Ever since Apple introduced their iPad Pro, users have wondered aloud why Apple didn't allow the Apple Pencil to magnetically attach to the body of the iPad – or least have the option of purchasing an iPad Pencil holder accessory as illustrated here. Today's patent application clearly shows us that Apple is working on a new magnetics system that will allow a future Apple Pencil to attach to the side of an iOS device such an iPhone or iPad. The new magnetics system could also allow two iPads to be attached side-by-side like a notebook; be a part of a new protective case mechanism to better protect against free-falls and provide advanced feedback for playing a virtual piano in GarageBand.
Apple's Invention: Dynamically Stabilized Magnetic Array
Apple's invention covers an iPad that includes at least the following elements: a power source; an electromagnet; a magnetic field sensor that includes a switch that electrically couples the electromagnet with the power source to energize the electromagnet when changes detected by the magnetic field sensor in a magnetic field fall within a predefined range of magnetic field characteristics; and a device housing enclosing the power source, the electromagnet and the magnetic field sensor.
Further, a portable electronic device, either an iPad or iPhone, could include at least a number of electromagnet assemblies, each of the electromagnet assemblies including an electromagnet, a magnetic field sensor and a switch, the switch allowing electrical energy from the power source to energize the electromagnet when the magnetic field sensor detects a magnetic field falling within a predefined range of magnetic field characteristics; and a permanent magnet configured to secure a magnetically attractable device to an exterior surface of the portable electronic device.
In addition, a portable computing device could include a housing formed of a non-ferrous material; a display assembly disposed within the housing; a battery; and a number of electromagnet assemblies disposed within the housing, each of the electromagnet assemblies comprising an analog switching mechanism that supplies power to an electromagnet from the battery when a sensing coil detects a changing magnetic field meeting a predefined magnetic field characteristic.
Permanent Magnets to Connect iPad to Apple Pencil
Apple's patent FIGS. 3A-3B noted above shows various implementations of an iPad that includes sensor actuated electromagnets that can be configured to actuate upon detecting a magnetic field consistent with an Apple Pencil or span device. Apple's patent FIG. 3A shows Apple Pencil having permanent magnet arrays #304 and #306 affixed to one side of the iPad.
This type of system can be embodied in any number of ways. For example, in some embodiments, when the Apple Pencil and iPad are in communication by way of a wired or wireless connection such as Bluetooth, orientation sensors in both the tablet and the stylus can be compared to determine whether alignment of the Apple Pencil. When misalignment is detected, the electromagnets can emit a quick pulse that guides magnets within the Apple Pencil into a predefined position. Alternatively the quick pulsing can be periodically emitted whenever the Apple Pencil is in wireless communication with the iPad.
Apple's patent FIG. 3B shows another optimization of a magnetic connection for a stylus or span connector in which an orientation of the stylus or span device can be corrected to align with an associated electronic device.
Magnets in iPad Protective Case for Fall Protection
Apple's patent FIG. 4A noted above shows an implementation in which electromagnets within an iPad could be configured to interact with permanent magnets and/or magnetically attractable material embedded within a protective case #410 to reduce damage to the iPad in the event of a fall. iPad sensors along the lines of accelerometers and/or gyroscopes could be configured to determine any time the iPad is in free fall and determine a most likely point of impact a position of the iPad within protective case could be adjusted by activating select electromagnets. The magnetically attractable material of yjr protective case could include magnetically attractable or magnetized material. In some embodiments, the magnetically attractable material could include a flexible steel shell that can be manipulated by the iPad's electromagnets so that a distance between corner #412 of protective case and iPad could be maximized by engaging electromagnets #102-1 and 102-2 of the iPad to maneuver it towards a top-most corner of the protective case. 410 as depicted in FIG. 3D. In some embodiments instead of forming all of protective case 410 of magnetically attractable material only discrete elements 414 can be magnetically attractable or magnetic.
In Apple's patent FIG. 4B we're able to see how electromagnets 102-1 and 102-2 bias the iPad towards magnetically attractable elements #414 of the protective case. Once corner #412 of the protective case impacts a hard surface the space between protective case and the iPad forms a crush zone that reduces a rate at which force from the impact is imparted to the iPad, thereby reducing a likelihood of damage.
In some embodiments, power supplied to the electromagnets 102-1 and 102-2 can be slowly reduced to further be controlled. This can be particularly effective once the established crush zone has flattened and no longer has any give left as it can allow even greater control over a rate of deceleration. FET switches within the iPad could be utilized to determine when movement of the iPad with respect to the protective case exceeds a predetermined threshold. Such a detection even by the FET switches could be used to adjust motion of the iPad with respect to the protective case by activating select electromagnets.
Connecting Two iPads Together
Since 2013 Apple has been working on a way to eventually allow power users to connect two iPads together via magnetics. In today's patent application Apple advances their magnetics system to hopefully bring this feature to market in the not-too-distant future.
Apple notes that in some embodiments, the iPad could be configured to display a piano style keyboard interface as depicted in FIG. 5D. In a piano configuration, the keyboard would be made up of two types of keys, black keys 554 and white keys 556. In some embodiments, only the black keys could be elevated while the white keys are defined only by visual cues provided by display #502. In some embodiments, the white keys could be elevated only half as much as black keys so that tactile feedback could be provided for each key of the keyboard. In some embodiments, corresponding combinations of electromagnets and permanent magnets can be larger or smaller depending upon an amount of resolution desired when defining three-dimensional shapes upon the iPad's display. While a piano layout is depicted other embodiments are also possible – such as for example a drum layout or in some cases a standard keyboard layout.
Apple patent application 20160284497 was originally filed in March 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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