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Apple patents tech to disable iPhone cameras at concerts

By James Walker     Jun 29, 2016 in Technology
Apple has been awarded a patent for a technology that could automatically deactivate your iPhone's camera while at a concert or other public event. It would prevent people from inconveniencing others by taking photos and illegal recordings.
The patent was first applied for in 2011 and was finally granted yesterday. Apple's evidently had the idea for the technology for a while but there's no indication that it's currently under development for use in future iPhones.
The patent filing describes a system in which infrared emitters are placed in areas where photo and video capturing are prohibited. A sensor in the camera lens could detect the infrared signals and the encoded data they carry. This would be interpreted as a command that would disable the iPhone's camera and notify the user accordingly.
Apple patent describing tech that could disable iPhone cameras at concerts
Apple patent describing tech that could disable iPhone cameras at concerts
Apple / USPTO
Apple shows how the system could be used to disable video recording at concerts but the technology could also be applied to other locations where cameras are prohibited. Infrared emitters in cinemas could prevent pirates from creating videos of films and releasing them online. The transmitters could be installed at sensitive events and gatherings to prevent the public taking photos.
The granting of the patent comes amid growing public frustration in many countries at the thousands of phone screens held up at live events. Increasingly, people are as eager to record and share videos of concerts as they are to watch them live, even though this can be illegal.
Apple's solution would have its critics if implemented though. It could be seen as overly authoritarian and lacking in trust, representing the company reaching out to users' devices and enforcing the law itself. It could also be misused by law enforcement or governments around the world. Infrared transmitters could be installed in public places or in oppressed regions, preventing people from documenting their experiences.
Apple patent describing tech that could disable iPhone cameras at concerts
Apple patent describing tech that could disable iPhone cameras at concerts
Apple / USPTO
Despite the preventative focus, the technology isn't just about enforcing the law and public order. Apple suggests it could also be used positively in places like museums. Infrared transmitters could be installed next to each exhibit and used to communicate with your phone.
Instead of sending a command to disable the camera, the emitter could send information about the object to your handset. The iPhone could then display it, giving you your own portable guidebook as you walk around. Because the system is based on infrared commands, it is versatile and applicable to a range of scenarios.
As with any patent, Apple may not ever develop this technology. It's unlikely to appear on its devices anytime soon and there are flaws that would need to be worked out before its launch. It represents the company considering the issues that technology can cause, solving the problem of video recording at concerts and movies while simultaneously adding a new dimension to museum browsing.
More about Apple, iPhone, Camera, infrared, future tech