Apple looking to create outdoor, sunglasses-friendly LCD screens

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Date: Friday, May 27th, 2011, 02:35
Category: News, Patents

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It’s Friday, additional Apple patent applications have emerged and Apple has apparently shown interest in creating an improved LCD display for devices like the iPhone and iPad that is not distorted when viewed by a user wearing polarized sunglasses outdoors.

Per AppleInsider, the proposed new technology was revealed in a new patent application made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week. Entitled “Display that Emits Circularly-Polarized Light,” the proposed invention describes a liquid-crystal display that reduces perceived distortion when viewed through linearly polarizing filters, such as sunglasses.

In the application, Apple notes that current LCDs are based on polarization optics, and typically utilize linear polarizers on their front surfaces. The problem is that the light from LCDs typically has an electric field that only vibrates in one direction, while polarized sunglasses only allow through light with an electric field that vibrates in the vertical direction.

“Hence a user looking at the LCD display of a portable device… may see a distorted image in the display when viewed through polarized sunglasses, due to the polarized filters in the sunglasses blocking the light when the display is viewed at some angles,” the application reads.

When an LCD display is seen through polarized sunglasses, at certain angles the screen may be completely dark or somewhat obscured. The issue can be made even worse when a lens cover is placed in front of a display for protection or industrial design, as these plastics can compound the issue with color and gray artifacts.

Apple’s solution is a display that emits circularly polarized light by placing a layer in the path of linearly polarized light.

“The layer receives the linearly-polarized light on one surface, converts the linearly-polarized light to circularly-polarized light, and then emits the circularly-polarized light from another surface,” the application reads. “By emitting circularly-polarized light, the display reduces the perceived distortion found at some angles when the display is viewed through a linearly-polarizing filter.”

The invention would allow for superior outdoor viewing of displays, like iPhone or iPad screens, by reducing perceived distortion created when a user wears sunglasses.

Apple’s adoption of glass screen covers and glossy displays has been a point of criticism against the company, as some have complained they make viewing of devices in sunlight near impossible. The company has even brought back antiglare matte screens to some of its MacBook Pro options as an optional US$150 upgrade.

By creating a screen that could accommodate sunglasses, Apple would craft a new LCD that would allow a reduced amount of light to reach a user’s eye without distorting the screen. This could improve the ability to use devices like an iPhone, iPad or MacBook Pro outdoors on a sunny day.

Apple first filed for the proposed invention in January of this year. It is credited to John Z. Zhong, Wei Chen, Cheng Chen, Victor H.E. Yin, and Shawn R. Gettemy.

Recently published patent shows Apple’s interest in adding camera, games to iPod nano

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Date: Friday, May 13th, 2011, 04:12
Category: iPod Nano, Patents

A newly released patent application shows that Apple has interest in improving its multi-touch iPod nano with a camera and support for new software such as games.

Per AppleInsider, potential features of a future touchscreen iPod nano were revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office entitled “Environment Sensitive Display Tags.” The document describes adding new sensors to the iPod nano, including a camera, to add new functionality.

The application concentrates on software features like screen savers, allowing information or content to be displayed on the device. Apple’s proposed invention would use sensors that would display unique content, or change the manner in which it is displayed.

But even more interesting are the illustrations shown in the application that include references to a camera and games. Currently, the sixth-generation iPod nano does not feature a camera, and cannot run software outside of what is preinstalled on the device.

In addition to a camera, the application also makes mention of the inclusion of a motion sensor, temperature gauge, and a microphone. Each of these sensors could be used to dynamically alter the way a screensaver would be played on an iPod nano.

While the application itself makes no mention of the iPod nano model in its text, the images show a small device with no physical buttons with an appearance similar to the multi-touch model Apple released last September.

The mention of a camera in the patent filing comes just days after a new photo claimed to show a seventh-generation iPod nano with a rear-facing camera, and without the built-in clip featured on the sixth-generation model. Another picture, also suggesting Apple could add a camera to its tiny media player surfaced in early April.

A camera was previously featured on the iPod nano in its larger fifth-generation model, released in 2009 and featuring the classic-style click wheel for input. Previous version of the device also supported iPod Click Wheel Games, but no games are available for the touchscreen sixth-generation iPod nano.

While the iPod nano operating system is designed to look and feel like iOS, which powers the iPod touch and iPhone, it is actually a different, unique operating system. In December, hackers managed to crack the software, but have not yet released any useful hacks aside from removing icons.

Apple’s patent application was first filed in November of 2009. It is credited to Duncan Kerr, Nicholas King, and Michael B. Victor.

Apple patent describes keyboards with sensors, tactile feedback

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Date: Thursday, May 12th, 2011, 20:47
Category: Patents

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This could be nifty.

Per AppleInsider, Apple has shown interest in creating an advanced keyboard that could provide tactile feedback to users through the inclusion of numerous proximity sensors and air vents on individual keys.

The concept was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing, entitled “Input Devices and Methods of Operation,” notes that as physical keyboards get smaller and more compact, they may not offer the same typing experience users prefer.

A smaller keyboard might limit the tactile feedback a user feels on their fingertips while typing. This is as a result of keys that do not travel as far when pressed on, say, a much thinner keyboard.

Apple proposes addressing this issue by placing proximity sensors in each key on a keyboard. These sensors could be used to detect when user input on a key is imminent.

The patent filing describes a system that would “flow air from the input device,” perhaps through openings in the surface of an individual key on a keyboard. This would provide tactile feedback to the user before they make physical contact with the key surface.

This air pressure could be used to apply air pressure against a user’s fingertips, giving tactile feedback even though the key may not move as much as a key on a more traditional keyboard.

In another example, Apple describes a pneumatic system that would be used to “advance the selected key in a direction of actuation in response to detecting user selection.” Through this method, the key would be “pulled away from the user.”

Apple also proposes combining these two methods in a keyboard that would provide initial air resistance to movement of a user’s fingers, and then withdraw a key from the user’s touch.

The application, made public this week, was first filed in November of 2009. The proposed invention is credited to Aleksandar Pance, Michael Sinclair, and Brett Bilbrey.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple receives RFID tag reader patent, iPhone 5 possibilities seen on horizon

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Date: Wednesday, April 20th, 2011, 07:25
Category: iPhone, Patents

If it’s not the rumors that keep things interesting, it’s the patents for stuff that might be coming down the line…

Per AppleInsider, a patent recently granted to Apple detailing a method of incorporating a Radio Frequency Identification tag reader into the screen of a portable touchscreen device in order to save space has furthered speculation that Apple plans to add RFID features to the iPhone.

The patent, entitled “Touch Screen RFID Tag Reader,” describes “the efficient incorporation of RFID circuitry within touch sensor panel circuitry. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published the filing on Tuesday.

RFID allows devices to sense embedded chips in nearby objects without the requirement of contact or a visible line of sight.

In the filing, Apple documents a process by which the touch sensor panel of a device can be modified to double as an “RFID transponder,” thereby eliminating the need for a “space-consuming RFID antenna.”

According to the invention, loops for the antenna of the RFID circuit can be formed from “metal on the same layer as metal traces form in the borders of a substrate” without requiring a separate metal layer.

Apple’s method for employing RFID tag reader technology within a touchscreen joins a growing collection of RFID patent applications, which include the invention of a mobile “ID App” for reading RFID tags and a method of using RFID to sense and connect to WiFi networks.

The proposed “ID App” would utilize an RFID reader, camera and an IR image capture device to identify objects, such as a painting in a museum, and search a set of databases to gather more information.

Last August, rumors emerged that Apple was planning to bring near field communications technology, such as RFID, to the next-generation iPhone. Further evidence of Apple’s alleged plans for an RFID-capable iPhone came in October of last year when reports suggested that an Apple partnership with chip manufacturer Gemalto could pave the way for contactless transactions on the iPhone via RFID.

In January, Apple web site visitors discovered a job listing for an iPhone hardware engineer with RFID experience. It has been suggested that Apple will implement an e-wallet feature to take advantage of the rumored NFC-capabilities in future iOS devices.

Analyst Brian White with Ticonderoga Securities claimed in February that the next iPhone will utilize NFC for a ‘unique’ twist that would go beyond just e-wallet functionality. After a suprising contrary report suggested that NFC would not make it into the next iPhone, Forbes reported in March that, according to a trustworthy source in the NFC market, the iPhone 5 will indeed have NFC contactless capabilities.

Michael Nathaniel Rosenblatt and Steve Porter Hotelling are listed as inventors of the patent.

Apple receives patent for dock connector with USB 3.0, Thunderbolt elements built in

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Date: Wednesday, April 6th, 2011, 03:02
Category: News, Patents

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A patent recently granted to Apple reveals that the company is looking into a modified dock connector compatible with newer high-speed communication standards, such as USB 3.0 and a “dual-lane DisplayPort,” or Thunderbolt, connector.

Per AppleInsider, the invention, entitled “Reduced Size Multi-Pin Male Plug Connector,” was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday and describes a smaller 30-pin dock connector with updated connection standards.

“Some embodiments of the present invention can provide support for one or more new high-speed communication standards,” the filing read, citing USB 3.0 and DisplayPort as examples of these standards.

The device depicted in the application’s drawings is an iPod, but the invention extends to other mobile devices and laptop and desktop computers.

According to the patent, the multi-purpose connector could carry power, data, video and audio signals. One embodiment includes two legacy USB2 contacts, four USB3 contacts, USB power and a ground. The DisplayPort standard would transfer data at 1.3MP with one lane, 1.8MP with two lanes and 4.1MP when all four lanes are selected.

The patent does not indicate whether the new connector would be backward compatible with Apple’s current dock connector.

The invention is credited to Stephen Paul Zadesky, Brian S. Lynch and Jason Sloey. It was filed for on Sept. 29, 2009.

Though the patent was revealed by the USPTO last year, Intel’s Thunderbolt implementation, which couples a DisplayPort with high-speed interconnect, had yet to be announced.

Intel announced the Thunderbolt interconnect technology in February alongside Apple’s release of new MacBook Pros, the first to take advantage of the new specification.

Formerly codenamed ‘Light Peak,’ the technology provides PCI Express interconnect speeds of up to 10Gbps and utilizes the Apple-developed Mini DisplayPort. Intel had originally hoped to use fiber-optic cabling for the technology, but initial implementations utilize copper wiring due to cost constraints.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple may be looking into creating external “quick charge” battery packs for devices

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Date: Friday, April 1st, 2011, 03:26
Category: Patents

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Apple has apparently shown an interest in developing an integrated external battery pack into its standard charging cable, providing extra power for devices like a MacBook or iPhone when a power outlet isn’t available.

Per AppleInsider, the potential future accessory was revealed this week in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing for “Power Adapter with Internal Battery” describes a wall charger with an integrated battery pack, allowing users to charge a device at home and give that device extra juice when on the go.

Apple’s application acknowledges that rechargeable external battery accessories do already exist. However, it notes that such accessories are not as advantageous as one that might be integrated with a standard charging cable.

“Such external batteries are generally cumbersome to use, at least because they must be unpacked for use and then repacked for storage,” Apple’s filing states of current options available on the market. “In addition, many users forget to bring the external battery in addition to the adapter while in transit.

“What is needed is a way to combine a power adapter and a battery so that a user does not have to carry an additional battery while traveling with a portable electronic device.”

Apple’s solution would include a “smart” charger with an integrated processor. This would allow the charger to intelligently determine how to distribute charge between the integrated adapter battery, and the battery on a device like a MacBook.

The hardware would also include the ability to share the status of the battery with the device it is charging. This way, users would be able to check the status of the external adapter battery and how much power it has left.

Such a device could be augmented by a “trickle source” for power, such as solar. And it could also include a USB port for charging a device like an iPhone or iPod. The accessory could also include a wireless adapter, allowing a MacBook or other device to access the power adapter even when it is not physically connected.

Apple’s application also notes that its external battery solution could employ current power adapter features, such as its patented MagSafe connector.

The need for such third-party external battery makers could be significantly lessened if Apple were to follow through on its pursuit of power adapters with integrated rechargeable batteries.

Apple first filed the patent application made public this week in September of 2009, and the proposed invention is credited to Duncan Kerr, David Robbins Falkenburg and Michael Nugent.

Apple exploring technique for dense lithium battery cell creation

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Date: Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 10:27
Category: battery, News, Patents

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It’s a good day for patent stuff and that counts for something.

According to AppleInsider, Apple is investigating techniques to increase the energy capacity of rechargeable lithium battery cells without increasing the size of the battery, allowing longer battery life in future devices.

The proposed invention is detailed in a new patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week. The filing, titled “Increasing Energy Density in Rechargeable Lithium Battery Cells,” describes charging a battery using a “multi-step constant-current constant-voltage (CC-CV) charging technique.”

The CC-CV charging technique would allow the thickness of the anode active material inside a battery cell to be increased in both “volumetric and gravimetric energy density.” But while the density of the power capacity would be increased, the size of the battery, as well as its maximum charging time and minimum life cycle, would remain unchanged.

Apple’s application notes that the conventional method for increasing the battery capacity, or ampere-hour (mAh), of a lithium-ion or lithium-polymer battery involves increasing the lengths of the anode and cathode current collectors, as well as their coating materials But increasing the area of current collectors results in lower volumetric energy density, and results in a larger battery.

“What is needed is a technique for increasing the energy capacity of a rechargeable lithium battery without increasing the size of the battery sell,” the filing states.

Apple’s application notes that the company intends to make battery cells smaller, allowing the “limited space available in portable electronic devices to be used more efficiently.” The company noted it could use the space savings to add more features, or more battery capacity.

But one issue with employing the multi-step CC-CV charging technique is battery life can be significantly decreased depending on temperature. For example, using the same current-charge density at 10 degrees celsius will lower the cycle life “substantially” when compared to a higher temperature such as 45 degrees.

In addition, current-charge densities further reduce the battery’s cycle life if it is at a higher state of charge, between 70 percent and 100 percent.

Apple’s solution would reduce the charge currents for a mobile device when its battery is at a higher state of charge, or a lower temperature. This would avoid degradation in the cycle life of the battery, and potentially even increase it, without any required change in battery chemistry.

The multi-step charging technique would be compatible with the new battery design and would increase battery life by dynamically adjusting the rate of charge when the battery is at different states of charge, or different temperatures.

The patent application was first filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Aug. 22, 2009. It is credited to Ramesh C. Bhardwaj and Taisup Hwang.

Apple patent suggests combined MagSafe power connector/data connector technology

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Date: Thursday, February 17th, 2011, 06:08
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Patents

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Ok, this could be useful.

Per AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week published a new patent application from Apple named “Magnetic Connector with Optical Signal Path.” Discovered by AppleInsider, the document describes a single cable that would provide both power and data to a mobile device, like a MacBook Pro, using a single cable.

Like Apple’s existing, patented MagSafe adapters, the new cable would allow for “easy disengagement” due to the use of magnets to attach and properly secure the cable.

The application notes that there are two major needs the portable computers must satisfy if the notebook is to serve as a proper desktop replacement. The first is the need for a power source, since modern batteries often cannot get through an entire workday, while the second is the ability to transfer data over a physical connection.

“Presently, satisfying these two requires at least two connections to the mobile device; one for power and one for data transmission,” the application reads. “But including two (or more) connectors increases cost and consume space, typically along the side of the mobile device. It also requires the user to make two separate connections, thus limiting the usefulness and desirability of the mobile computing format.”

Apple’s filing also notes that the use of two cables can clutter a user’s workspace and degrade the mobile computing experience. More cables also increase the likelihood of a user tripping over one and potentially damaging their computer.

“Thus, what is needed are circuits, apparatus, and methods that provide a power and data transfer system that can supply both power and data to a laptop or other mobile computing device,” the application states.

The application suggests the presence of a fiber optic line inside a connector that looks much like the existing MagSafe power connector found on its line of MacBooks. But it would include additional “pins” inside the connector to allow data transfer for multiple types of inputs.

Potential input methods listed by Apple include USB, fiber-optic, local area networking (LAN) cables, DVI video, and DisplayPort. Corresponding connectors for these devices would be included on the power and data adapter.

In addition, Apple’s proposed invention would allow separate external devices to communicate with one another via the power and data adapter. For example, two or more USB devices could communicate with each other and transfer data between one another over the adapter.

Like a similar patent awarded to Apple last fall, the application revealed this week could offer a glimpse into the company’s potential plans with Intel’s high-speed Light Peak optical cable technology. Intel aims to offer mobile devices bandwidth of 10Gbps, scaling up to 100GBps over the next decade, with its next-generation cable.

Apple has shown great interest in Light Peak and has been “pushing” the chipmaker to bring it to market. Light Peak would allow Apple to roll networking, display, and peripheral cables all into one master cable, much like is described in the latest patent application.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent application shows interest in developing solar as a power source for mobile devices

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Date: Friday, January 14th, 2011, 06:44
Category: News, Patents

A recently revealed patent application shows that Apple is continuing to research solar power as a potential secondary power source for its mobile devices.

Per freepatentsonline, the application, which describes an auxiliary solar cell that interfaces with a device’s battery, was published earlier this week.

The invention includes a “battery charging manager” that can handle power from a “plurality of power sources including a solar power source.”

According to the filing, the patent is for “a solar power package for use with an electronic device, the package comprising: at least one solar cell operable to derive solar power from solar energy; and a power charger operable to provide the derived solar power to the portable electronic device, wherein the derived solar power is provided in a plug-and-play fashion when the portable electronic device is coupled to the package, and wherein the power charge is operative to adjust the amount of power provided to the portable electronic device based on attributes of the portable electronic device.”

Alternate embodiments of the invention include charging the device’s battery or an accessory battery, simultaneously charging a battery and providing power to the device and removable solar cells. The described solar power charging accessory could be used to power “a media player, a notebook computer, a tablet computer, a cellular phone, an image processing device, and a handheld computing device.”

IPBiz has reported that Apple’s patent application hit several snags because of similarities to a patent for a solar charger case and a patent for solar power connector cables, but that Apple maker was able to distinguish its patent because the invention is “plug-and-play” and regulates power levels according to the attributes of the device it is powering.

Apple has been looking into solar power for its portable devices for several years now. Early last year, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published an application describing a portable device such as an iPod or iPhone with solar cells on the front and back that could power the device and recharge the battery.

The patent, which was filed in Feb. 2009, is titled “Portable devices having multiple power interfaces” and replaces a prior application from 2006 with the same title. Wendell B. Sander and Daniel A. Warren are listed as the inventors.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Daniel Warren is an iPod System Integrator for Apple and has previously worked on the iPod Nano, iPod Classic and iPod Shuffle.

Apple’s interest in solar power may be a result of environmentally conscious initiatives that the company has adopted in recent years.

Several years ago, Apple was openly criticized by Greenpeace for the use of toxic chemicals in its products. Last year, Greenpeace praised Apple for its turnaround, honoring the Mac maker with the environmental advocacy group’s top ranking as the greenest electronics marker.

Apple “Logo Antenna” patent unveiled

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Date: Friday, December 24th, 2010, 06:05
Category: News, Patents

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While embedding an antenna in the external body of an iPhone may not have been Apple’s best idea, hiding it behind the logo may be a little better thought out.

Per PatentlyApple, that’s the idea Apple wrote up in a patent application dated June 17th, 2009, back before we knew antennas and gates could be so wickedly conjoined.

This idea was also used for iMacs, which also have antennas peering through an apple-shaped hole to avoid any reception issues caused by an aluminum chassis. It looks to be a good solution, but not exactly a novel one. The idea was also incorporated in a similar 2003 patent from Dell also called “Logo Antenna,” the big difference being that while Apple’s logo forms a window for the antenna the logo in Dell’s patent actually is the antenna.