Apple Invents a possible next-gen HomePod-Like Device with Display(s) for presenting Video, Scrolling Text, Icons & more
In mid-January Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple is working on new home devices that could include a series of 'Smart Displays' and a more sophisticated Hybrid HomePod-Apple TV Device." In that report we also pointed to an Apple patent describing a possible future HomePod with an integrated camera as one of the features on the drawing board.
Today I discovered an patent application on the World Intellection Property Organization's database that was made public on May 25, 2023. The patent is clearly marked Apple as the applicant. Yet when you go to the U.S. Patent Office data base, the patent lists the same Apple Engineers but lists no company as the applicant. This is common practice when Apple doesn't want researchers to find this invention linked to them. It didn't show up in Thursday's U.S. Patent Office entries. So Apple has been trying to keep this as secret as possible for years.
One of the possible future new home devices could be a form of HomePod that offers one or more displays to present content including video content.
Technically, Apple's patent filing states that an electronic device may have a cylindrical or cube shaped housing and even possibly others that are pyramidal housing structures, cone-shaped housing structures, truncated cone housing structures, cylindrical housing structures with an slanted truncated top, etc.).
A speaker may be mounted in the housing and may provide sound through openings in the housing structures. The speaker may be used to play songs and present other audible media for a user of the electronic device. In some configurations, synthesized voice may be provided using the speaker.
A visual output device may be mounted in the housing. The visual output device may include an electrophoretic, liquid crystal, light-emitting diode, microLED based display.
In some configurations, the visual output device may include other components for emitting light (e.g., one or more light-emitting diodes that provide direct illumination or that supply backlight illumination for patterned openings in the housing such as icons or other symbols, etc.).
During operation, voice commands may be received by a microphone in the device and action taken based on the commands and other information. The action taken may include playing sound with the speaker and providing visual output with the visual output device. The visual output that is provided may include text, video and/or other still and moving images.
In some configurations, visual output may be scrolled horizontally or vertically on the visual output device. For example, the visual output device may have an array of pixels that extends in a band around the circumference of the housing and text or other content may be scrolled horizontally around the housing.
The electronic device may include sensors for monitoring the environment and circuitry for communicating with external electronic equipment. Voice commands and other user input may be received by the electronic device. The electronic device may also use cameras and other components to gather information on the environment in which the electronic device is operating. User input and other information may be used in determining how to display information on the visual output device and/or how to present audio content using the speaker.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a HomePod-like device that includes one of more displays for visual output; FIG. 9 is a side view of an illustrative electronic device that can provide the user with still and/or moving images containing text, icons and other graphical elements, video (with accompanying audio), and/or other visual content.
Apple further notes that content presentation may be customized based on criteria such as the location of the device #10 within the home, the time of day and date, the proximity of individuals to the device, the current operating mode for the device (family mode, entertainment mode, etc.) and/or other content presentation criteria.
As an example, peaceful visual content may be displayed and peaceful music may be played in a living room environment at night and energetic visual content may be displayed and energetic music may be played in a kitchen environment in the morning.
On holidays, holiday-specific visual content may be displayed (e.g., colors following a holiday motif, holiday-specific screen-saver images) and holiday-specific music may be automatically played.
On a user's birthday, a birthday song may be played when the user's presence is detected and a happy birthday greeting may be displayed.
Content may be presented upon detecting that the user has come within proximity of the device or upon satisfaction of other presentation criteria.
Apple's patent FIG. 10 above is a top view of an illustrative electronic device showing how different content may be displayed simultaneously on difference sides of the device for different respective viewers.
Apple's patent FIG. 11 is a flow chart of illustrative operations involved in operating an electronic device.
#1: In the bigger picture, Apple's patent reveals that during operation, a user may supply voice commands and other input to the device #10 and, in response, the device may control home automation functions (e.g., via wirelessly connected home equipment), may play content such as audio and video, may process online database search requests (e.g., internet searches), may process orders for products and services, may provide a user with calendar information, may receive and process email, may run games or other software, may handle audio communications (e.g., telephone calls), video calls (e.g., live video communications with accompanying audio / FaceTime), and/or may handle other tasks.
#2: Audio and/or video feedback may be presented as sensors gather user input. For example, detected hand gestures can be accompanied by audible clicks and/or variations in light output that serve as feedback informing a user that the hand gestures have been successfully detected by the device .
#3: Devices can also be used to form a baby monitor system (e.g., by picking up audio and/or video in a baby's room with a first device and transmitting that audio and/or video in real time to a corresponding second device in another room for presentation to a parent).
#4: Obviously being able to FaceTime and use hand gestures to control the device means that the system will offer a built-in camera. The patent confirms this in various parts and includes that the camera will be used to recognize the user to personalize presence detection. The patent also points the camera using gaze controls.
For more details, review the WIPO patent application here titled "Device with Sensors and Display Devices." It's no surprise that the lead on this invention is Paul Wang, Senior Manager, Product Design. He's one of the most creative thinkers/designers at Apple.
While Apple could introduce a Google-like smart display system, Apple's new invention revealed in their patent filing would be an original alternative design. Bloomberg's Gurman has stated in reports that Apple is working on a variety of such home devices and today you've been presented with one such device on Apple's drawing board.