movement of your head or eyes.

Turn your head or eyes away from the device, and the screen dims. Look back at the device, and the screen returns to life. Looking away could also put the entire device in standby mode, meaning certain functions are powered down to preserve battery power. In yet another example, turning away from the screen would pause a video, while looking back would resume the video.

Sound familiar? That's because Samsung adopted a similar feature for its Galaxy S4. Samsung's Smart Pause pauses a video when you gaze away from the screen and then resumes the video when you look back. LG Electronics has also gotten into the eye-recognition act with a feature called SmartVideo, which likewise controls video playback by tracking your gaze.

So, what's Apple up to?

The company's patent application is actually a divisional application, which means Apple took the eye-tracking invention from a prior patent filing and separated it into its own individual patent filing. The previous parent patent application was filed on September 20, 2008, while the divisional one was filed on January 25, 2013.

Samsung filed a trademark patent for a feature called "Eye Pause" on January 24, 2013, according to AppleInsider, and another one for a feature known as "Eye Scroll" in February. Yet another trademark filing for something called Samsung Smart Scroll was filed on March 8. However, Samsung also has an older patent called "Apparatus and method for detecting speaking person's eyes and face," which was filed in 2000 and granted in 2003.

Given the bad blood between Apple and Samsung, a patent battle over the eye-tracking technology could easily spring up. If Apple is eyeing this feature for a future iOS device, the company may be attempting to show that it possessed the technology first as described in its original 2008 application.

(Via PatentlyApple and AppleInsider)