​Apple patents bonanza makes spreadsheet handling a breeze

Apple has invented a less clumsy way for road warriors to move cell selections around a display than using two fingers on a touchscreen.

Apple has been granted 38 new patents, which contains hints of new features that could arrive with the forthcoming iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.

If you've ever struggled to move a block of selected cells in a spreadsheet on an iPhone, it looks like Apple may be working on a way to make the task easier.

The newly-granted patents, dug up by Patently Apple, include a new way of tapping the sides of an iPhone to nudge virtual objects around a display - a more precise way of manipulating them than using two fingers on a relatively small touchscreen.

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Apple envisages that an iPhone user could tap the left of the device to push a virtual object in a rightward direction or tap the right side of the device to move it towards the left. The mechanism could be useful for Apple's business iPhone users that struggle to move a selection of text or spreadsheet cells around documents using conventional UI techniques.

"If the cells are small, making a precise selection using this touch-and-drag technique can be difficult; it can be difficult for a user to expand or contract the scope of currently selected cells by a vector (ie, row or column) of cells," Apple notes.

In this case, the tap "can be used to finely and precisely expand or contract the scope of currently selected cells". Apple also notes that the device's accelerator could also be used to determine "a direction and a magnitude of the force of user tap input", allowing the user to shift a selection boundary by one column or row.

As Patently Apple speculates, this could relate to applying Force Touch to the side frames of a future iPhone and iPad. More details about patent number 9,086,796 can be found here.

Apple was also granted a patent for a 3D object recognition system that comes courtesy of Swedish 3D mapping company C3, which it acquired in 2011. While Apple bought C3 for its mapping tech, this patent's roots are in biometric identification.

"The invention consists of a statistical model of the shape variations in a class of objects relating the two-dimensional (2D) projection in images to the three-dimensional (3D) shape of the object and the use of the 3D shape information for identification or verification of the object. Furthermore, the present invention relates to an image processing device or system for implementing such a method. The process is fully automatic and may be used e.g. for biometric identification from face images or identification of objects in for instance airport security X-ray images," Apple notes.

Apple envisages a number of applications for the invention including "object identification and verification in industrial processes, determining and/or identifying objects for security reasons, object recognition for military purposes, eg automatic determination of military vehicles, military ships, aircrafts, and so on, face recognition systems for many different applications, eg biometrics, information security, law enforcement, smart cards, access control and so on."

The last standout patent (9,088,714) Apple has been granted could improve panoramic photography for an iPhone, which Apple defines as "intelligent image blending for panoramic photography". The patent covers image acquisition, motion filtering, image registration, geometric correction and image stitching.

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