Apple reveals a new MacBook display system that automatically moves to keep it in line with a user's eyes using Shape Memory Alloys +
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to MacBooks and notebook-like devices and more particularly, to hinge mechanisms for these devices. The patent describes a MacBook with a new hinge system that will automatically adjust the display, forward, backwards or slightly sideways to ensure that the ideal image on the display is inline with the user's eyes using a form of eye-tracking. The patent also touches on this new hinge system using "Shape Memory Alloy" materials that could be applied to a future Magic Keyboard for iPad, an iMac or television.
Apple's invention covers electronic devices with displays that are rotatably or movably coupled to another structure, such as a base, stand, or the like, and are configured to automatically adjust the position of the display relative to the other structure. The laptop may include an actuation system that can automatically move the display portion relative to the base portion.
Automatic motion of the display portion of a laptop may be used to provide various useful functions. For example, the display portion may be automatically moved in order to attempt to optimize or improve the quality of the graphical output as viewed by a user.
More particularly, the angle at which a display is viewed by a user may affect the perceived graphical parameters of the display, such as brightness, contrast, color fidelity, and the like. Accordingly, in order to attempt to maintain the display at its optimum position relative to a viewer, a laptop may use the actuation system to automatically adjust the position of the notebook based on where the view is positioned relative to the laptop. In this way, the viewer may experience the best performance of the display without having to continually manually adjust the display despite repositioning of the laptop or the user itself.
As another example, the display portion of a laptop may be automatically moved in order to maintain a subject (e.g., a viewer's face) in the field of view of a camera that is integrated with the display portion.
More particularly, the display portions of laptop computers may include cameras, which may be used to capture images of the user (e.g., for video conferences, image capture, etc.). Accordingly, the laptop may analyze the images being captured by the camera and, based on the image analysis, automatically move the display portion to attempt to maintain the viewer's face in a particular location in the captured image. In this way, the user can move around naturally during video conferences and other image capture operations without having to manually adjust the camera to maintain a target image framing.
An actuation system for the display portion of a laptop computer (or other devices, as described herein) may use shape-memory alloy material to provide the motive force to move the display portion. Shape-memory alloy (SMA) materials change shape (e.g., expand or contract) based on their temperature. Thus, for example, an electrical current or electrical signal applied to an SMA material may heat the SMA material, thus causing the SMA material to change shape. Allowing the SMA material to cool (either via passive or active cooling) may also result in the SMA material changing shape. Accordingly, by controlling the temperature of the SMA material, the actuation system may cause the display portion of the laptop computer to move in an intended direction.
Devices other than laptop computers may also benefit from the automatic display actuation systems and operations. For example, displays for desktop computers (and/or desktop computers integrated into a display housing) may be supported by stands that allow the displays to move relative to the stands. As another example, tablet computers may be removably couplable to stands or other accessories that support the tablet computer in an upright orientation in a manner similar to a laptop computer. These types of devices may also benefit from a system that can move the displays based on information about the user's position, location, gaze direction, or the like. For example, the display may be automatically positioned to attempt to optimize the display performance (as perceived by the user), to maintain the user in the field of view of an integrated camera, or the like.
In Apple's patent FIG. 2A below we see an example showing a MacBook #200 in use by a user (#208). The MacBook includes a display portion (#202) movably coupled to a base portion (#204). As shown in FIG. 2A, the target viewing vector (#206) of the display is not directed at the user's eyes, but rather is pointing over the user's head. In this configuration, therefore, the user may not be experiencing the best display performance (e.g., the maximum or target visual characteristics of the display).
In Apple's patent FIG. 2B below we see how the display portion can be moved (e.g., rotated) relative to the base portion (as indicted by arrow #210) to cause the target viewing vector to be pointed directly at the user's eyes. Here the movement of the display portion may be automatic, and may be performed in response to the MacBook determining that the display portion is not positioned in an ideal or desired position relative to the user.
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In Apple's patent FIG. 6B below we see a new feature of the MacBook display being able to pivot or rotate on its hinge in order to achieve a target viewing angle and/or to orient the viewing vector of the display portion towards a user's eyes; FIG. 7A illustrates the MacBook using a Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) that assists the lid and display to shift so as to target a user's face.
Apple's patent FIG. 8A below illustrates a MacBook #800 with a multi-part hinge mechanism #806 movably coupling a display portion #802 to a base portion #804; FIG. 8B is a partial cross-sectional view of the MacBook viewed along line A-A in FIG. 8A. The hinge mechanism may include roller elements #818 and spacer elements #820. The roller elements are engaged with (e.g., in contact with) curved surfaces of the spacer elements and are configured to rotate along the curved surfaces of the spacer elements. The relative motion between the roller elements and spacer elements allows the hinge mechanism to articulate so that the display portion can move relative to the base portion. The actuation systems #808 may be integrated with the hinge mechanism to provide the motive forces for moving the display portion.
Apple's patent FIG. 15 above is a redesigned Magic Keyboard with new flex hinge just as illustrated for the MacBook in FIGS. 8A and 8B.
Apple's patent FIG. 13 below depicts an iMac, standalone display or television with an actuation system using shape-memory alloy materials.
Further, device 1300 also includes an optical sensing system #1301 (e.g., a camera, biometric sensing system, light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensor, or the like).
The device may also include an actuation system, which may include an SMA material member, an electric motor, or the like, that can move the display portion #1302 relative to the base portion #1304. These motions may be performed in order to reorient the display to provide a target or ideal viewing condition, or to maintain an object in a frame or field of view of the optical sensing system 1301 (e.g., during video conferences or other image capture functions).
Apple's patent application number 20210373610 was published today by the U.S. Patent Office.
Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.