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Apple patents a Flexible Light Guide System that could be integrated into flexible materials like a fabric Apple Watch Band or VR Glove

1 Cover - Flexible light guide system for fabric devices - Patently Apple IP report

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In the last 5 weeks Patently Apple has covered three Apple inventions relating to future VR Gloves (01, 02 and 03). Today we're covering a fourth patent that relates to electronic devices, and more particularly, to flexible electronic devices like fabric VR Gloves, Apple Watch Band or parts of a future HMD that integrates a flexible light guide system. The lights could form buttons that user's could tap for input and more.


Apple's patent covers an electronic device such as a wearable device that may integrate a light guide structure. The light guide structure may be formed within a housing such as a fabric housing or other flexible housing. The light guide structure may have one or more light guide members. The light guide members may be formed from transparent elastomeric material such as silicone or other flexible material. This allows the light guide structure to bend and otherwise change shape to accommodate device movement.


Light sources such as light-emitting diodes and/or lasers may be used to supply light to the light guide members. The light may travel within the light guide members. For example, the light guide members may have elongated strip shapes and the light may travel along the lengths of the light guide members in accordance with the principal of total internal reflection.


The light guide members may have light-scattering structures that are configured to scatter light out of the light guide members at one or more locations along the lengths of the light guide members. The emitted light may serve as visual output for a user of the electronic device. Optical isolation layers such as coatings of white polymer or other flexible structures may be used to help confine light to the light guide members.


In some configurations, a detector may be coupled to the end of each light guide member. The detector may be used to detect light guide deformation due to contact with an external object. Control circuitry within the electronic device may use light measurements with the detector to sense touch events.


Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is side view of an illustrative electronic device with a flexible light guide; FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of an illustrative electronic device in accordance with an embodiment.


2 Flexible Light Guide for future Apple devices - Patently Apple IP Report


Apple's patent FIG. 7 above is a front view of an illustrative wearable item such as a face mask or other head-mounted device that could have a light guide system integrated.


Apple's patent FIG. 9 below is a perspective view of an illustrative wrist watch with a flexible light guide integrated into the fabric of an Apple Watch band; FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative wrist band with a flexible light guide. Apple describes the wrist band as a "Health Band."


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3x Apple patent figs. 9 & 10


Apple's patent FIG. 13 below presents a top view of an illustrative wearable item such as a VR glove with a flexible light guide structure.


4 x Apple patent fig 13 relating to flexible light guides


And lastly, Apple patent FIG. 12 below provides us with a a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative optical sensor with a light guide having collapsible structures for sensing touch input.


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5 Apple patent figure #12 for flexible light guides - Patently Apple IP report


As with most Apple inventions, they provide a first device focus and then to ensure that the invention isn't pigeon holed, they list off other possible future devices that their latest invention may apply to. In this case, Apple points to the follow devices that could use flexible light guides in the future, as follows:


"Device #10 may be a laptop computer, a computer monitor containing an embedded computer, a tablet computer, a desktop computer, a cellular telephone, a media player, or other handheld or portable electronic device, a smaller device such as a wristwatch device, a wristband device, a pendant device, a headphone or earpiece device, a head-mounted device such as glasses, goggles, a helmet, or other equipment worn on a user's head, or other wearable or miniature device, a television, a computer display that does not contain an embedded computer, a gaming device, a navigation device, an embedded system such as a system in which equipment is mounted in a kiosk, in an automobile, airplane, or other vehicle, a removable external case for electronic equipment, an accessory such as a remote control, computer mouse, track pad, wireless or wired keyboard, or other accessory, and/or equipment that implements the functionality of two or more of these devices."


For more details, review Apple's granted patent 11,416,074.


10.52FX - Granted Patent Bar


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