Apple may be planning gaming accessories
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Apple may be planning gaming accessories

A new patent (number 20010081505) at the US Patent & Trademark Office indicates that Apple is planning gaming accessories. The patent is for circuits, methods, and apparatus that provide user interfaces for playing games on portable electronic devices.

One example provides a game accessory having input controls for playing video, audio, and other types of games. The game accessory can have input controls, such as buttons, joysticks, and D-pads. Another example provides a game accessory having a thumb pad or keyboard. Other possible features include microphones, cameras and camera lenses, speakers, a second screen, rumble, and motion detection.

The game accessory may have a recess sized to fit the portable electronic device. Inserts or removable adapters can be used to fit portable electronic devices having different sizes. The portable electronic device can be held in the accessory using sliding covers, clips, or other engaging members. In other examples, the accessory can communicate with another accessory for head-to-head game play. The accessory may include circuitry for power, identification, and authorization. The inventors are Brett Gregory Alten and Sanjay Sadanand Gadkari.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Portable electronic devices have become ubiquitous over the past several years. It is now common for people to grab their portable media player, cell phone, laptop, and other such devices on the way out the door in the morning. The reasons for this popularity include the ever-increasing amount of functionality that Apple Inc., of Cupertino, Calif., is packing into their lines of iPods, iPhones, and related devices.

"This functionality includes the original reason for their proliferation: music playback. But these devices have moved far beyond that, adding other types of media playback and other functionality. Recording has been added; some of these devices can now take pictures. Connectivity has been added; users can surf the web and navigate their way around an unfamiliar town. These devices have been a boon to the workplace as well, allowing people to read documents and read and send email messages. Of particular importance here, games can be played on them.

"While the functionality of these devices has increased, their size has decreased. To achieve this size reduction, the user interface to these devices has been made very efficient. For example, some devices feature a front surface that is nearly filled with a touchscreen. The touchscreen provides almost the entirety of the user interface; it is used to display images and it is used to receive tactile command and data inputs from a user. That is, the device displays an image, the user touches, drags, taps, or otherwise touches the touchscreen, and the device interprets the touches as commands or data input. Other devices include a clickwheel that can be used to receive these tactile commands.

"Unfortunately, while playing games can be fun on these portable electronic devices, it can also be somewhat awkward, particularly on a portable electronic device having a touchscreen. The same screen used for viewing an avatar's activities is used to control the avatar. This arrangement causes the user's fingers block the action. Thus, while these portable electronic devices include a highly efficient interface, when playing games it is often desirable to have a more specialized user interface.

"Accordingly, embodiments of the present invention provide circuits, methods, and apparatus that provide user interfaces for playing games with portable electronic devices. These user interfaces can improve a user's experience with these portable electronic devices while playing games.

"An exemplary embodiment of the present invention provides an accessory having input controls for playing video, audio, and other types of games. In one embodiment of the present invention, a portable electronic device physically attaches to the accessory. The accessory can have input controls, such as buttons, joysticks, and directional pads (D-pads). In this way, the screen on the portable electronic device only functions as a screen. The user's fingers stay off the screen and thus do not block the user's view when playing a game.

"Another exemplary embodiment of the present invention provides an accessory for playing audio based games. These games may provide a response that is audio based and does not use a video screen. These games may be of particular use when a user should not be visually distracted. Voice commands may used to play the game, or inputs may be received using input controls such as buttons, joysticks, or D-pads.

"Another exemplary embodiment of the present invention provides game accessories having other features. These features can include cameras and camera lenses. The accessory can include a second screen, which may be a touch or conventional screen. To enhance game playing and other applications, rumble (circuits and mechanical mechanism to vibrate the accessory) and motion detection circuitry can be included. In some embodiments, the portable electronic device can be or can include a phone function. In order to allow use of the phone while the portable electronic device is in a game accessory, among other reasons, the accessory can include a microphone and speaker.

"In various embodiments of the present invention, the portable electronic device can be a media player with a touchscreen, clickwheel, or other input device. The portable electronic device can physically attach to, be physically received by, or mount to an accessory. For example, the accessory may have a recess sized to fit the portable electronic device. Inserts or removable adapters can be used to fit portable electronic devices having different sizes. Also, since game play can become a bit dynamic under certain situations, the portable electronic device can be held in the accessory using sliding covers, clips, such as elastomeric clips, or other engaging members.

"In a specific embodiment of the present invention, a receptacle on the portable electronic device is mated with an insert on an accessory. The portable electronic device can then be rotated into place. When in place, the portable electronic device can be flush with a surface of the accessory. The connection between the receptacle and the insert thus forms a connection for transferring power and data between the portable electronic device and the accessory. In other embodiments of the present invention, data may be transferred between the portable electronic device and the accessory wirelessly. In still other embodiments of the present invention, reactive coupling may be used to transfer data and power between a game accessory and a portable electronic device. The reactive coupling may be inductive or capacitive.

"In various embodiments of the present invention, a portable electronic device and a game accessory can wirelessly communicate with other devices. For example, a portable electronic device and accessory can communicate with another portable electronic device and accessory for head-to-head game play. This communication can be either direct or indirect, as through the Internet. In these and other situations, further communication can be had with a television, monitor, home theater, or other such device. For example, some information can be displayed on the portable electronic device. Other information can be displayed on a television. This allows some information to be displayed privately to a user, while other information is displayed to the user and the user's opponent. In other embodiments, communication can be between a portable electronic device and an accessory and a home stereo or home theater.

"In various embodiments of the present invention, a game accessory includes circuitry for providing identification information. This information may pertain to the capabilities of the accessory. For example, the accessory may inform the portable electronic device that it has a second screen, speakers, or other functionality. The accessory may include further circuitry for receiving information from the portable electronic device. For example, the accessory may inform the accessory that it has a certain sized screen, video capability, or other functionality.

"In various embodiments of the present invention, a game accessory includes circuitry for providing authentication. That is, the portable electronic device may ensure that an accessory is authentic before beginning or continuing to operate with the accessory. The accessory may also include a battery, which may be chargeable. The accessory may include power circuitry for receiving power from an external supply. In various embodiments of the present invention, the accessory can be powered by a battery located in the portable electronic device.

"Also, these portable electronic devices can be used for text-based applications, for example, to view, create, and edit documents, and to send and receive email messages. Data, such as text and commands, can be input using a touchscreen, but some users may find they cannot enter information as fast as they can with a regular or laptop computer. Accordingly, another exemplary embodiment of the present invention provides an accessory having a dedicated alphanumeric entry device. "This device can be a thumb pad, small keyboard, or other such interface. For example, a key pad where one or more keys correspond to a number and one or more letters can be used, where a letter is selected from the one or more letters by pressing the key one or more times. In other embodiments, the keyboard can be arranged to act as a remote control for one or more other electronic devices, such as televisions, home theaters, and the like.

"In various embodiments of the present invention, the processing, computing, and related functions needed for gaming, text entry, recording, and other tasks may be performed by either the portable electronic device or the accessory. Alternately, both the portable electronic device and the accessory can share one or more of these tasks. For example, a game program may operate on a processor located on either a portable electronic device, such as a portable media player, or on an accessory. Alternately, a game program may operate partially on each device.

"Various embodiments of the present invention may incorporate one or more of these and the other features described herein. A better understanding of the nature and advantages of the present invention may be gained by reference to the following detailed description and the accompanying drawings."

 

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