On January 20, 2010, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals one of the next chapters for Apple's Magic Mouse. Apple is working on combining the Magic Mouse's touch surface with either an OLED or specialized display surface made of collimated optical glass that contains a unique magnifying capability. The display will be able to display a calculator when in use with Apple's Numbers app or be able to magnify text when using Apple's Pages app. The interface could be used for other applications in the future, and an iPhone keypad isn't out of the question.
While sophisticated devices such as the iPhone provide significant information to a user regarding use of the device as a controller. For more common and basic input devices, such as keyboards, mice, trackpads, tablets, etc., functionality available through the input device is not usually conveyed through the input device, but, if at all, through the user interface on the system to which inputs are provided. As a result, it is not always apparent to the user which input should be used to access particular application functions; the functionality to a user might be improved through a more communicative input device. Accordingly, this disclosure identifies new configurations for use in input devices that provide functionality and appearance options beyond those available in current input devices.
In an embodiment, an input device, such as a computer mouse, includes an display device to present observable data to a user. In some examples, the observable data may form a portion of an interface to communicate user interactions to a host system. In some desirable configurations, the input devices will include a collimated glass component configured to translate an image from the display device to a surface of the input device, for example, an outer surface. In such examples, the collimated glass component preferably includes a plurality of fused optical fibers and an input interface, and the fused optical fibers convey optical data, such as image data, from the input interface to the outer surface of the collimated glass component.
In another example, a method is disclosed that includes displaying an image on the input device. In some examples, the image may be received at the input device, such as a mouse, while in other examples the image may be stored in the input device.
Collimated Optical Component
Apple is likely to utilize a collimated optical component in a future version of the Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad or other input devices. For purposes of the present description the collimated optical component will be described as being formed of collimated glass. As used herein, "collimated glass" refers to an optical component that includes a plurality of optical fibers, such as glass fibers or other "fiber optic" fibers, that are fused together in a generally uniform arrangement. Examples of such collimated glass are marketed by Schott North America, Inc. of Southbridge, Mass.
Because of the uniform arrangement of the fused optical fibers, light and light patterns (i.e., images) entering the optical component at a first surface are generally uniformly transmitted through the component, and appear at the surface at the other end of the component. Additionally, the collimated glass component need not be uniform, but, for example, the individual fibers may be expanded along their length, thereby fanning out to a larger surface, and thus presenting a larger output image than the image input to the component.
The Magic Mouse Display
In Apple's Patent FIG. 1 we see a possible future version of the Magic Mouse integrating a collimated glass component 120 that extends from a lower surface of mouse to form a portion of the upper surface 128 of the mouse. The Magic Mouse is depicted in the illustration resting on a sheet of paper with text. In this particular example, the collimated glass component is configured to display a magnified image 126 of underlying text 124. While this is a possible example use of the collimated glass component in an input device, other uses are also anticipated, and the present example is provided primarily to illustrate the capabilities of the collimated glass component.
In other examples, either a smaller or a larger portion of the mouse shell 108 may be formed from collimated glass. Also, certain display types, such as OLED displays are capable of being constructed of flexible components, further facilitating use on non-planar surfaces. And, in some examples, the image data to be presented on the display device may be stored in the mouse.
The Display Could Illustrate Virtual Buttons, Text and/or Video
Although a wide variety of applications are possible, as just a few examples, the displayed image data might include one or more of text, input locations such as virtual buttons, still or video images, and colored light that is either static or changing. As an example, soft-key information, such as text labels, could be displayed, for example, adjacent to left and right touch sensitive regions 116 and 118 to provide labels indicating functionality available by selection through such regions.
Combining a Touch Screen with Collimated Glass
Further, this future Magic Mouse could include a collimated glass component having a display surface near or beneath a touch screen interface, by which different patterns of virtual buttons may be displayed at the display surface of the component and be visible at the touch screen surface to customize and/or guide user input. Where the collimated glass component is to be used in combination with touch screen technology, the touch surface will typically extend over the top of the collimated glass component. In such examples, any touch screen technology can be used, including resistive, capacitive, and other sensing technologies. Preferably, the touch screen sensing components will be translucent or so small as to be visually unobtrusive or undetectable to a user.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 depicts an example processing system configuration. In this example, the future Magic Mouse utilizes the collimated glass component in combination with a touch screen interface, and facilitates a variable GUI accessible for that touch screen interface. Patent FIG. 4 below illustrates this combination.
The Magic Mouse May Sport an iPhone or Numeric Keypad
Through the combination of the display of keypad 406 in association with a touch screen interface, user inputs corresponding to the keypad may be provided through the touch screen interface. This would be great with Apple's Numbers or Microsoft's Excel applications. As one example of operation, a user might select a calculator function. This example of course would also hint that we'll also be able to use it as an iPhone interface for outgoing calls.
Could Work with Apple's Pages or iPhoto Too
To expand upon the depicted example, in response to another user input, this future Magic Mouse might display a first set of one or more images (for example a first set of icons) representative of a first set of inputs under the touch screen interface if a word processing program such as if Pages was an active window on the computing system.
As yet other alternatives, a user could elect to display one or more photos or videos, or even just colors or abstract patterns through an input surface. The capability of the collimated glass component to translate an input image to another size, shape or configuration for display provides a wide range of options to improve the user experience of an input device.
Superior Ability of Collimated Glass
In Apple's patent FIGS. 3A-C we see three illustrative examples of collimated glass components 300, 320, and 340. Each collimated glass component includes a respective image input interface 302, 322, 342; a respective glass element including fused optical fibers 306, 326, and 346; and a respective display interface 304, 324 and 344 – which cooperate to transmit and display image data at the identified display interface. One feature of collimated glass is that the image at the input interface is not just visible down through the glass, as would be the case with any conventional transparent structure. Instead, with the collimated glass, the image appears to lie essentially at the display interface.
Future Device Applications
Apple's patent lastly points to the fact that the combination of a touch screen and collimated glass may be used in other future iterations of the iPhone, iPod touch, a MacBook trackpad or other stand alone devices. The patent also points to the Magic Trackpad as being another possible device that could utilize this technology in the future. The patent covers that implementation under the category of "Graphics Pad."
Apple credits Aleksandar Pance, Brett Bilbrey and Duncan as the inventors of patent application 20110012838, originally filed in Q3 2009.
Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for further details. Patents shouldn't be digested as rumors or fast-tracked according to rumor time tables. Apple patents represent true research that could lead to future products and should be understood in that light. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
Community Sites Covering our Original Report
MacSurfer, Apple Investor News, Rivva Germany, Google Reader, Techmeme, Computerworld (Jonny Evans), MacDailyNews, MacRumors, MacStories, TUAW, Neowin.net, Apple Headlines, Applesfera Spain, MacPlus France, OS X Daily, ModMyi, MacNN, Mac User Greece, Mac + (Brazil, Digerati), SlashGear, Gizmodo, Italiamac Italy, macnews Germany, Engadget - Germany, Apple 191 Thailand, Cult of Mac, Engadget US, Applefobia Poland, OLED-Info, Macerkopf Germany, Macworld-France, United Daily News China, and more.