Apple Patent | Displaying Information Based On Wireless Ranging

Patent: Displaying Information Based On Wireless Ranging

Publication Number: 10602556

Publication Date: 20200324

Applicants: Apple

Abstract

A wireless communication device may locate a proximate object in an environment, such as an electronic device or a resource. During this communication technique, the wireless communication device may receive a transmission that includes an identifier associated with the object. The wireless communication device may determine a range and/or a direction of the object from the wireless communication device. For example, the wireless communication device may determine the range and/or the direction, at least in part, using wireless ranging. Next, the wireless communication device may present output information that indicates the range and/or the direction. In particular, the wireless communication device may display a map of a proximate area with an indicator representative of the object shown on the map. Alternatively, the wireless communication device may display an image of the proximate area with the indicator representative of the object on the image.

FIELD

The described embodiments relate to wireless communications among electronic devices and user interfaces, including systems and techniques for displaying physical or augmented reality information on a user interface based, at least in part, on wireless ranging.

BACKGROUND

The usefulness and, therefore, the popularity of many electronic devices, including portable electronic devices (such as cellular telephones), is often gated by ease of use. In particular, the ease of use of many electronic devices is typically determined by the user interface. The user interface is the gateway through which users’ actions or behaviors are defined and received, including user attempts to access the features of an electronic device. Consequently, the user interface is integral to an overall user experience.

However, there are limitations associated with existing user interfaces. For example, many existing user interfaces, especially those in small, handheld electronic devices, are constrained by their size. In addition, it can be difficult to present information on a user interface in a way that allows different types of information to be intuitively distinguished from each other. Consequently, the amount of information that can be displayed on a user interface is often restricted, and users are often confused by the information that is displayed. In addition to frustrating the users and degrading the user experience, there is often a significant opportunity cost associated with information that is overlooked or that is not displayed.

SUMMARY

Embodiments that relate to a wireless communication electronic device that locates an object are disclosed. During operation, the wireless communication device receives a transmission with an identifier associated with the object located proximate to the wireless communication device in an environment. The wireless communication device determines a range of the object from the wireless communication device and/or a direction to the object, where the range, the direction, or both is determined, at least in part, using wireless ranging. Next, the wireless communication device presents output information that indicates the range and/or the direction.

For example, presenting the output information may involve displaying, on a display in the wireless communication device, a map (or other representation) of a proximate area in the environment and displaying a first indicator representative of the object on the map. Alternatively or additionally, presenting the output information may involve displaying, on the display, an image of the proximate area in the environment captured by an imaging sensor in the wireless communication device and displaying a second indicator representative of the object on the image. In some embodiments, presenting the output information involves transitioning, based on an orientation of the wireless communication device, between displaying, on the display, the map of the proximate area in the environment including the first indicator representative of the object, and displaying, on the display, a camera-captured image of the proximate area including the second indicator corresponding to the object. Note that the first indicator and/or the second indicator may be displayed whether or not the object is within visual range of, or otherwise visible to, the wireless communication device.

Moreover, the identifier associated with the object may be a unique identifier. Furthermore, the identifier associated with the object may be associated with a resource class corresponding to the object. In some embodiments, multiple identifiers having different meanings or different resolvability, can be associated with the same object.

In some embodiments, the wireless communication device compares the received identifier with one or more stored target identifiers to determine a match (e.g., to resolve the identifier). Note that the target identifier may have been received in conjunction with a search result or a transaction. Alternatively or additionally, the target identifier may correspond to a contact maintained by the wireless communication device.

Moreover, the wireless communication device may transmit a message to the object based at least in part on the identifier. For example, the message may include an audio message that is transmitted as a beam-formed audio message perceivable substantially only in a location corresponding to the object, where the location is determined based, at least in part on, the range and/or the direction to the object.

Note that the object may be an electronic device associated with an individual. Alternatively or additionally, the object may be a resource in the environment, such as a public (e.g., safety) resource or a private (e.g., commercial) resource.

Furthermore, the output information may include haptic output, which may be presented through the wireless communication device and/or another device.

Other embodiments provide a computer-program product for use with the wireless communication device. This computer-program product includes instructions for at least some of the operations performed by the wireless communication device.

Still other embodiments provide a method that includes one or more of the operations performed by the wireless communication device.

This Summary is provided for purposes of illustrating some exemplary embodiments, so as to provide a basic understanding of some aspects of the subject matter described herein. Accordingly, it will be appreciated that the above-described features are only examples and should not be construed to narrow the scope or spirit of the subject matter described herein in any way. Other features, aspects, and advantages of the subject matter described herein will become apparent from the following Detailed Description, Figures, and Claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The included drawings are for illustrative purposes and serve only to provide examples of possible structures and arrangements for the disclosed systems and techniques for locating an object, e.g., through wireless ranging. These drawings in no way limit any changes in form and detail that may be made to the embodiments by one skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the embodiments. The embodiments will be readily understood by the following detailed description in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, where like reference numerals designate like structural elements.

FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating an example of electronic devices communicating wirelessly.

FIG. 2 provides a block diagram illustrating an example of a wireless communication device that performs wireless ranging.

FIG. 3 provides a drawing illustrating an example of locating an object in an environment using wireless ranging.

FIG. 4 provides a drawing illustrating an example of a user interface that displays a map and an indicator that represents the object in FIG. 3.

FIG. 5 provides a drawing illustrating an example of a user interface that displays an image and an indicator that represents the object in FIG. 3.

FIG. 6 provides a drawing illustrating an example of different modes of a user interface based on an orientation of a wireless communication device.

FIG. 7 provides a drawing illustrating an example of different modes of a user interface.

FIG. 8 provides a drawing illustrating an example of augmented reality.

FIG. 9 provides a drawing illustrating an example of expanded situational awareness about resources in an environment.

FIG. 10 provides a drawing illustrating an example of providing reminders and tracking objects in an environment.

FIG. 11 provides a drawing illustrating an example of different types of feedback associated with a user interface.

FIG. 12 provides an example of a method for locating an object using a wireless communication device.

FIG. 13 provides an example of communication among the electronic devices in FIG. 1.

Note that like reference numerals refer to corresponding parts throughout the drawings. Moreover, multiple instances of the same part are designated by a common prefix separated from an instance number by a dash.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The disclosed embodiments relate to a wireless communication device (such as a smartphone or a smart watch) that uses one or more measurements (such as wireless ranging or radio-based distance measurements) to locate a proximate object in an environment, such as a physical device (e.g., an electronic device or a resource) or a virtual representation (or placeholder) of a physical device at a physical reference location. The virtual representation can be a physical object (e.g., a placeholder object) or an entirely virtual object (e.g., one or more coordinates corresponding to a location). The wireless communication device may implement a user-interface technique in which an identifier associated with the object is received wirelessly and one or more measurements are used to wirelessly (e.g., from a distance and, in general, without physical contact) determine a range of the object from the wireless communication device and/or a direction to the object (e.g., a vector or a heading). Then, the wireless communication device may present output information that indicates the range and/or the direction. For example, the wireless communication device may display a map of a proximate area in the environment with an indicator representative of the object on the map. Alternatively, the wireless communication device may display an image of the proximate area (e.g., as captured by a camera of the wireless communication device) with the indicator representative of the object on the image.

This user-interface technique may remove the constraints associated with many existing user interfaces. For example, the output information may be displayed according to the range and/or the direction. This may allow the displayed output information to be arranged intuitively, which may allow a user to quickly understand and use what might otherwise be complicated content. Moreover, this user-interface technique may allow the output information to only be displayed when it is useful to the user, so that only the relevant subset of interesting information is displayed at any given time. In particular, the relevant subset can be identified based on situational awareness of the location of proximate objects in the surrounding environment and the user behavior, such as the orientation of the wireless communication device or the direction in which it is pointed. Consequently, the user-interface technique may improve the user experience when using the wireless communication device, and thus may increase customer satisfaction and retention.

Note that the communication used during wireless communication between electronic devices in the user-interface technique may be in accordance with a communication protocol, such as: an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.11 standard (which is sometimes referred to as Wi-Fi). For example, the communication may be used with IEEE 802.11ax, which is used as an illustrative example in the discussion that follows. However, the user-interface technique may also be used with a wide variety of other communication protocols, and in electronic devices (such as portable electronic devices or mobile devices) that can incorporate multiple different radio access technologies (RATs) to provide connections through different wireless networks that offer different services and/or capabilities.

In particular, the wireless communication device can include hardware and software to support a wireless personal area network (WPAN) according to a WPAN communication protocol, such as those standardized by the Bluetooth.RTM. Special Interest Group (in Kirkland, Wash.) and/or those developed by Apple (in Cupertino, Calif.) that are referred to as an Apple Wireless Direct Link (AWDL). Moreover, the wireless communication device can communicate via: a wireless wide area network (WWAN), a wireless metro area network (WMAN) a WLAN, near-field communication (NFC), a cellular-telephone or data network (such as using a third generation (3G) communication protocol, a fourth generation (4G) communication protocol, e.g., Long Term Evolution or LTE, LTE Advanced (LTE-A), a fifth generation (5G) communication protocol, or other present or future developed advanced cellular communication protocol) and/or another communication protocol.

The wireless communication device, in some embodiments, can also operate as part of a wireless communication system, which can include a set of client devices, which can also be referred to as stations, client electronic devices, or client electronic devices, interconnected to an access point, e.g., as part of a WLAN, and/or to each other, e.g., as part of a WPAN and/or an ad hoc wireless network, such as a Wi-Fi direct connection. In some embodiments, the client device can be any electronic device that is capable of communicating via a WLAN technology, e.g., in accordance with a WLAN communication protocol. Furthermore, in some embodiments, the WLAN technology can include a Wi-Fi (or more generically a WLAN) wireless communication subsystem or radio, and the Wi-Fi radio can implement an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 802.11 technology, such as one or more of: IEEE 802.11a; IEEE 802.11b; IEEE 802.11g; IEEE 802.11-2007; IEEE 802.11n; IEEE 802.11-2012; IEEE 802.11ac; IEEE 802.11ax, or other present or future developed IEEE 802.11 technologies.

Thus, in some embodiments, the wireless communication device can act as a communications hub that provides access to a WLAN and/or to a WWAN and, thus, to a wide variety of services that can be supported by various applications executing on the wireless communication device. Thus, the wireless communication device may include an access point that communicates wirelessly with other electronic devices (such as using Wi-Fi), and that provides access to another network (such as the Internet) via IEEE 802.3 (which is sometimes referred to as Ethernet).

Additionally, it should be understood that the electronic devices described herein may be configured as multi-mode wireless communication devices that are also capable of communicating via different 3G and/or second generation (2G) RATs. In these scenarios, a multi-mode electronic device or UE can be configured to prefer attachment to LTE networks offering faster data rate throughput, as compared to other 3G legacy networks offering lower data rate throughputs. For example, in some implementations, a multi-mode electronic device is configured to fall back to a 3G legacy network, e.g., an Evolved High Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) network or a Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) 2000 Evolution-Data Only (EV-DO) network, when LTE and LTE-A networks are otherwise unavailable.

Wireless ranging can be performed using any standard or proprietary ranging technique, or any combination of standard and/or proprietary ranging techniques. A wireless ranging operation can be performed to determine a distance between devices (e.g., between an initiator and a responder), a direction between devices, or both. For example, a Time of Flight/Time of Arrival (ToF/ToA) can be determined for one or more messages between the devices, which can be used to establish a measure of distance. The one or more messages can have any format and can be transmitted using any wireless protocol, e.g., an 802.11 protocol, Bluetooth, etc. In some embodiments, ToF/ToA can be determined using a bi-directional exchange of two or more messages. Also, in some embodiments, one or more messages used to perform ranging can be secured, e.g., by encrypting or otherwise protecting at least a portion of the content. Further, in some embodiments, the direction of the source of one or more wireless signals can be determined using a technique such as Angle of Arrival (AoA). For example, AoA estimation can be performed using multiple receive elements (e.g., elements of an antenna array) to measure the different times (TDOA) and/or different phases (PDOA) of arrival of a signal. Additionally or alternatively, in some embodiments, directionality can be determined by measuring Doppler shifts to establish a frequency difference of arrival (FDOA). Wireless ranging techniques can be applied individually or in combination to perform a single ranging operation. Further, wireless ranging techniques can be applied individually or in combination to perform on-going ranging operations, such as continuous or intermittent ranging, and a history of measurements can be captured and used in performing operations based on range and/or direction.

In accordance with various embodiments described herein, the terms wireless communication device, electronic device, mobile device, mobile station, wireless station, wireless access point, station, access point and user equipment (UE) may be used herein to describe one or more consumer electronic devices that may be capable of performing procedures associated with various embodiments of the disclosure.

We now describe embodiments of the user-interface technique. FIG. 1 presents a block diagram 100 illustrating an example of electronic devices communicating wirelessly. In particular, a wireless communication device 110 (such as a smartphone, a laptop computer, a wearable, or a tablet) and physical device 112 may communicate wirelessly. These electronic devices may wirelessly communicate while: detecting one another by scanning wireless channels, transmitting and receiving beacons or beacon frames on wireless channels, establishing connections (for example, by transmitting connect requests), and/or transmitting and receiving packets or frames (which may include the request and/or additional information, such as data, as payloads). Further, there may be a virtual representation 114 at a physical location 116. The virtual representation 114 can correspond to a physical device 118, such that virtual representation 114 functions as a proxy for physical device 118. In this case, wireless communication device 110 may identify and interact with virtual representation 114, but may transmit wireless signals that are received at physical device 118. For example, virtual representation 114 may be associated with a thermostat and an adjustment by wireless communication device 110 of the thermostat may be provided through interaction with virtual representation 114, but received and implemented by an environmental unit, e.g., physical device 118.

Note that physical devices 112 and/or 118 may include: an appliance (such as an oven, a refrigerator, a dish washer or a laundry machine), another electronic device (such as a computer, a laptop, a tablet or a computing device), an entertainment device (such as a television, a display, a radio receiver or a set-top box), an audio device, a projector, a security device (such as an alarm or a lock), a communication device (such as a smartphone), a monitoring device (such as a smoke detector or a carbon-monoxide detector), an environmental control (such as a thermostat, a light switch, or a shade), an accessory (such as a keyboard, a mouse or a speaker), a printer, a wearable device, a home-automation device, a resource in an environment 108 (such as a transportation resource, a shared computing resource, a medical resource, a display resource, a security resource, an accessibility resource or a safety resource), etc. Moreover, virtual representation 114 may be implemented as: a sticker, a picture, a piece of ceramic, a geo-fence, one or more coordinates defining a location, etc. In some embodiments, physical device 118 includes: a light switch, a thermostat, etc.

As described further below with reference to FIG. 2, wireless communication device 110, physical device 112, and/or physical device 118 may include subsystems, such as a networking subsystem, a memory subsystem and a processor subsystem. In addition, wireless communication device 110, physical device 112, and/or physical device 118 may include radios 120 in the networking subsystems. More generally, wireless communication device 110, physical device 112, and/or physical device 118 can include (or can be included within) any electronic devices with networking subsystems that enable wireless communication device 110, physical device 112, and/or physical device 118 to wirelessly communicate with another electronic device. This can include transmitting beacons on wireless channels to enable electronic devices to make initial contact with or to detect each other, followed by exchanging subsequent data/management frames (such as connect requests) to establish a connection (which is sometimes referred to as a Wi-Fi connection), configure security options (e.g., IPSec), transmit and receive packets or frames via the connection, etc.

As can be seen in FIG. 1, wireless signals 122 (represented by a jagged line) are communicated by radios 120-1 and 120-2 in wireless communication device 110 and physical device 112, respectively. For example, wireless communication device 110 and physical device 112 may exchange packets using a Bluetooth protocol in a wireless personal area network (WPAN) or a Wi-Fi protocol in a wireless local area network (WLAN).

In particular, as described further below with reference to FIGS. 3-11, wireless communication device 110 may transmit a frame or a packet that includes a transmission time. When this frame or packet is received by physical device 112, the arrival time may be determined. Based on the product of the time of flight (the difference of the arrival time and the transmission time) and the speed of propagation, the distance between wireless communication device 110 and physical device 112 can be calculated. This distance may be communicated in a subsequent transmission of a frame or a packet from physical device 112 to wireless communication device 110 along with an identifier (such as a unique identifier) of physical device 112 or a user of physical device 112. Alternatively, physical device 112 may transmit a frame or a packet that includes a transmission time and an identifier of physical device 112, and wireless communication device 110 may determine the distance between wireless communication device 110 and physical device 112 based on the product of the time of flight (the difference of a arrival time and the transmission time) and the speed of propagation. Note that this approach for dynamically determining distances between electronic devices that wirelessly communicate is sometimes referred to as wireless ranging. Further, wireless ranging (separately or along with other sensor input, such as a compass, gyroscope and/or accelerometer) can be used to disambiguate control input intent when multiple target devices may be located close to one another or in the same line of sight. A variation on this approach may be used, in which wireless communication device 110 senses gesture input directed at physical location 116 through sensor input (e.g., compass, gyroscope and/or accelerometer) and determines that one or more control signals should be transmitted to an associated device, e.g., physical device 118 associated with virtual representation 114. Similarly, another variation on this approach in which wireless communication device 110 transmits frames or packets that are reflected at physical location 116 may optionally be used to dynamically determine the distance between wireless communication device 110 and virtual representation 114. Thus, wireless ranging may be used by wireless communication device 110 to determine when an object (such as physical device 112 or virtual representation 114) is proximate in environment 108.

While the preceding example illustrated wireless ranging with synchronized clocks in wireless communication device 110 and physical device 112, in other embodiments the clocks are not synchronized. For example, the position of wireless communication device 110 or physical device 112 may be estimated based on the speed of propagation and the time of arrival data of wireless signals 122 at several receivers at different known locations (which is sometimes referred to as differential time of arrival) even when the transmission time is unknown or unavailable. More generally, a variety of radiolocation techniques may be used, such as: determining distance based on a difference in the power of the received signal strength indicator (RSSI) relative to the original transmitted signal strength (which may include corrections for absorption, refraction, shadowing and/or reflection); determining the angle of arrival at a receiver (including non-line-of-sight reception) using a directional antenna or based on the differential time of arrival at an array of antennas with known location(s); determining the distance based on backscattered wireless signals; and/or determining the angle of arrival at two receivers having known location (i.e., trilateration or multilateration). Note that wireless signals 122 may include transmissions over GHz or multi-GHz bandwidths to create pulses of short duration (such as, e.g., approximately 1 ns), which may allow the distance to be determined within 0.3 m (e.g., 1 ft.). In some embodiments, the wireless ranging is facilitated using location information, such as a location of one or more of electronic devices in FIG. 1 that are determined or specified by a local positioning system, a Global Positioning System and/or a wireless network.

Moreover, wireless communication device 110 may include one or more sensors that measure (or generate) sensor data. For example, the one or more sensors may include: one or more compasses, one or more accelerometers, and/or one or more gyroscopes that measure an orientation (or an orientation value) or a direction of wireless communication device 110; one or more accelerometers that measures an acceleration of wireless communication device 110; a transceiver (such as radio 120-1) that determines a metric that characterizes wireless communication between wireless communication device 110 and another electronic device (such as physical device 112 or, in embodiments in which reflected wireless signals are received, wireless communication device 110); one or more touch sensors configured to receive touch input, e.g., via a touch screen; and/or one or more microphones or acoustic transducers that measure ambient sound in environment 108 of wireless communication device 110. In some embodiments, wireless communication device 110 determines the proximity of the object in environment 108 using an ultrasonic chirp provided by an acoustic transducer. This ultrasonic chirp may be outside the range of human hearing. In the discussion that follows, proximity of electronic devices should be understood to include at least being within wireless-communication range, and may further restrict the electronic devices to be in the same room or within a predefined distance (such as within 10 m or 30 m).

As described further below with reference to FIGS. 3-11, during the user-interface technique, wireless communication device 110 may use wireless ranging and/or the sensor data to locate the object in environment 108 and to provide intuitive information about the object based on the determined location. In particular, wireless communication device 110 may receive a transmission including an identifier associated with the object (e.g., physical device 112) located proximate to wireless communication device 110 in environment 108 (such as a room in a building or a region surrounding wireless communication device 110). For example, the identifier may be a unique identifier of physical device 112 (and, thus, of a user of physical device 112). Alternatively or additionally, the identifier may be associated with a resource class corresponding to physical device 112, such as: a transportation resource, a shared computing resource (e.g., a printer), a medical resource, a display resource, a security resource, an accessibility resource, a safety resource, etc. Note that the identifier may have been received in conjunction with a search result or a transaction. Alternatively or additionally, the identifier may correspond to a contact of the user of wireless communication device 110. In some implementations, an object (e.g., physical device 112) can separately transmit multiple different identifiers that can be resolved differently depending on the information available to the recipient (e.g., wireless communication device 110).

In response, wireless communication device 110 may compare the received identifier to one or more stored target identifiers to determine a match. Then, using wireless ranging, wireless communication device 110 may determine a range (or distance) of physical device 112 from wireless communication device 110 and/or a direction to physical device 112.

Next, wireless communication device 110 may present output information that indicates the range and/or the direction to physical device 112. For example, as described further below with reference to FIG. 4, wireless communication device 110 may display a map of a proximate area in environment 108 and may display a first indicator representative of physical device 112 on the map. Alternatively or additionally, as described further below with reference to FIG. 5, wireless communication device 110 may display an image of the proximate area in environment 108 captured by an imaging sensor (such as a CMOS or a CCD imaging sensor and, more generally, a camera) in wireless communication device 110 and may display a second indicator (which may be the same as or different than the first indicator) representative of physical device 112 on the image. Note that the first indicator and/or the second indicator may be displayed whether or not physical device 112 is within visual range of, or otherwise visible to, wireless communication device 110.

Moreover, as described in FIG. 6, in some embodiments a user can intuitively toggle or transition between the two user-interface modes by changing an orientation of wireless communication device 110. In particular, based on a measured orientation value, wireless communication device 110 may selectively transition between displaying the map and displaying the image. Thus, when wireless communication device 110 is facing downward (e.g., horizontally), the map with the first indicator may be displayed, and when wireless communication device 110 faces the direction of physical device 112 (e.g., vertically), the image with the second indicator may be displayed.

Alternatively, as described in FIG. 7, the user may select a user-interface mode, such as by making and then breaking contact with a touch-sensitive display in wireless communication device 110 within a strike area of an icon. In this way, the user may select a user-interface mode in which a map with a 360.degree. perspective around wireless communication device 110 is displayed, and objects (such as physical device 112) at different ranges and directions are represented on the map by first indicators (such as symbols, emoticons or graphical icons). Furthermore, the user may select a user-interface mode in which the image is displayed, and physical device 112 is represented by the second indicator (such as a symbol, an emoticon or a graphical icon) when wireless communication device 110 is pointed or facing in the direction of physical device 112. In some implementations, one or more other graphical elements (e.g., directional elements) also can be presented while the display of wireless communication device 110 displays an image of the proximate area.

In some embodiments, the user-interface technique includes augmented reality. In particular, as described below with reference to FIG. 8, a front-facing camera on wireless communication device 110 may capture images (or video) of environment 108 that would be masked by wireless communication device 110 when the user holds wireless communication device 110 in front of their face. Then, the images may be displayed on wireless communication device 110 along with indicators that represent objects (such as physical device 112) when wireless communication device 110 is facing the direction of physical device 112, so that wireless communication device 110 appears transparent to the user. Note that the indicators may be positioned in the images at their locations in environment 108 and may be sized to provide a perspective view with intuitive information about the relative ranges to the objects. Therefore, objects that are farther away from wireless communication device 110 (and, thus, from the user) may be represented by smaller indicators than objects that are nearer to wireless communication device 110.

Furthermore, as described below with reference to FIG. 9, the augmented reality may include so-called x-ray vision. In particular, when physical device 112 is located on the other side of an opaque barrier (such as a wall or a piece of furniture), the images displayed on wireless communication device 110 may allow the user to see physical device 112 as if the opaque barrier were not there or as if the user could see through the opaque barrier. For example, if the user is looking for a network printer that is in another room, when the user points wireless communication device 110 in the direction of the network printer, an image of the network printer may be displayed on wireless communication device 110, along with information that allows the user to access the network printer. Thus, by tapping on an icon associated with the network printer in a user interface displayed on wireless communication device 110, the user may instruct wireless communication device 110 to pair or connect with (or otherwise interact with) the network printer. Alternatively or additionally, the user interface may include instructions (and optionally a building map) on how to reach the network printer.

Similarly, as described further below with reference to FIG. 10, the user-interface technique may allow a user to track the location of objects (such as physical device 112) in environment 108 or to obtain reminders about one or more related objects in environment 108 (e.g., to prevent loss). In this way, a parent may keep track of a child or may make sure not to forget something (such as a backpack) on the way to school.

Moreover, as described further below with reference to FIG. 11, a wide variety of feedback may be provided to the user or other individuals in environment 108 using the user-interface technique. In addition to the visual information described previously, wireless communication device 110 may provide haptic feedback to a user, either directly on wireless communication device 110 or indirectly through another electronic device (such as the user’s smart watch). In this way, the user may receive feedback about their environment, such as when they are facing in the direction of physical device 112.

Additionally, wireless communication device 110 may transmit a message to physical device 112, such as a text or an audio message. For example, the message may include an audio message that is transmitted as a beam-formed audio message that is perceivable substantially only in a location corresponding to physical device 112 (e.g., a private audio broadcast). In this way, the user of wireless communication device 110 can send private messages to another individual that is within range, even when the user does not have an electronic way to communicate with the other individual (such as when the user does not know the recipient’s telephone number or email address). Additionally or alternatively, wireless communication device 110 may transmit a beam-formed audio message to the user with relevant information, such as: the name of a person in environment 108, a task to accomplish, an upcoming appointment, etc.

Thus, the user-interface technique may allow wireless communication device 110 to control an object (or functionality associated with an object) from a distance, including without the user opening or unlocking wireless communication device 110. The user-interface technique may also allow wireless communication device 110 to provide situational awareness about objects in environment 108 in an intuitive and useful manner. These capabilities may also provide the user new degrees of freedom in controlling or interacting with the object in environment 108. Consequently, the user-interface technique may improve the user experience when using wireless communication device 110, and thus may increase user satisfaction and retention.

In the described embodiments, processing a packet or frame in one of wireless communication device 110, physical device 112, and/or physical device 118 includes: receiving wireless signals 122 encoding the packet or frame; decoding/extracting the packet or frame from received wireless signals 122 to acquire the packet or frame; and processing the packet or frame to determine information contained in the packet or frame (such as data in the payload).

In general, the communication via the WLAN in the user-interface technique may be characterized by a variety of metrics (or communication-performance metrics). For example, the metric may include: an RSSI, a data rate, a data rate for successful communication (which is sometimes referred to as a throughput), an error rate (such as a retry or resend rate), a mean-square error of equalized signals relative to an equalization target, inter-symbol interference, multipath interference, a signal-to-noise ratio, a width of an eye pattern, a ratio of number of bytes successfully communicated during a time interval (such as 1-10 s) to an estimated maximum number of bytes that can be communicated in the time interval (the latter of which is sometimes referred to as the capacity of a communication channel or link), and/or a ratio of an actual data rate to an estimated data rate (which is sometimes referred to as utilization).

Although we describe the network environment shown in FIG. 1 as an example, in alternative embodiments, different numbers or types of electronic devices may be present. For example, some embodiments include more or fewer electronic devices. As another example, in another embodiment, different electronic devices can be transmitting and/or receiving packets or frames.

We now describe embodiments of an electronic device. FIG. 2 presents a block diagram of an example of electronic device 200 (which may be a portable electronic device or a station). For example, electronic device 200 may be one of: wireless communication device 110, physical device 112, and/or physical device 118 in FIG. 1. Electronic device 200 may include processing subsystem 210, memory subsystem 212, networking subsystem 214, display subsystem 226, measurement subsystem 230, and user-interaction subsystem 232. Processing subsystem 210 includes one or more devices configured to perform computational operations. For example, processing subsystem 210 can include one or more microprocessors, application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), microcontrollers, programmable-logic devices, and/or one or more digital signal processors (DSPs).

Memory subsystem 212 includes one or more devices for storing data and/or instructions for processing subsystem 210 and networking subsystem 214. For example, memory subsystem 212 can include dynamic random access memory (DRAM), static random access memory (SRAM), a read-only memory (ROM), flash memory, and/or other types of memory. In some embodiments, instructions for processing subsystem 210 in memory subsystem 212 include: one or more program modules or sets of instructions (such as program module 222 or operating system 224), which may be executed by processing subsystem 210. For example, a ROM can store programs, utilities or processes to be executed in a non-volatile manner, and DRAM can provide volatile data storage, and may store instructions related to the operation of electronic device 200. Note that the one or more computer programs may constitute a computer-program mechanism or software. Moreover, instructions in the various modules in memory subsystem 212 may be implemented in: a high-level procedural language, an object-oriented programming language, and/or in an assembly or machine language. Furthermore, the programming language may be compiled or interpreted, e.g., configurable or configured (which may be used interchangeably in this discussion), to be executed by processing subsystem 210. In some embodiments, the one or more computer programs are distributed over a network-coupled computer system so that the one or more computer programs are stored and executed in a distributed manner.

In addition, memory subsystem 212 can include mechanisms for controlling access to the memory. In some embodiments, memory subsystem 212 includes a memory hierarchy that includes one or more caches coupled to a memory in electronic device 200. In some of these embodiments, one or more of the caches is located in processing subsystem 210.

In some embodiments, memory subsystem 212 is coupled to one or more high-capacity mass-storage devices (not shown). For example, memory subsystem 212 can be coupled to a magnetic or optical drive, a solid-state drive, or another type of mass-storage device. In these embodiments, memory subsystem 212 can be used by electronic device 200 as fast-access storage for often-used data, while the mass-storage device is used to store less frequently used data.

Networking subsystem 214 includes one or more devices configured to couple to and communicate on a wired and/or wireless network (i.e., to perform network operations), including: control logic 216, an interface circuit 218 and a set of antennas 220 (or antenna elements) in an adaptive array that can be selectively turned on and/or off by control logic 216 to create a variety of optional antenna patterns or beam patterns. (While FIG. 2 includes set of antennas 220, in some embodiments electronic device 200 includes one or more nodes, such as nodes 208, e.g., a pad, which can be coupled to set of antennas 220. Thus, electronic device 200 may or may not include set of antennas 220.) For example, networking subsystem 214 can include a Bluetooth.TM. networking system, a cellular networking system (e.g., a 3G/4G network such as UMTS, LTE, etc.), a universal serial bus (USB) networking system, a networking system based on the standards described in IEEE 802.11 (e.g., a Wi-Fi.RTM. networking system), an Ethernet networking system, and/or another networking system.