Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals 3D optically transparent structures filled with an electrically active fluid that could be used, for example, in an Apple Watch band that could provide chameleonic value to it whereby it could change colors to match a user's outfit or mood. The band could ultimately be a smart band with an added mini touch sensitive display with 3D touch capabilities and much more.
In April, Patently Apple was first to post a patent report titled "Apple Invents an Apple Watch Band with Individual Smart Links that Could Add New Functionality." One of the functionalities noted in that patent report was the addition of a possible mini display to be integrated into a future Apple Watch link or band. Today's invention delves further into the mechanics of how they could achieve such an advancement.
It should be acknowledged firsthand that Apple's industrial design team vetoed putting health-related sensors into the Apple Watch band. The first set of patent figures noted below (FIGS. 3A and 5) are likely the sort of sensors that Apple's industrial design team vetoed. Yet other examples in this patent filing could very well emerge at some later date.
One of the reasons for vetoing such sensors in a band is that the team knew that they were aiming to deliver a wide range of bands with differing materials and such sensors wouldn't be feasible in all of their designs.
Though at the end of the day, smart watch bands with health sensors could end up being incorporated into a niche product segment someday such as an expanded version of the new Apple Watch Nike +.
Apple notes in their patent filing that in order to meet the demands of consumers, electronic devices are required to be increasingly thin, lightweight and low cost with constantly increasing feature sets. Because of these demands, the packaging densities of electronic devices are increasing and the area available for interconnects, sensors and structures is being reduced.
To meet the needs of future electronic devices new electronic structures and interconnects will be required – and today's patent filing explains Apple's approach to delivering such future interconnects, sensors and structures.
Transparent Watch Band with Unique Health Sensor
In Apple's patent FIG. 3A noted below we're able to see an Apple Watch that could have a substantially transparent band that provides electrical communication between the wearable device display and a user pulse sensor located on a distal portion of the band. Using the conductive fluid as part of the mechanism of the sensor makes this a unique application methodology.
The communication may be performed using one or more transparent elongated cavities in the band that are filled with a transparent electrically conductive fluid forming one or more electrically conductive channels. The transparent band with electrically conductive channels may provide the wearable device with an aesthetically appealing design and improved mechanical fatigue performance, as described in more detail below.
Apple Watch Band with Built-In 3D Touch
In Apple's patent FIG. 8 noted above we're able to see an isometric view of a future Apple Watch that provides user input areas on the band. In fact, Apple's description of force sensors knowing how much pressure is applied points directly to 3D touch capabilities.
Introducing the Chameleonic Apple Watch Band
In Apple's patent FIG. 19 below we're able to see an embodiment may employ a transparent liquid crystal fluid to make a structure change color in part or in whole.
Apple further notes that in one embodiment the bottom inside wall #1935 may contain a white light source such as, for example, an LED. The white light source may be configured to emit light through a first polarizer, then through the liquid crystal fluid towards a second outside wall #1930, oriented parallel to the first wall.
In some embodiments the fluid may be a liquid crystal type of fluid that may be a twisted nematic or a super twisted nematic or other type. Second wall 1930 may have one or more polarizers and/or color filters.
Apple adds that #1905 may have numerous individual compartments with different color filters (e.g., red, green and blue) on the compartments such that the color of the object may be changed. For example, if a red color is illuminated adjacent to a blue color, the object may appear to be purple.
In one embodiment the colors and tones are somewhat muted and may appear to be more of a glow than a bright illumination.
In some embodiments these features may be used as an indicator to a user who may have the device on or near them.
In some embodiments combinations of the embodiments described above may be used. For example, in one embodiment a wearable device band may have one or more portions that change color. In some embodiments the one portion may change color from transparent to red when there is an incoming call.
Worth noting is that in that same color portion for an incoming call, the user may also be able to touch that colored segment to answer the call. That would strongly suggest that telephony is definitely coming to Apple Watch.
In further embodiments a user may program portions to be various different colors corresponding to different commands. By touching that particular color the wearable device may execute a particular command associated with that color. Myriad other combinations of features and functions could be made available.
Invisible iPhone Antennas & Liquid Cooling
In Apple's patent FIG. 18 noted above, an embodiment may use an electrically conductive transparent fluid for forming an electrical connection to an electronic device as well as for cooling. In this embodiment electrically conductive fluid flows over a light emitting diode (LED) die, making electrical contact with the LED die while simultaneously cooling it. Such embodiments may enable direct liquid cooling of high power LED's without a need for forming wired electrical connections to LED die 1805.
To clarify, the system that can power up the LEDs that could change the colors of the Chameleonic Apple Watch band is what this liquid cooling system is for and not a general iPhone or other cooling system.
Apple talks about employing an invisible or transparent/translucent iPhone antenna that would be able to eliminate the antenna lines that are still visible on the gold and rose gold iPhone 7s.
For patent FIG. 14 noted above, we're able to see a new transparent antenna system for the iPhone and other future products whereby the antenna is positioned behind the device's display. In this embodiment, a three-dimensional transparent structure #1405 may be used as an antenna to transmit or receive information. Such antennas may be used to transmit and receive data on cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth or other bands.
Apple notes that the transparent structure #1415 may be made from a transparent material such as, for example, polycarbonate, silicone, acrylic, vinyl or myriad other films. The fluid may be electrically connected to an antenna circuit through one or more conductive interconnects such that it forms a transparent antenna.
And lastly, Apple describe in their patent filing that one embodiment employing a transparent electrically conductive fluid may be employed as a transparent electromagnetic interference (EMI) shield in an electronic device. The transparent EMI shield may allow it to be used over a display without obscuring the display like other types of EMI shields. Although electronic device 1300 is illustrated as a phone, the electronic device may be any type of device such as a laptop computer, a computer monitor, a camera or other device.
Apple patent application 20160274408 was originally filed in Q2 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
It's been a big week for interesting Apple Watch Patents. On Tuesday we posted a granted report titled "Apple Wins Patent for Future Apple Watch Band that Could Connect to a MacBook for Recharging +" and earlier today we posted a patent application report titled "New Apple Invention Stops 'Butt Calling' & Introduces a Nice New Apple Watch-iPhone Feature."
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