RIM patent: Smartphone camera to capture thermal images

RIM submitted a patent application that deals with thermographic augmented reality display in an electronic device. According to Gina Smith, this is one patent to watch.

Every Thursday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) publishes the patent applications it received about 18 months before. On July 19, 2012, Waterloo-based Research in Motion (RIM) showed up on the USPTO's application database with something pretty interesting.

The abstract of the patent, titled "Thermographic Augmented Reality Display in an Electronic Device," describes the application as an electronic device with which you're able to configure a future smartphone's camera to capture thermal images from persons, places, and things. You could theoretically then use that information to locate people, parks, find objects, and you name it.

Imagine using your smartphone's camera to search for your kid, your keys, your car ...

Check out the abstract below (Figure A). Note: this is just an application — the USPTO only published it, and it has just been assigned an examiner. However, this is one to watch. Figure A

The following diagram (Figure B) shows one potential embodiment of how this invention would work. Figure B

The strangest thing of all is that usually, paralegals or for-hire lawyers sign the Power of Attorney docs to transfer (assign) patents from one inventor or company to another. It's all recorded in the assignee database. This one similarly went from an inventor to RIM as an assignment — but instead of lawyer or paralegal, the ex CEO Balsillie signed it (Figure C). Figure C

"It is highly unusual for a company of this size for the CEO to sign a power of attorney," IP expert Tom Ewing from told me. "It's a simple signature for a simple patent application."

Makes you wonder what Balsillie, previous co-CEO at RIM, was thinking. However, it's cool to see an endangered company like RIM filling interesting patent apps like this. Stay tuned.

For more information, you can view the patent in its entirety, including more images.


Gina Smith is a NYT best-selling author of iWOZ, the biography of Steve Wozniak. She is a vet tech journalist and chief of the geek tech site,

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