On July 23, 2009, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals various concepts behind the design of a dual-purpose hardware aperture on a portable electronic device. The dual apertures could be used to incorporate a microphone and speakers or used as a dual card slot. Although Apple emphasizes that multiple devices such as the iPhone, iPod or even MacBooks could be utilize this invention, the only key embodiment presented in the patent is that of a new upright camera design/concept.
Possible New Camera
Apple's patent FIG. 5 shown above is that of a standalone camera in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. As shown in FIG. 5, the camera includes a camera body 502 and a lens 504. The camera could also be incorporated into a future iPod like it is in Apple's latest 3G-S iPhone.
Apple's patent states that the camera will also include a set of acoustic ports arranged around the opening for lens. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the acoustic ports are used by a microphone or speaker within camera body. In other words, the microphone or speaker may use acoustic ports to transmit or receive sound. Acoustic ports may also form part of the opening for lens 504. In addition, the acoustic ports may be used by a camera flash (not shown) within the camera. As with components described in FIGS.2F above and 4C and D below, the camera flash and microphone or speaker may be arranged within camera body 502 such that neither component interferes with the operation of the other component. For example, the microphone or speaker may be positioned outside of a direct path between the camera flash and the acoustic ports. Likewise, the camera flash may be positioned within camera body 502 to facilitate sound transmission between acoustic ports 506 and the microphone or speaker.
Dual Purpose Card Slot
Apple's patent FIG. 3 shown below presents an electronic device 302 with a dual-purpose card slot 306. The card slot may be used to read various types of cards for electronic devices, such as memory cards, wireless cards, smart cards, Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA) cards, and/or Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards. It also includes an acoustic transducer 304. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the acoustic transducer is configured to operate through the card slot. In other words, the acoustic transducer may be configured to project and/or receive sound through the card slot.
In one or more embodiments of the invention, card slot 306 is used to read an associated card when the card is inserted into card slot. When the card slot is empty, acoustic transducer 304 may use card slot 306 as an acoustic port. For example, acoustic transducer 304 may play sound through card slot 306 if acoustic transducer 304 is a speaker. Similarly, the acoustic transducer may monitor and/or record sound through the card slot if the acoustic transducer is a microphone.
Dual Purpose Apertures
In Apple's patent FIG. 4A shown below, we're presented with a front view of electronic device 402 with a dual-purpose aperture. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the aperture is used by an acoustic transducer 404 within the electronic device and button 406 on the outside of electronic device. In one or more embodiments of the invention, an aperture is formed around button 406, allowing button 406 to be depressed within the aperture. In one or more embodiments of the invention, acoustic transducer 404 is positioned to operate acoustically through the aperture.
In patent FIG. 4B we see a side of electronic device 402 with dual-purpose aperture 408. As shown in FIG. 4B, aperture 408 is formed around button 406, allowing button 406 to be depressed into aperture 408 if button 406 is a mechanical button.
In Apple's patent FIG. 4C shown below, we're presented with a front view of electronic device 402 with a dual-purpose aperture 408. Aperture 408 is used by button 406 on the outside of electronic device 402 and a microphone 410 within electronic device 402. However, unlike FIGS. 4A-4B, aperture 408 is located at the top of button 406 and may allow microphone 410 to sample sound more directly.
In patent FIG. 4D we see a side view of an electronic device 402 with a dual-purpose aperture that is used by button 406 and microphone 410. As shown in FIG. 4D, microphone 410 is located directly behind aperture 408 within electronic device 402. Button 406 is positioned below aperture 408, thus allowing microphone 410 to detect sound via a more direct path. Alternatively, button 406 may be a switch, such as a power switch, that is mechanically moved using aperture 408. For example, button 406 may correspond to a power switch that is in an "off" state when button 406 is pushed upwards and obscures aperture 408. Button 406 may then be shifted down to power electronic device 402 up, thus exposing aperture 408 and allowing microphone 410 to operate through aperture 408.
Apple credits Michael N. Rosenblatt, Michael M. Lee and Justin L. Gregg as the inventors of patent application 20090185045.
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