Yesterday, the US Patent Office published close to 35 patents for Apple and overnight we've dug up a few more interesting ones that we just couldn't get posted in good time. In today's patent report we're going to show you how Apple is advancing on two interesting market fronts. The first involves reinventing the Mini Jack for future wearable and miniature portable devices while the second involves pico-like projectors for portables like the iPhone and MacBook. The patent even hints of home theater and television systems. Curiously Apple is building an interesting portfolio of projector patents that seem to be inching their way to market ever so slowly.
The Problems to Overcome
Electronic devices are ubiquitous in society and could be found in everything from wristwatches to computers. Many of these electronic devices include the ability to display images to the user of the electronic device, such as by projecting the displayed images through a lens onto a screen or backdrop.
Coherent vs. Incoherent Light: Conventional projectors include so called "laser projectors," which render images using coherent laser light as opposed to projectors using incoherent incandescent light sources. While the laser display systems may offer greater resolution than non-laser based display systems, they often consume greater amounts of power. Because of their greater power consumption requirements, laser based display systems also may include complicated cooling circuitry resulting in more bulky projection equipment.
The Speckle Problem: Another issue with laser display systems versus non-laser based display systems is the so called "speckle" problem. "Speckling" refers to an interference in the intensity of highly coherent light, such as laser light, which may result from the laser striking a rough surface. The overall effect of speckle in laser display systems is that the image may appear grainy. Furthermore, laser light sources are often more costly than other non-laser light sources, making laser based display systems more expensive. Accordingly, display systems that embrace the desirable features of laser light sources while overcoming the undesirable features of non-laser light sources may be useful.
Apple's invention is to allow light display systems, such as projectors, to have lower power consumption, reduced speckling, and/or be less expensive than conventional light projectors.
In some embodiments, an incoherent light source may be optically coupled to a coherent light source to produce a combined coherent and incoherent beam of light for projecting images. In general, incoherent light sources, such as light emitting diodes (LEDs) or incandescent bulbs, emanate light waves across a broad spectrum (e.g., multiple wavelengths of light), whereas coherent light sources, such as lasers, are more precise and emanate light waves of a single wavelength. By combining light from the incoherent light source with the light from the coherent light source, the overall power level of the coherent light source in the combined light beam may be reduced while still perceiving a crisp, clear image. As a result of the lower power levels for the coherent light sources, the size and complexity of light projection systems may be reduced.
Apple Working on Projector Technologies for Multiple Projector Systems
A Home Theatre System: The first projector system that Apple is working on is shown in patent FIG. 1. It's projector that you see in rare TV – Home Theater systems that are secured to a home or business ceiling. Apple has been secretely working on both 3D holographic and stereoscopic projection systems for years. So they're not starting from scratch here – they're just exploring varying new ways to bring their projection technology to market.
In respect to their projection system being used in business, Apple has already provided us with a peek of that project. A year ago we covered this topic in our report titled "Apple Files a Mysterious Projector Patent." It should also be noted that Apple's patent points to an alternative table top projection system though didn't provide an illustration of such. But if you're in business, then you know what they're referring to.
The MacBook & iOS Portables: The second projection system that Apple is working on is shown in patent FIG. 2 below. Clearly Apple is targeting a projection system to be specifically integrated into future MacBooks. Since the projector is capable of providing a combined beam at reduced power levels as compared to conventional coherent beam systems, such an embodiment may be desirable in a laptop computer being battery powered. According to Apple's patent, the projection system could also be incorporated into future iOS devices such as the iPhone. Of course they simply refer to portable handhelds like a phone which translates accordingly.
On this front, Apple has shown us some of their handiwork in progress back in April 2010. In respect to other handhelds, Apple hinted of incorporating a projector into a future iPhone and how it could be used to share memories.
A Rear Projection TV: The third projection system that Apple is working on involves a rear projection TV as shown in patent FIG. 3.
Apple definitely has a vision for the Post-PC era that deeply involves a projection system. Proof of that was found in an April 2010 patent wherein we learned of a desk-free computer that Apple's engineers described as "the next great thing." This new core system involves a projection system.
In recognition of Apple's ongoing work in this area, Patently Apple has opened a new Archive section to follow this trend under: Patents: Projection.
For more information on these projection systems, simply feed patent application 20110075055 into this search engine. Apple credits Bret Bilbrey as the sole inventor of this patent which was originally filed in Q3 2009.
Patent Application: Jack Assemblies with Cylindrical Contacts
On most electronic devices today, the conductive pads of an audio jack could typically be formed from stamped sheet metal shaped to ensure electrical contact and retention when a plug is inserted in the jack. For example, a commonly used shape for conductive pads of a jack includes, for example, cantilever beams extending into a cavity of the jack and operative to deflect away from a plug when the plug is inserted in the jack cavity. Additionally, cantilever beams could take up large amounts of space within the jack assembly.
Obviously Apple has something in mind with this patent, being that they're virtually reinventing the audio Jack assemblies with cylindrical contacts. This patent follows two other patents focused on the reinvention of miniature Jacks. The first was covered in our report titled "Apple Reveals Technology Required for Future Miniature Products" and the second was covered in our report titled " Apple Seeks to Perfect the Audio Jack for Nano Devices."
Considering that Apple hired a new Senior Prototype Engineer by the name of Richard DeVaul to work on wearable computers about a year ago, this push into experimenting and researching new ways of designing miniature Audio Jack Assemblies becomes par for the courses. It also means that Apple has a master plan to push into new mobile device territory if they wish to remain the leading mobile devices company in the world – according to CEO Steve Jobs.
In this patent, Apple presents us with the widest list of miniatures and mobile devices as possible so as to blur the picture so to any specific. Yet, hidden in this list is likely a few next generation devices that they may be working on. The list includes the following:
Music players, video players, still image players, game players, other media players, music recorders, video recorders, cameras, other media recorders, radios, medical equipment, domestic appliances, transportation vehicle instruments, musical instruments, calculators, cellular telephones, other wireless communication devices, personal digital assistants, remote controls, pagers, computers (e.g., desktops, laptops, tablets, servers, etc.), monitors, televisions, stereo equipment, set up boxes, set-top boxes, boom boxes, modems, routers, keyboards, mice, speakers, printers, and combinations thereof.
The list continues with watches, rings, necklaces, belts, accessories for belts, headsets, accessories for shoes, virtual reality devices, other wearable electronics, accessories for sporting equipment, and accessories for fitness equipment, key chains, or combinations thereof. Alternatively, the electronic device may not be portable at all.
Apple's patent is mind-bendingly complex for what appears to be a simple component. Yet the patent illustrations above show us how detailed Apple's invention really is and may very well reveal just how close they are to implementing this idea – if they haven't done so already.
Only those in this field would love a stroll through this technical garden. But if you're brave or happen to be in this field, then by all means check out patent application 20110076896 and use the illustrations above to help you visualize what the patent is describing.
Apple credits Eric Jol as the sole inventor of this patent application which was originally filed in Q3 2009.
Other Noteworthy Patent Applications Published this Week
Later today we may list other patent applications here that were published yesterday.
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.