Many times in the past Steve Jobs had said that Apple had no interest in phones or tablets and thought that network computers were silly with this concept of data residing somewhere in a cloud in the sky. Everything that he said that Apple had no interest in eventually came to be. After Apple's special iPhone 5 event earlier this month, Phil Schiller tried to do the same thing in respect to wireless inductive charging. Was his "marketing speak" just another head-fake? Well, according to a new patent published by the US Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's engineers never got the memo on Apple not being interested wireless inductive charging. In fact the crazy ones in Cupertino hit a home run with a winning in-depth inductive charging dock this time around. This design doesn't have a funny-funky pole like past designs. No, this one has some pretty interesting twists and will come with a handy user interface and much, much more.
Apple's Inductive Charging Dock
A user device such as a smart phone, digital camera, or personal media player may be docked to a docking device, which may allow for charging and data transmittal. Some docking devices may provide induction charging to charge a user device, when the user device is placed on a charging surface. The user device may include circuitry which may respond to a magnetic field provided by the charging surface. Data may be transmitted between a user device and a docking device, or a host device, when the user device is docked.
Apple's invention relates to methods and systems for selecting one or more docking functions from a plurality of docking functions based on a physical orientation of a user device. A user device may be coupled ("docked") to a docking device. A docking device may include a surface upon which a user device may be placed (e.g., docked). In some embodiments, the surface may be configured to inductively charge the user device when the user device is placed on the surface.
A docking device may include, for example, processing equipment, input/output (I/O) interfaces, memory, a power supply, any other suitable components, or any combination thereof. A docking device may be configured to charge a user device, act as a conduit in the transfer of data between the user device and a host device, synchronize data with the user device, transfer data with the user device (e.g., upload, download), run diagnostics for the user device, synchronize data between more than user devices, perform any other suitable docking function for a user device placed on the surface, or any combination thereof. One or more docking functions may be selected, performed, or both, by the docking device depending on a physical orientation of the user device on the surface.
In some embodiments, processing equipment of a user device, docking device, or both, may select a suitable docking function based on a physical orientation of the user device on a surface of the docking device. In some embodiments, a user device, docking device, or both, may include one or more sensors for determining a physical orientation of the user device. For example, a user device may include one or more accelerometers (e.g., a three-axis arrangement of accelerometers) which may be used to determine a physical orientation of the user device.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 shown below presents an illustrative docking arrangement 100 which may include user device 120 (e.g., a personal communications device) and user device 130 (e.g., a digital camera) positioned on surface 152 of docking device 150. The devices in patent FIG. 1 are shown to facing up on the dock and in FIG. 2 the devices are shown to be facing down.
In some embodiments, the docking device may include surface 152, configured to inductively charge user device 120, user device 130, or both. The docking device may include, for example, a wire coil which may provide a magnetic field with which corresponding coils in user devices may interact to charge energy storage devices (e.g., batteries).
Docking Device Transmitter/Receivers
In some embodiments, the docking device may be configured to communicate with user devices using a transmitter/receiver 154 configured as an infrared (IR) transmitter/receiver, a WiFi transmitter/receiver, a Bluetooth transmitter/receiver, an ultra-wide band (UWB) transmitter/receiver, a radio frequency (RF) transmitter/receiver, or any other suitable type of transmitter/receiver, any suitable accompanying hardware or software, or any combination thereof. In some embodiments, user devices may include a corresponding transmitter/receiver which may be configured to communicate with the transmitter/receiver. In some embodiments, user devices may be coupled via a cable or other suitable wired connection (e.g., a USB cable with suitable connectors) to docking device.
Exemplary Physical Orientations
Apple's patent FIGS. 3-7 below are respective illustrative docking arrangements 300-700, which illustrate exemplary physical orientations of a user device.
In patent FIG. 3 shown below Apple notes that surface 352 may be partitioned into any suitable number of regions ("zones"), in any suitable configuration. For example, surface 352 may include multiple regions in the shape of concentric circles. In a further example, the same surface may include a grid of multiple partitions which may intersect, forming an array of regions.
Different Orientations Provide Different Functions
In respect to patent FIG. 4, Apple states that depending upon the translational position, rotational position, or both of user device 420, one or more particular docking functions may be provided to the user device. For example, when user the device 420 is physically oriented along (e.g., rotationally positioned along) direction 460 (in a vertical position), inductive charging may be provided to the user device. Note that in patent FIG. 5 we simply see that inductive charging taking place when the devices facing down as well.
In a further example, when the user device is physically oriented along (e.g., rotationally positioned along) direction 470 (in a horizontal position) the data synchronization may be provided between the user device and the docking device 450.
In a further example, when user device is physically oriented at (e.g., translationally positioned at) position 430, a diagnostic check of user device 420 may be performed.
The Dock's Intelligent Side Bar
Apple notes that their docking device may include one or more components other than an inductive charging surface, such as segments 358, 458, 558, 658 and 758 of FIGS. 3-7 that Patently Apple has noted in purple for easy identification. A segment of a docking device may include processing equipment, memory, a display, a user interface, one or more I/O interfaces, one or more sensors, any other suitable components, or any combination thereof.
A segment may be coupled to a surface in any suitable manner (e.g., wired, wireless, optical, mechanical), or may be integrated with a surface in any suitable manner. For example, segment 358 of patent FIG. 3 noted above may include one or more optical sensors (e.g., line of sight sensors/detectors, imaging detectors, IR detectors) for determining a physical orientation of user device 320 when placed on surface 352.
In a further example, segment 458 may include one or more tactile sensors (e.g., piezoelectric, capacitive, resistive) integrated into surface 452, which may detect a physical orientation of user device 420 on surface 452. In a further example, segment 558 may include an I/O interface such as a USB port configured to communicate via a wired cable with a host computer, which may provide one or more docking functions (e.g., data synchronization via WiFi network) to user device 520.
In some embodiments, a docking device may provide an indication of a selected docking function. An indication may include an audio sound (e.g., from a speaker included in the docking device), a graphic displayed on a display screen of the docking device, an electronic message notification (e.g., transmitted by a transmitter of the docking device), a vibration of the user device (e.g., using a piezoelectric motor of the docking device), any other suitable indication, or any combination thereof. For example, in some embodiments, a docking device may display an arrow (e.g., indicating a direction of data transfer) or text (e.g., indicating a function by label) on a display screen integrated into a surface (e.g., an inductive charging surface) indicating information about a selected docking function.
Apple's patent FIG. 14 noted below is a diagram of an illustrative docking arrangement including a user device coupled to a docking device, and other devices.
Apple's patent application filed under serial number 072577 was originally filed in Q1 2011 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. It should be noted that Apple has already been granted a patent for another inductive charging dock design.
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Side Note: Crazies "Test" iPhone 5 in Microwave
Every time a new Apple device comes to market, the friendly wackos come out to play. It could be to smash, stomp or shoot an iDevice just because they think it's cool. Well, we shouldn't be surprised that someone has now tested a new iPhone 5 in a microwave. Their use of the word "Tested" isn't really accurate. It's more like "Watch an iPhone 5 Burn and stay in Tact" video. Although it's crazy, it's even crazier that I have to say this, but for legal reasons I must: Don't attempt to duplicate what you see in the video. Do not try this at home or anywhere under any circumstance.