Apple continues to highlight some interesting ideas in its patent applications filed with the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO).

Today, a new patent application published on the USPTO website describes Apple’s way of using the wide array of sensors in iOS devices to anticipate what a user intends to do, and performing that automatically, without the need for explicit user input.



Titled “Electronic device with automatic mode switching,” the patent mechanism details the use of data from an ambient light sensor, a force sensor, a temperature sensor, an ambient noise sensor, and a motion sensor to switch between different “modes” of a device. An example of such a mode is the mute switch on iPhones that can toggle between silent and the ringer states.

Here’s an example of such a scenario: You’d not want your phone or any other portable device to be in the awake state, looking for touch inputs, when it’s in your pocket or your bag. After removing it from your pocket, though, you’d most likely wake up the device from its sleep state and start using it. Lighting information from the ambient light sensor can easily automate this usage pattern, with darkness corresponding to the “phone in pocket” state and the a lit up environment corresponding to the other state.

Of course data from a single sensor might not be very accurate at predicting what a user intends to do, which is why Apple would be basing its prediction on data from multiple inputs like force, surface temperature etc., thus reducing inaccuracies.

Sleep/Awake is just one such scenario. Apple describes other similar scenarios, like automatically playing/pausing music based on whether you’re exercising or not (using motion sensor data), adjusting ringer and music volume based on surrounding conditions, and playing different genres of music.

Apple, to a certain extend, already does automate a lot of things you take for granted these days like disabling the touchscreen when on a call and rotating apps based on orientation. The addition of more sensors would make future iPhones and iPads even more self-aware, possibly to a level where we’d deem such features as “obvious.”

You can read the entire patent application on USPTO’s website.