Apple has been awarded a patent that describes a mobile camera technology that can interpret infrared signals, which could then be used to disable the camera from recording at events like concerts, among other things.

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An infrared transmitter would send encoded data to the device, which would be processed by the phone. Depending on the application, the device may temporarily disable its built-in camera in locations where photography and video capture are forbidden, for example music venues, classified company areas or museums. With the system activated a 'RECORDING DISABLED' message would pop up on the smartphone screen when the user tries to take a photo or video. The patent even mentions the ability to add a watermark to any images or video captured when certain infrared signals are detected. 

The patent also describes use of this technology to provide additional information or visuals in a different scenario: for example, an art gallery. Pointing a smartphone camera at an IR transmitter positioned next to a painting could provide more information on the device's screen about the artwork. The patent also mentions applications in retail environments.

There is understandably some concern about how and where such systems would be implemented. Arguably, most people would be fine with concert venues protecting the intellectual property of their acts or companies preventing industrial espionage, but there are concerns that the technology could also be used to undermine the freedom of the press. As usual, the existence of a patent does not necessarily mean we'll ever see the final product, but in this case it might be worth at least keeping an eye on how the idea is being developed further. You can read the full patent document on the USPTO website.