On December 10, 2009, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a revolutionary patent application from Apple that reveals an all new Universal Docking station that is designed to be aesthetically pleasing. The revolutionary design will use a new elastic sponge-like material at the bottom of the universal dock that will basically conform to the shape of any portable device you may have – be it an iPod nano, an iPhone or even a BlackBerry or other non-Apple device. If the user only has one type of media player, then the device will conform to it alone. On the other hand, if the user has multiple types of media players, then the device is designed to decompress when the user hits a reset button, returning the revolutionary support-layer back to its original flat surface to accept the next media player's form. The new dock will also come with a remote control. Although it's hard to get overly excited about a new universal dock for media players - this particular revolutionary design is bound to turn a lot of heads when it finally arrives. This one may be hard to resist next Christmas.
Apple's All New Universal Dock
Apple's patent FIG. 1 shows a perspective view of a universal dock in accordance with some embodiments of the invention. Universal dock (100) may include housing (110), support layer (120), connector (130 – a 30-pin connector), "RESET" button (140), sensor (150), and any other suitable feature. The housing may also include any suitable circuitry (170) to process input signals received from an electronic device connected to the universal dock, to process commands directed at the electronic device, to operate the electronic device, and/or to provide power to the electronic device. The housing may be made of plastic, metal or any combination thereof. Uniquely, the new universal dock will also work to support a BlackBerry or other portable device beyond Apple's own media players.
The Dock's Revolutionary Support Layer Explained
An electronic device may be supported when connected to a universal dock. The support may be provided using a support layer. The support layer may be made of any suitable material or configuration of elements, such as a fabric with elasticity (e.g., nylon), an elastic sponge-like material that may retain its shape when a force is applied thereto, an array of spring-loaded vertical members that may compress in response to a downward force (e.g., weight created by an electronic device being connected to the universal dock), or any combinations thereof.
If the electronic device is disconnected from the universal dock, the vertical members that may have been compressed may remain compressed despite the removal of the downward force on the vertical members. This lasting compression may aid a user in using the universal dock again with the same electronic device by eliminating the need to compress the support layer to conform to the shape of the electronic device while connecting the electronic device to the dock. In addition, this lasting compression may provide an aesthetic benefit because the universal dock may appear to the user to be customized to support the user's electronic device.
In some embodiments of the invention, the universal dock may contain additional circuitry capable of adjusting the support layer to support a particular electronic device. For example, a face of the universal dock may include one or more buttons, each of which may be associated with a particular electronic device type. If the circuitry detects that one of the buttons is depressed, then the circuitry may signal the support layer to conform to the shape of the electronic device associated with the depressed button.
In some embodiments of the invention, the universal dock may contain additional circuitry (e.g., logic circuitry) capable of detecting the type of electronic device that is connected to the universal dock. If the circuitry has detected and determined the particular type of electronic device that is connected to the universal dock, then the circuitry may control the support layer and may signal the support layer to conform to the shape of the electronic device to provide maximum support as it is being connected to the universal dock. For example, the circuitry may signal the support layer to rise and expand around a portion of the bottom and the sides of the electronic device to provide support as the electronic device is being connected to the universal dock.
New RESET or EJECT Button
The new "RESET" or "EJECT" button is to return the support layer to its original, uncompressed state after the support layer has been compressed by an electronic device. For example, the "RESET" button may operate to generate an upward force (e.g., a mechanical spring force or an electrical signal) to move upwards that portion of the support layer that may have been compressed by an electronic device.
New Remote Control
The universal dock includes a sensor (150) which may include any suitable elements for detecting an electrical signal from an external source and for transmitting the electrical signal to the universal dock. In one embodiment, the sensor may be an infrared sensor capable of detecting an electrical signal from an external remote control. For example, a remote control may generate a command to control an electronic device and may transmit that command in the form of an electrical signal to the sensor in order to operate an electronic device that may be connected to the universal dock.
The noted patent figures shown above illustrate the new universal dock in use with an iPod nano. Note how the device's new support layer custom conforms to the square-like shaped bottom of the nano in comparison to the report's initial graphic showing the support layer perfectly supporting the rounded corners of Apple's iPhone.
Flowchart: How the Universal Dock Detects a Device
Apple's patent FIG. 16 is a flowchart of an illustrative process for detecting an electronic device being attached to a universal dock and customizing the shape of a support layer within the universal dock to support the detected electronic device, in accordance with some embodiments of the invention. Process 1600 may begin at step 1602. At step 1605, a universal dock may detect that an electronic device is being attached or is about to be attached to a connector within the universal dock.
Other Noteworthy Patent Applications Published Today
Synchronization Improvements: Apple's patent relates to systems and methods for synchronizing data between two or more data processing systems such as a desktop computer system and a handheld computer system. For more information, view this temporary link. Three other supporting patents include 20090307375, 20090307281 and 20090307280.
Browsing or Searching User Interfaces and Other Aspects: User interfaces for browsing and/or searching are described in this patent. In some embodiments, an icon representing a file is displayed in a graphical user interface (GUI), where the icon includes one or more predefined decorations. The decorations may be chosen based on the file type, such as slide decorations for presentations, a foldover for documents, etc. For more information, view this temporary link. Two other supporting patents include 20090307622 and 20090307615.
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