Apple first delved into developing a user friendly connector system way back in 2011 with somewhat of a master overview that covered a wide scope of possible methods of achieving such a system. At the time Apple briefly touched on possibly using a camera system, magnetic field sensing, LED sensing, audible indicators and even advanced haptics for their guidance system as we note below in one of our original patent figure compilations.
Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published one of Apple's latest inventions on this very same system in a patent application titled "Electronic Devices with Connector Alignment Assistance."
Apple notes in their filing that future input-output devices may include sensors, camera equipment, and other input devices that the control circuitry uses to monitor the location of the plug relative to the input-output port. The input-output devices may also include a display, light-emitting diode array, speaker, or other visual or audio output device." Plug alignment assistance information can include information that helps the user align the plug with a port and may be based on information on the location of the plug relative to the input-output ports and based on information on which ports are available.
At the end of the day, while today's invention is very detailed, it's really more of an update or advancement to their 2011 patent filing than it is an original idea. At least it shows us that Apple is keeping this idea alive for the future.
Apple's First Smart Connector Guidance System Overview
Apple's Latest Smart Connector Guidance System Overview
Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted above is a perspective view of an illustrative electronic device such as a Mac Mini as was illustrated in 2011 or a set-top box such as Apple TV, or other equipment that has been coupled to a display using a cable; FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of an illustrative electronic device that may be coupled to an external accessory using a plug that mates with an input-output port in the electronic device; and FIG 20 is a flow chart of illustrative steps involved in using device #10 to provide a user with connector (plug) alignment assistance.
FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an illustrative plug being aligned with an input-output port in an array of input-output ports on the rear of an electronic device; FIG. 10 is a diagram showing alignment assistance information that may be displayed on the front of a device to indicate to a user which input-output ports on the rear of the device are occupied, which are available, and where a plug is currently located with respect to the available input-output ports; and FIG. 19 is a diagram showing how camera equipment may be used in monitoring where a plug is located relative to the input-output port and how a plug is oriented relative to the input-output port.
For more details, see Apple's patent application 20160014390 which was originally filed in Q3 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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