Apple patent reveals infrared system for blocking camera recordings

If the title sounds frightening, fret not - this new patent from Apple isn't a complete net loss of consumer conveniences. This patent, which was published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office last Thursday, does contain something the music and movie industries in America have been clamouring over - a way to stop people from using recording devices in movie theatres and concerts. Yes, even concerts.

The method used to put an end to shaky cam footage of movies and concerts making their way to video sharing sites is for the device to detect infrared signals in images processed by its camera. The infrared light, which is invisible to human eyes, contains encoded data that is decoded and read. If an image contains encoded data, the device can then either display certain information to the user, or manipulate a function on the phone - including shutting off the camera. If no such encoded data exists, the camera functions as usual.

Besides being an anti-piracy tool, the technology can also be very handy in acting as a virtual "tour guide" whenever a user approaches a hotspot. Information about an exhibit can appear at a museum, as shown in the following example. The user's device can display a warning upon entering a particular area. It may also be possible for certain places, such as hospitals and airplanes, to use this technology to automatically shut off cellular radios in iPhones.

Image Credit and Source: Patently Apple

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So if Apple has the patent, no other manufacturer is allowed to use it and the users of other platforms will be able to film. Nice move for the media industry

This could be quite profitable for them. Companies buy in to the illusion of protecting their "property" all the time when there are easy bypasses.

The bit about using it to create a virtual tour sounds very interesting. The bit about being able to disable certain functions on your phone sounds very worrying.

If a hospital can send out an IR signal that turns off the radio, then anyone can do it. Mayhem will ensue. It would take about 10 minutes for someone to capture such an IR signal and then replay it at will where ever they want. Look up the TV B Gone device for an idea.

some corrupt leaders will find all kinds of the applications for this - for example, imagine the military armed with some infrared device, using it to prevent civilians recording to prevent them recording at demonstrations and so on...its potentially going to cause a lot of grief for good men and women.

DKcomputers said,
some corrupt leaders will find all kinds of the applications for this - for example, imagine the military armed with some infrared device, using it to prevent civilians recording to prevent them recording at demonstrations and so on...its potentially going to cause a lot of grief for good men and women.

This is the real problem. It's a violation of rights to allow this technology to exist. The reality is that protection of "intellectual property" should never go above the protection of our rights. Though luckily I'm not worried since I would hack my phone to disable it the moment it came out. Of course they could make that illegal which would suck, but that's life.

So visual DRM, 2 questions:

1. Wouldn't an IR filter kill it (as many have said)
2. Would this IR be harmful to our eyes? Invisible means nothing, radiation and x-rays are invisible but they can have an effect on our bodies.

smooth_criminal1990 said,
So visual DRM, 2 questions:

1. Wouldn't an IR filter kill it (as many have said)
2. Would this IR be harmful to our eyes? Invisible means nothing, radiation and x-rays are invisible but they can have an effect on our bodies.


Heat radiation is infrared. You can't escape infrared since everywhere there's heat, there is infrared. Absolut zero is not nice.
This IR is just lower power and produces a pattern of some sort to make it identifiable.

I predict a lot random trolling with this feature. Walking around at a popular spot, and I just whip out the old infra red bad boy and I troll everyone's iPhone. Love it

mrrampage said,
hmm makes me less wanting too get a iphone

If this goes anywhere further than the patent stage it'll probably end up in a lot of phones and cameras.
The film and music industry will probably be pretty happy to pay every one who put it in the devices more than what the licensing fees would be.

Also, if you weren't just looking for reasons to hate you would have seen that this could be used for more than protecting videos in cinemas from being filmed and so on.
You could take a photo of a statue in the park and get some information about it or a store could deliver a message, maybe a discount if you take a photo of one of thair ads if the feature is turned on of course.

I might be wrong but based on what I see on the drawing there is "Receive IR" switch to enable/disable this function so users should be able turn this "functionality" off.

Fritzly said,
I might be wrong but based on what I see on the drawing there is "Receive IR" switch to enable/disable this function so users should be able turn this "functionality" off.

I guess it will be like this:
on/off switch for stuff like information broadcasts. (say a guide or something like that that's been mentioned in the article)
always-on (no switch or options whatsoever) for the DRM part of recordings. An auto-check

The switch is there, as you would otherwise run the camera all the time and that would strain it immensely.

GS:mac

GiedriusVarnas said,
so this is one more reason not to have an iPhone

If this goes anywhere further than the patent stage it'll probably end up in a lot of phones and cameras.
The film and music industry will probably be pretty happy to pay every one who put it in the devices more than what the licensing fees would be.

Also, if you weren't just looking for reasons to hate you would have seen that this could be used for more than protecting videos in cinemas from being filmed and so on.
You could take a photo of a statue in the park and get some information about it or a store could deliver a message, maybe a discount if you take a photo of one of thair ads if the feature is turned on of course.

Leonick said,

Also, if you weren't just looking for reasons to hate you would have seen that this could be used for more than protecting videos in cinemas from being filmed and so on.
You could take a photo of a statue in the park and get some information about it or a store could deliver a message, maybe a discount if you take a photo of one of thair ads if the feature is turned on of course.

I'm all for them using tech to make life cooler, but the moment they use this same tech to block my video of police brutality or a murder I'm going to get REALLY mad. Like ALL CAPS in real life mad.

Its getting to a point everwhere now, that instead of people being trusted to do the right thing, restrictions are already in place to 'stop them' messing up. I hate the feeling of being restricted. I'm a grown man, with the ability to decide right from wrong myself.

DKcomputers said,
Its getting to a point everwhere now, that instead of people being trusted to do the right thing, restrictions are already in place to 'stop them' messing up. I hate the feeling of being restricted. I'm a grown man, with the ability to decide right from wrong myself.

+1, well said.

We can now all thank the RIAA Mafia and Co. who will actually make this tech profitable to everyone licensing it.

I'm looking forward to the messaging part, but then again: Just use damn QR codes!

Also this technology is quite prone to fail, as I don't see the real use of it when the real profit-from-copy dudes use DSLRs with filters et cetera.
Also, did you ever think it would be private use only? Nothing wrong with that! They imply it WILL BE UPLOADED no matter what. Yea... thanks for deciding way before something needs to be decided for me.
What about concerts for which you obtain the publishing rights?
It's actually quite easy with many bands, I myself just got publishing rights from a huge Italian band and I will upload it soon. I inquired them via email and got the rights.
It pushes them, it pushes me as a photographer and helps us both. No loss, just profit for all parties.

GS:mac

All you need to do is take a webcam apart and get the IR-filtering block out of it and put it in front of the camera. VOILA! No more infrared messages.

How can they patent this? isn't there already a technology out there which uses IR to cause the camera to not be able to focus correctly on the screen or produce a checkered/hashing effect on the image. This is essentially same just with an electronic component that limits it to devices with the technology installed but the other one works on all devices as it interferes with the lens/image capture

Teebor said,
How can they patent this? isn't there already a technology out there which uses IR to cause the camera to not be able to focus correctly on the screen or produce a checkered/hashing effect on the image. This is essentially same just with an electronic component that limits it to devices with the technology installed but the other one works on all devices as it interferes with the lens/image capture

This is more if camera detects specific infraid data, it turns off the function.
Different from infraid if physically interfering with camera.
Think Digital Rights Management - "You are not allowed to record this content" Signal detected.

This is so cool, when Apple does more invasive DRM, people cheer for it and praise the 'innovation'.

(PS Sad that journalism doesn't exist in the technical community, as this concept has been around before Apple's patent, and was highly ridiculed.)

Neobond said,
You do realise that this doesn't necessarily limit it to the iPhone, they will just own the technology lol.
Yeah, but how would any other cellphone company profit out of limiting the usage of their product, especially when they must pay Apple to use the technology?

Wolfbane said,
Yeah, but how would any other cellphone company profit out of limiting the usage of their product, especially when they must pay Apple to use the technology?

I'm sure music and movie companies would happily "reimburse" them for the troubles.

sounds dumb. at least it will open a market for an IR filter sticker that can be placed over the camera to block the IR signal - which will probably be sold by apple with an exploded price tag.

Dr Pepper said,
Jailbreak, just sayin'

Yep. This will definitely be one of the first things to be disabled once jailbroken.

"manipulate a function on the phone" - Cool, I'll just set that up to brick peoples' phones whenever they try using their camera within range...

Anyways, this only works if the device has this "feature", so it won't really stop anything (well it might stop people recording on their Crapple devices, but not Droids or actual cameras)

Wolfbane said,
"manipulate a function on the phone" - Cool, I'll just set that up to brick peoples' phones whenever they try using their camera within range...

Anyways, this only works if the device has this "feature", so it won't really stop anything (well it might stop people recording on their Crapple devices, but not Droids or actual cameras)


There would probably be a bunch of limitations to what it could do you know...

Leonick said,

There would probably be a bunch of limitations to what it could do you know...
It says hospitals will potentially be able to turn off the radios...