Apple accessory patents: Siri Smart Dock
An intriguing patent filed by Apple describes a "smart dock" that would always be listening for spoken commands. Ideal for use with Siri, the "smart dock for activating a voice recognition modes of a portable electronic device" patent covers an accessory that could include a speaker, microphone and built-in screen as well as the ability to integrate Siri into your home.
When an iPad or iPhone is paired with the unit, Siri would constantly listen out for prompts, such as play a song or skip, for example.
Apple accessory patents: iPen smart stylus
Apple actually has a total of 22 'iPen' patents under its belt, according to Patently Apple.
The iPen described in the patents is effectively a smart stylus. It could have sensors that enable the pen to recognise the orientation it's being held in relative to the touchscreen of the device being used. This would improve the accuracy and experience of using a stylus. It could also have a camera, audio recorder, laser pointer and projector built in.
A patent published in March 2014 describes a stylus that comes complete with an extendable nib that may help to replicate multiple tools such as pens, paintbrushes and pencils. In addition to being able to extend the nib, Apple's patent also suggests that the stylus nib could be swapped out for a variety of different nibs for different purposes (above).
There have been rumours about an iPad Pro tablet that comes with a stylus, aiming to rival the likes of Microsoft's Surface Pro 3. All of the speculation about the iPad Pro can be found in our iPad Pro rumours article.
Apple accessory patents: Solar charging iPhone, MacBook accessory
Apple's future portable devices could benefit from a portable solar panel accessory that Apple appears to be investigating. A patent published by the US Patent & Trademark Office in October 2013 describes a power management system that would provide energy for an iOS device or MacBook until the battery is fully charged.
Apple is certainly interested in solar power. The majority of power generated at its iCloud data center in North Carolina is generated from on-site solar panels that could power 17,600 homes for a year, according to Reuters. Just this week, Apple has announced plans to build a components plant in Arizona that will run entirely on renewable energy, including solar energy.
Apple accessory patents: Self-adjusting earphones
In July 2013, USPTO published an Apple patent application covering earphones that can automatically adjust audio output based on the quality of the seal detected by a built-in microphone or by measuring electrical currents.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.