Apple patent may stop fans from filming concerts

WASHINGTON • Most artists do not encourage the audience taping their concerts on mobile phones.

Alicia Keys has her fans lock their smartphones in a grey, rubbery pouch for the duration of her shows. To open it, you have to step outside and tap it on a metal fob.

Dave Chappelle, The Lumineers, Louis C.K. and even the newly reunited Guns N' Roses do the same.

Adele, on the other hand, is a little more vocal about her feelings. She stopped her May 29 concert in Verona, Italy, to ask a fan to stop filming her show. Ironically, another fan caught Adele's request on camera - presumably by using a smartphone.

Thanks to a patent granted to Apple on Tuesday by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, these measures may soon be unnecessary.

Put simply, this patent is for - among other things - technology that could potentially allow music venues to disable a smartphone's camera.

The technology is pretty straightforward. Apple could build infrared sensors into the camera on its smartphones, which would be able to pick up signals broadcast by strategically placed infrared emitters.

This is the same technology that is in your old television remote.

As you know, though, if you point the remote at the neighbour's house instead of the television, nothing happens. Those infrared signals require a direct line of sight, which is what makes it perfect for this sort of application.

All a venue would have to do is broadcast infrared signals from its stage that instruct the iPhone, iPad and iWhateverComesNext to turn off and, voila, Adele will not need to stop singing about her exes to lecture fans for filming the show.

And do not worry - the patent is not only about stopping Apple users from doing things. A transmitter could also be used to heighten certain experiences, such as retail shopping or museum browsing.

All of this comes with an enormous caveat, though: There is a very good chance that this technology will never make it onto your phone. (Sorry, Adele!) As AppleInsider reported, Apple holds thousands of patents. The company was awarded 2,003 in 2014 alone. And as Wired and Tech Insider both reported, big companies tend to apply for broad swaths of patents just to have them, but most never end up getting used.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2016, with the headline 'Apple patent may stop fans from filming concerts'. Print Edition | Subscribe