We know it's been tough with the dearth of Apple-related speculation as of late, but it looks like we now finally have a few more clues about what the company might be up to courtesy of a pair of recently published patent applications. The first of those is a new type of gesture-based input device, which would not only be able to detect swipes and other simple gestures, but things like brushing or scooping motions that take into account force and velocity (check out an example after the break). The other patent treads a bit of familiar territory for Apple, and describes a built-in solar power system for electronic devices -- such as an iPod, as illustrated above. That could apparently include solar cells covering the entire device, which could be configured to function even if they're partly obstructed by your hand. The system would also supposedly be able to detect if the battery is completely drained and rely solely on the solar cells to power up the device or, alternatively, switch the solar cells to a "second operational state" if it detects that the battery is charged -- if it ever actually exists, that is.

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Apple patent application two-fer: new gesture inputs, solar-powered iPods?