During Apple's financial conference on Tuesday afternoon, Apple's CEO Tim Cook stated that Apple had new categories of products in the pipeline for the end of the year and throughout 2014. It was three years ago to date that Apple first hinted at a gaming console and controller. Well today, one of Apple's published patent filings revealed new pivoting buttons that may be coming to future iDevices. The exciting aspect to this is that there are two specific example button designs for a game controller that they have in mind. The first gaming button is noted in our cover graphic above while the second gaming button is presented in our report. The designs are about the buttons and not the look of a full game controller. This is the first big hint that Apple may be closer than we think to a gaming console or at least a game controller for a gaming version of Apple TV. I love video gaming and this news put a smile on my face. Come on Tim – get it out the door for Christmas. We're all cheering you on.
Apple's Patent Background
The operation of a conventional push-type mechanical button generally entails a linear displacement of the button by force. The displacement of the button may actuate one or more sensors (e.g., a switch), which may in turn cause an electrical signal to be transmitted. Specifically, the linear motion of the force on the button is transferred linearly to a sensor. For example, when an "up" volume button is pushed on an electronic device such as a cell phone or a music player, the button may actuate a sensor that in turn transmits a signal to the device's processor in order to increase the volume for the device.
Pivot-type mechanical buttons are different from push-type mechanical buttons in that pivot-type mechanical buttons typically have a body that pivots about an axis, with one or more buttons coupled to the pivoting body. A force applied to a button of a pivot-type button's body, for example, may create a torque about the pivot point of the pivot body, which displaces the button to actuate a sensor, as opposed to transferring linear force to a sensor in push-type mechanical buttons.
Embodiments may take the form of shim sleeves for pivot buttons. For example, embodiment may take the form of a button assembly having a stem and a receiving portion pivotally coupled to the stem. The stem is positioned within an aperture of the body, with the aperture of the receiving portion providing a gap between the receiving portion and the stem. A shim sleeve having a non-uniform thickness is coupled over the stem and positioned between the receiving portion and the stem. The shim sleeve is configured to reduce the gap between the receiving portion and the stem.
Another embodiment may take the form of an apparatus with a base and a button movably coupled to the base through a shaft and a shaft receiving portion. The shaft receiving portion defines an arcuate structure configured to receive at least a portion of the shaft. A shim is coupled between the shaft and the shaft receiving portion and has first and second surfaces. The first surface of the shim is configured to engage the portion of the shaft. The second surface of the shim is configured to engage at least a portion of the arcuate structure of the shaft receiving portion.
In yet another embodiment, a method of manufacture may include positioning a pivoting body within a housing, with the pivoting body pivotally coupled to the housing through a shaft and a shaft receiving portion. The shaft receiving portion defines an arcuate structure configured to receive at least a portion of the shaft. After the pivoting body is positioned within the housing, a shimming sleeve is positioned between the shaft and the arcuate structure. The sleeve is configured to reduce a gap between the shaft and the shaft receiving portion.
Pivoting Button Designs Specifically for Gaming!
Apple's patent FIG. 4A shown below illustrates a device 40 with an embodiment of a pivoting button assembly 400. The pivoting button assembly 400 differs from the button assemblies. Apple states that "The pivoting button assembly 400 in FIG. 4A is configured to move in four directions (up, down, left, and right, for example) via four buttons coupled to a four-way pivoting body, and may be a four-way navigation device to navigate, for example, through menus or through a video game. The device 40 may be a remote control, a game controller, a personal electronic device, or any other device." Can it be any clearer for you?
Apple's patent FIG. 5 illustrates a device 50 with an embodiment of a pivoting button assembly 500. Apple states that "The pivoting button assembly 500 may be similar to the pivoting button assembly 400 in FIG. 4A, except that the pivoting button assembly 500 may be a continuous navigation pad (e.g., not limited to only four directions)."
Apple credits Mechanical Engineer Tyson Manullang and Teodor Dabov as the inventors of this patent application which was originally filed under serial number 280747 in Q4 2011. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing to market of such an Apple product is unknown at this time.
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For the record, here's Tim Cook's specific reference to new product categories in the plural: "We will continue to focus on the long-term, and we remain very optimistic about our future. We are participating on large and growing markets. We see great opportunities in front of us, particularly given the long-term prospects of the smartphone and tablet market, the strength of our incredible ecosystem, which we plan to continue to augment with new services, our plans for expanded distribution, and the potential of exciting new product categories."
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