A new Apple Patent Reveals an Exciting Highly Configurable Modularized MacBook-Like Computing System
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to modularized computing devices having removably attached components. As Apple's competitors are preparing large foldable tablets that double as a notebook, Apple's engineers have gone one step further with a modularized MacBook-like device that could morph into various types of computing devices by adding various accessory components.
Traditionally, computing devices can include tablet computing devices, laptop computing devices, and desktop computing devices. Tablet computing devices can resemble a display screen configured to display content to a user of the device while also being capable of receiving touch input from the user.
Laptop computing devices generally assume a clamshell configuration having a display portion and a keyboard portion pivotably coupled together. Desktop computing devices generally include a distinct display (i.e., monitor), a keyboard, and a tower.
While each of these types of computing devices effectively provide a quality user experience in particular environments, it can be desirable to be able to reconfigure these devices to operate effectively in a broad spectrum of applications in various environments. Thus, with traditional computing devices, users may need to rely on multiple distinct computing devices to sufficiently meet their varied needs.
In some examples, the computing devices described in Apple's patent filing can be modular or reconfigurable to provide improved functionality in a variety of uses and environments.
In some examples, a computing device can include a base and a hinge operably coupled to the base. The hinge can be rotatably attached to the base and can be configured to receive and retain a component or an electronic device (e.g., a display) to the base. The base can define an input surface in communication with one or more sensors to detect touch, or near touch, input at the input surface. Additionally, or alternatively, the one or more sensors can detect movement of an object above the input surface, such as a gesture from the hand of a user of the computing device.
In some examples, one or more devices or components can be placed adjacent to the input surface, such as a keyboard positioned on the input surface. In some examples, the keyboard can have electronics or mechanisms for receiving input from a user and can communicate that input to the base.
In other examples, the keyboard can include a mat having indicia which mark the boundaries of keys, but does not include any electronics or mechanisms to provide input to the input surface of the base. Instead, the one or more sensors within the base can detect input through or at the mat such that the keyboard can function as a guide or pattern for a user outlining boundaries for user input associated with specific keys of the keyboard.
In some examples, one or more other input devices can be positioned at the input surface of the base, such as, one or more displays, knobs, switches, buttons, turntables, or other input devices.
In some examples, the computing device can include a coupling mechanism configured to interconnect multiple electronic devices or components. The coupling mechanism can include first and second retaining portions rotatably attached to an intermediate portion. Each of the retaining portions can receive an electronic device within a channel defined by one or more walls.
The computing devices can also include a variety of designs and configurations to accommodate various uses. Such computing devices can be modular and can include multiple displays, multiple input devices, or combinations thereof that can be selectively coupled to a base, a hinge, or a coupling mechanism, as desired. This arrangement can provide for a variety of different and novel configurations for utilizing the computing devices.
In Apple's patent FIG. 1A below, we see an example of a computing device #100 including a base #102, a first display #104, a second display #106, and a keyboard #108. One or more of the first display, the second display and the keyboard can be combined in various configurations with the base, for example, by removably coupling therewith. In FIG. 1B we see a traditional-like MacBook whereas in FIG. 1C we see a dual display MacBook configuration.
Apple's patent FIG. 10A illustrates a MacBook configured with 3 displays. The second display could be used to display secondary content such as a webpage, email etc., while the third display could provide a virtual keyboard or input area for Apple Pencil.
Apple's patent FIG. 10b above is configured to have a physical keyboard and a secondary display for input for Apple Pencil, trackpad functionality, gesture input; FIG. 11A illustrates a dual display notebook with an attachable keyboard accessory.
Apple's patent FIG. 11B below illustrates how the dual display can be set up like a dual display desktop computing device; In FIG. 12A, a larger display could be attached to the base of a MacBook via magnets within the display.
In some examples, the computing device can include a base configured to interface with other input devices such as FIG. 13 that shows an example computing device #800 including a base #802, a display #804, and an input device #806 positioned on the base.
More specifically, the input device #806 can include at least one of a knob #808, a button #810, a toggle #812, a slider #814, a turntable #816, or other input mechanisms (e.g., dials, switches, levers, and piano keys) configured to provide input to the base or display to control operational aspects of the computing device.
The computing device #800 can be utilized by a music producer, a disc jockey, an audio engineer, or the like to generate music in one configuration while also being modular to permit the user to remove the input device 806 and removably attach a keyboard or second display (not shown) to the base 802 to provide traditional laptop functionality.
In this way, the computing device #800 can be reconfigurable or modular to efficiently accommodate users in various operational applications (e.g., music productions, sketching, document preparation, online shopping, video conferencing, and so on).
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As illustrated in FIG. 14 above, a user can make a gesture with their hand or another object which is detectable by the computing device #900. For example, the raised portion #908 can include a plurality of sensors configured to detect movement above the input surface #906.
The example gesture depicted in FIG. 14 illustrates a user turning or flipping a virtual page of a book or magazine being displayed at the display #904. Other gestures can be recognized by the computing device. for example, pinch/zoom gestures, swiping gestures, scrolling gestures, and/or rotating gestures.
Apple's patent application was originally filed on June 25, 2021 and 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.
Adam Garelli: Senior Product Design Engineer, Core Integration Architecture
Nicholas Qu: Architect (came to Apple via Tesla)
Keith Hendren: Product Designer
Paul Wang: Architect, Product Design