Apple first introduced us to the Wild World of Coded Magnets in late January. Today, greater revelations are found in a new patent application form Apple published by the US Patent and Trademark Office. While Apple further discusses their technology relating to magnetic fasteners, they specifically reveal real-world applications for the iPad and iPhone. Moreover, Apple envisions their programmable magnets eventually working through to the sporting world via smart bikes, ski boots and snowboards. The energy surrounding Apple's smart magnet project is high and it's evidenced in their latest patent. In fact, the energy found in all of their programmable magnet patents thus far screams the message that they believe this is a breakthrough technology.
The Problem with Traditional Fastening Methods
Traditionally, various mechanical types of fasteners have been utilized to facilitate a permanent, semi-permanent or temporary coupling of the two or more devices. Examples of devices utilized to accomplish such coupling include screws, rivets, nails, bolts and nuts, non-programmable magnets, tape, wire binding, soldering, and other fastening devices and techniques. While such fasteners and techniques may provide for the desired coupling, they commonly and collectively suffer from the inability to selectably determine which two or more devices are too be coupled. Further, such fastening devices and techniques often are deficient in that the ability to provide a strong coupling also is commonly presented with an inability or greater difficulty in removing such coupling at a later time. As such a need exists for fastening devices, systems, techniques, and tools for the same which enable selective coupling at a desired retention and/or attractive strength while also facilitating a ready disengagement of such coupled items at a desired time.
Apple's invention and solution generally relates to magnetic fasteners. More particularly, the various embodiments described herein relate to apparatus, methods and systems for utilizing programmable magnetic devices to fasten, or unfasten, two or more components or devices.
Exemplary Correlated Magnet Structures
Apple's patent FIG. 4a depicts a first exemplary embodiment of a correlated magnet structure having a first top surface; patent FIG. 4b depicts the opposing surface of the correlated magnetic structure shown in FIG. 4a; patent FIG. 4c depicts a second exemplary embodiment of a correlated magnet structure having a first top surface: patent FIG. 4d depicts the opposing surface of the correlated magnetic structure shown in FIG. 4b; patent FIG. 4e depicts a third exemplary embodiment of a correlated magnet structure having a first top surface; and patent FIG. 4f depicts the opposing surface of the correlated magnetic structure shown in FIG. 4e.
Apple Thinks About Specialty Screws and Bolts
Apple's patent FIG. 4g depicts the top surface of a correlated magnetic structure configured into a screw which may include a plurality of "star figures" or other predetermined configurations. Such a configuration may be uniquely designed such that only specially configured Drivers will correspond therewith. The same is true for a lag bolt as illustrated in patent FIG. 4H. This will make it almost impossible for the average consumer to get into an Apple device in the future. This is something that the late Steve Jobs always wanted.
Changing the Magnetic Attractive and/or Repulsive Force Profiles
FIG. 6a is a pictorial representation of two correlated magnetic structures aligned so as to maximize the magnetic attraction between the first structure and the second structure; patent FIG. 6b is a pictorial representation of the two correlated magnetic structures of FIG. 6a wherein a second structure has been rotated relative to the first structure about one or more axis so as to change the magnetic attractive and/or repulsive force profiles exhibited collectively and individually by a plurality of maxels on each of the respective first and second structures; and finally, patent FIG. 6c is a pictorial representation of the two correlated magnetic structures of FIG. 6a and FIG. 6b, wherein the second structure has been further rotated beyond the rotation exhibited in FIG. 6b and relative to the first structure about one or more axis so as to change the magnetic attractive and/or repulsive force profiles exhibited collectively and individually by the plurality of maxels on each of the respective first and second structures.
Correlated Magnets used Touchscreen Buttons
Apple is considering correlated magnet implementation on future iterations of the iPhone and/or other iDevices in respect to "buttons." Apple states that buttons could be elevated or recessed, as desired, into a given surface or given application.
For example, a portion of an otherwise touch sensitive iPad screen could be configured with a plurality of commonly recessed, correlated magnetic structure "buttons", wherein the buttons commonly reside below a flexible membrane portion of the touch sensitive surface. In at least one embodiment, the buttons are configured as a plurality of maxels in a flexible membrane that also serve to accomplish touch sensitive capacitive coupling. Such maxels, for example, may be configured with an "S" polarity. Further, below the surface of each such button, one or more maxels are configured so as to attract the button down into the device and into a recessed position without requiring the use of any electricity, and thereby conserve battery life.
Application: Apple's Spreadsheet App "Numbers"
Apple's programmable magnets could also be designed to advance haptics in relation to specific Apple applications such as "Numbers" on the iPad. Apple states that the height and lateral size of the bump are desirably sufficient for tactile sensation. For example, when using a spreadsheet application, a portion of an iPad screen could be configured to have bumps appear on the touch sensitive surface which represent the numbers and characters commonly presented on a calculator. Desirably, the repulsive force of the maxels on the underlying layer and those in the touch sensitive surface are of sufficient force to present a sensation of a button while also allowing the user to experience the sensation of the button being depressed. Hence, the maxel configured bumps enable a user of a product such as an iPad to obtain tactile feedback, when desired, while also having all the characteristics of a touch sensitive screen.
Application: Apple's Word Processing App "Pages"
Apple's programmable magnets could also be designed to advance haptics in relation to Apple's word processing app called "Pages" on an iPad. Apple states that an application may desire for bumps to appear in certain locations at certain times, but not others. A word processing application might generate bumps corresponding to a QWERTY keyboard along a bottom portion of a screen of a given orientation, while a video application might position the bumps to correspond to graphical control images (e.g., play, pause, FF, RWD) appearing across a top or one or more side edges of the touch sensitive control surface, which also functions as the video presentation screen.
Future iPad's may have Feature Buttons that Could Appear or Disappear
Apple states that the appearance or disappearance of a bump occurs solely based upon principles of magnetism such that the user control features of a touch sensitive control surface and/or screen are not compromised and such that the bumps appear or recess without requiring the use of any mechanical parts. Further, in at least one alternative embodiments, maxels configured into a touch sensitive screen or similar flexible membrane may be appropriately attracted and/or repulsed so as to create, at any given time, a recess or "well" instead of a bump, while at another given time presenting a flat surface or a respective opposite surface (i.e., a bump instead of a previously presented well).
Further, it is to be appreciated that the use of correlated magnetic structures to form bumps or wells may be used in any device desiring such characteristics including, but not limited to, any type of keypad, keyboard, touch screen, or other control surface.
Apple Envisions Coded Magnets for a Cycling Application
In August 2010, we posted a report titled "Apple introduces us to the Smart Bike" which rippled around the world. Today's coded magnet invention demonstrates that Apple is eyeing cyclist related applications.
Apple states that another application that they have in mind relates to correlated magnets used in cycling pedals and their respective shoes. As is commonly known, cycling shoes are desirably attached, but releasable under a certain amount of force and after a certain degree of rotation about the pedals top surface from their corresponding pedals. Existing retention and release systems rely upon a cleat attached to a shoe and a corresponding attachment mechanism built into a pedal. Examples of the same include those made by LOOK, SPEEDPLAY, TIME, SHIMANO, and others.
By using correlated magnetic structures in shoes and pedals, magnetic force curves could be created which enable a shoe, sans cleat, to be magnetically attached to a pedal when aligned in a desired orientation relative to a bike frame and for the same pedal to be neutral or even repelled from the pedal and away from the bike, for example, so as to aid a cyclist in getting their foot properly positioned to touch the ground at an optimal distance from the bike's crank, wheel, and other components. Further, the amount of rotation or error could be customized to the needs of the individual cyclist.
For example, some riders may desire a large degree of error of the pedal, while still retaining an adequate attractive force for purposes of minimizing knee strain or ensuring proper foot-to-pedal alignment. In contrast, some riders, typically professionals, may desire maximal attractive force over a much narrower error in angle so as to maximize the energy transfer from leg/shoe to the pedal. For such an embodiment, a greater rotational force might be required by the rider before a neutral or repulsive magnetic force is created between the pedal and the cyclist's shoe.
Further customization of the shoe to pedal correlated magnet profile could be accomplished by varying the magnetic force directions and strengths of one or more maxels.
Apple Envisions Coded Magnets for Smart Ski Boot and Snowboard Bindings
In March 2010 Apple was granted a patent for "Extreme Sports" which covered mountain bikes and a next generation series of smart ski boards and ski boots.
Similar attachment and release mechanisms for which strong correlated magnet directional forces and weaker rotational forces could be utilized include ski bindings, snowboard bindings, and other applications. Further, it is to be appreciated that by the use of various other rotational sensors, including speed, motion, and g-force sensors, the attractive or repulsive force between a binding system and a shoe, boot, or glove can be varied, when variable strength maxels are utilized. For example, a binding system could be designed such that a repulsive force is created when high g-forces are created in rapidly varying directions, as might occur when a skier crashes while skiing.
Other Computer Related Applications for Coded Magnets
In another embodiment of a programmable correlated magnet, a correlated magnetic structure could be built, for example, into the top of a desk, a docking station, the opening or closing mechanism for a laptop computer or other computing device, or a mounting bracket configured for use therewith so as to secure the positioning of a structure relative to the desk top.
Similarly, the hinges of a laptop's display screen could be configured with correlated magnets so as to enable the positioning of the display screen at a distance from a keyboard more suitable for a user's view, such as, on the back of an airline seat.
In another embodiment of correlated magnets, the fastening of various components to a device may be dictated by the presence or absence of electricity to energize one or more correlated magnetic structures. For example, a battery component for a consumer electronic device may be configured such that the battery compartment, when de-energized to a low energy level, exerts a repulsive force upon a battery (configured for insertion into the compartment) such that a contact between the electronic device and the battery is interrupted so as to prevent draining of the energy stored in the battery below a minimum level.
Similarly, such a configuration could be used to expel, partially or completely, the battery from the battery compartment, open a battery compartment cover, or otherwise signal to a user that recharging and/or replacement of the battery is required.
Similarly, correlated magnetic structures may be used in ink-jet printers to indicate when the quantity of ink in a given cartridge exceeds a minimum threshold by partially or completely expelling the ink cartridge from its compartment wherein each of the cartridge and its compartment have a correlated magnetic structure. Likewise, the quantity of ink in a given cartridge may be indicated when a covering for an ink cartridge storage compartment is opened, wherein each of the covering and the ink cartridge or ink cartridge compartment have a correlated magnetic structure.
Apple's invention also lists a few oddball applications. Apple states that correlated magnetic structures could be configured to exert a retention force upon a battery when energized above a given level and to exert a repulsion force when the battery falls below a desired minimum level. Such an embodiment, for example, could be used in home smoke detectors to automatically expel, for replacement, a battery whose energy life has fallen below a desired or determined threshold.
Contrarily, opposing correlated magnets may be provided in surfaces or structures and correspondingly in devices to repel the attempted placement of an item, component, device or structure on any given surface or into a given cavity. For example, an MP3 music player could be configured such that the entrance of the MP3 player is opposed by a magnetic force emitted by a basin, such as a washing machine tub, sink, or toilet.
Contrarily the MP 3 player and basin structure could be configured with correlated magnetic structures such that a desired placement of the player relative to the basin occurs.
Patent Credits and Some Closing Thoughts
Apple's patent application was originally filed in Q3 2011 or seven months ago. That's an unusually quick filing-to-publication time frame. Apple's inventors are acknowledged as Brett Bilbrey, Aleksandar Pance, Peter Arnold, David Simon, Jean Lee, Michael Hillman, Gregory Tice, Vijay Iyer and Bradley Spare.
At this point in time it's difficult to ascertain whether Apple will delve into these sporting applications with specific products as they did with the Nike + iPod program or whether they'll simply license out the technology to others.
Additionally, while Apple's invention discusses how they could create buttons for iDevice displays that could appear and disappear at specific times within an application – I don't think that this is limited to just the display. I believe that Apple could apply coded magnet based buttons to future smart bezels as well. Apple has several patents regarding smart bezels where coded magnet technology could be applied. Think of it this way: You're surfing on the web and decide that you're now going to play Rage. As you call up Rage, the bezel automatically creates a series of related gaming buttons to control the action. When the game is closed, the buttons disappear. Specific button relating to specific apps is a wild concept indeed and a way to absolutely add a dimension to the iPad that the competition would be scrambling to match. This could be a killer feature. How long it will take Apple to get this to market is another story. But conceptually, it's very powerful.
In closing, I'll point you to a video that demonstrates some of the principles behind Correlated Magnets. An interesting aspect of coding magnets is covered in that video starting at the 2:06 minute point.
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