Apple began to explore methods of adding camera lens accessories to iDevices in September 2010. The initial project was quite rudimentary and un-Apple-like to say the least, but then again, all projects need a basic starting point. Apple's R&D team apparently put this project on hold until they were able to come up with a more advanced magnetics based camera lens mechanism that they revealed this past January. Today in Apple's third patent application for camera accessories they explore alternative attachment methods and mechanisms. As noted above in our cover graphic, Apple's engineers present the new camera lens attachment on what appears to be an iPod touch. With Apple's iPod sales dropping every quarter, giving consumers the ability to add new zoom and wide angle camera lenses and filters to it could give this product segment a boost. Of course eventually, the system will spill over to all iDevices. It's a great idea. All we need now is for Apple to actually deliver it.
Apple's Patent Background
Various methods and apparatuses have been developed for coupling accessory devices to other items. For example, eyelets, hook and loop fasteners, threaded fasteners, and other mechanisms have been developed for this purpose. Such mechanisms are employed in a wide variety of applications.
However, existing embodiments of mechanisms configured to couple accessory devices to devices such as electronic devices may prove unsatisfactory to a user. In this regard, existing embodiments of such mechanisms may detract from the aesthetic appeal of the device or alter the form factor of the device to a less desirable configuration. Further, some embodiments of attachment mechanisms may not be configured to release in a drop event, and accordingly, damage to one or both of the accessory device and the electronic device may result.
Accordingly, improved apparatuses and methods for attaching accessory devices may be desirable.
Apple Invents Camera Lens Accessory Attachment Mechanisms
Apple's invention generally relates to attachment mechanisms, and more particularly to attachment mechanisms configured to attach an accessory device to an electronic device.
Apple notes that the attachment mechanisms may be configured to couple accessory devices, such as camera lens devices to an electronic device. For example, a lens may be coupled to the exterior of an electronic device with first and second attachment mechanisms.
A first attachment mechanism may include bayonets that collectively define and surround an aperture. The bayonets may be received in a body, and a compliance member such as an elastomeric ring may be positioned between the body and an outer wall defined by each of the bayonets. The compliance member may thus compress the bayonets into engagement with one another. Alignment members may prevent rotation of the bayonets relative to the body, while allowing radial movement of the bayonets.
A second attachment mechanism configured to couple to the first attachment mechanism may include stationary bayonets extending from a base. The aperture defined by the bayonets may be configured to receive the second attachment mechanism axially therethrough. Once the first and second attachment mechanisms are joined in this manner, they may be rotated relative to one another. The rotation may cause the bayonets of the second attachment mechanism to press against the bayonets of the first attachment mechanism.
The attachment mechanisms may be released from the secured configuration by rotating the first attachment mechanism relative to the second attachment mechanism in the opposite direction.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 noted below illustrates a system comprising an electronic device and a lens device in a decoupled configuration; FIG. 4 illustrates the first and second attachment mechanisms of FIG. 3 in a secured configuration; FIG. 8 illustrates a perspective view of the second attachment mechanism fixed to an electronic device.
Apple notes that in this field of electronic devices, it may be desirable to attach a camera lens accessory to an iDevice's backside camera. In this regard, the camera may not include optical zoom functionality, wide angle capability, or certain filters, and hence the addition of an accessory device that includes one or more of these functionalities may be desirable.
However, existing embodiments of lens accessory devices have employed unsatisfactory solutions, particularly in the context of lens accessory devices configured for exterior mounting.
In this regard, some lens accessory devices include a separate case that attaches to the electronic device, and the lens attaches to the case (e.g., via a threaded connection). The required use of a case may alter the form factor of the electronic device by increasing the size thereof, which may be undesirable to a consumer. Further, a consumer may prefer an electronic device with a built-in option for attaching a lens accessory device.
In a Drop Event
Apple's patent FIG. 14 noted below illustrates a modified sectional view through the system at an initial impact during the drop event; FIG. 15 illustrates a modified sectional view through the system as the lens device releases from the electronic device during the drop event; and FIG. 16 illustrates an enlarged partial side view of the second attachment mechanism.
During a drop event a first and second attachment mechanism may initially be in the secured configuration, as illustrated in FIG. 14. However, the drop event may result in a force being applied to the system at a distance from the electronic device.
Accordingly, as illustrated in FIG. 15, the lens device may release from the electronic device. In this regard, one of the bayonets of the first attachment mechanism may move radially outwardly and travel along a ramped surface of one of the bayonets of the second attachment mechanism as a result of the force. Thus, the bayonets of the first and second attachment mechanisms may separate, and thereby, the attachment mechanisms may release from one another such that the lens device and the electronic device decouple. Thereby, the torque applied to the electronic device through the lens device may be reduced such that the possibility of damage to the electronic device may be reduced.
Additionally, the force required to separate the attachment mechanisms without rotation may be adjusted by changing a stiffness of the compliance member. In this regard, a softer material may decrease the force required to separate the attachment mechanisms without rotation. Conversely a harder material may increase the force required to separate the attachment mechanisms without rotation. Adjustment of the stiffness of the compliance member may also affect the torque required to secure and release the attachment mechanisms via rotation in the same manner. In this regard, a stiffer compliance member may require more torque for rotational attachment and release, and a softer compliance member may require less torque for rotational attachment and release.
Apple credits Emery Sanford and Dominic Toselli as the inventors of patent application 20140071548 which was originally filed in Q3 2012. Another patent application published today on attachable lenses could be found under patent application 20140068919.
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