Google Patents a Motorized Pixelbook Lid that Opens and Closes with a Simple Touch & Auto-Aligns the Display to the user's Face
We learned back in May that Google had taken over the classroom across the U.S., a market that was once an Apple stronghold. It wasn't the software that was the surprise; it was the hardware via Google's inexpensive Chromebook. Going by the New York Times report, it works out to over 15 million students are now using Chromebooks and growing at a rapid pace. Then Google introduced their new Pixelbook in October which is for the higher end of the market that may appeal to students graduating from K12 and going on to University.
Then the news of Google's secretive Next-Gen OS called "Fuchsia" came to light last week that will support Apple's Swift programming language. That was certainly a smart move on Google's part considering the huge push Apple is now making in schools and community colleges regarding Swift.
Apple launched a new app development curriculum for high school and community colleges in May. By August Apple's new program had reached more than 30 Colleges in the U.S. In October we posted a report titled "Apple and Ohio State University Partner on a Major Project Dubbed 'The Digital Flagship University Initiative.'" And finally, earlier this month we posted a report titled "Apple Globally Expands 'Everyone Can Code' Initiative to 20 Schools with Australia's RMIT University Leading the Way."
Clearly the war for the classroom is heating up between Apple, Google and Microsoft. So once again, Google making it clear early on that their next-gen OS Fuchsia will be supporting Apple's Swift programming language is a sure fire way to ensure that Swift's acceleration in schools across America could be accommodated on future versions of Pixelbooks and even a Pixel Desktop.
In one of the next phases in the education market war Google is making it very clear that they're the leader in all-things AI, not Apple. Google laid out this foundation on this last year and we covered it extensively in a report titled "The Google Manifesto: The Arrival of the AI Revolution."
The whole slant of the presentation by Google's CEO was to say that the Mobile First revolution was brought to market via Apple (without saying Apple) and that it's Google who will be ushering in the "AI First revolution."
Patently Apple posted the first of two reports on Google's special hardware event held in October titled "As the Transition from the Mobile Revolution to the AI Revolution begins, Google Declares War on Apple." Our second report highlighted the very specific verbiage each of Google's presenters were using to foster the position that Google is now leading the market in the shift to the "AI First" business model.
Google believes that they have it over Apple on AI and now they want to attack Apple where it counts: higher end and expensive hardware that carries higher profit margins that feeds Apple's walled kingdom.
It's nice in theory but presently Apple's iPhone X is ripping up the market while Google's Pixel 2 has been marred with display issues and beyond.
First there was Google Home's problem with recording customer conversations without consent as reported by Business Insider. Of course when that dirty little secret was exposed, Google made it out to be a minor glitch.
But then another damaging Quartz report came to light this week titled "Google collects Android users' locations even when location services are disabled." And while Google was once again downplaying their dirty little anti-privacy agenda, the South Korean media regulator immediately pounced on the incident as an excuse to investigate Google. They're in talks with the EU to broaden the investigation. With Google it's one privacy disaster after another. Apple kills them on this front. If privacy matters to you, Google isn't the one to trust, Apple is.
Yet with that said Google is focused on hitting Apple by dancing circles around them on the AI front and outshining Apple on digital device innovation. Will their newly acquired HTC hardware team really make a difference for them or will it be another embarrassment like their massive Motorola acquisition was? Only time will tell. For now our report shifts to Google's latest patent win regarding possible future Pixelbook features.
Possible Next-Gen Pixelbook Hardware Features
This week the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a Google invention that was granted to them that reveals a possible future Pixelbook with a motorized hinge structure capable of moving the lid between an open and closed position. The movement of the lid is based on input from a plurality of sensors. One sensor may be configured to determine whether the user is within a predetermined threshold distance. Another sensor may be capable of detecting whether the user has made direct contact with the laptop. In one embodiment, the computer may have an image sensor configured to detect the user's face and continuously adjust the angle and position of the lid to keep the face in the field of view of the camera and/or keep the lid in the optimum viewing position.
Our cover graphic highlights an area at the top of the Pixelbook's lid in yellow for illustrative purposes only to show the area of the notebook that a user will touch to have the new notebook hinge motor go into action and open the lid mechanically, effortlessly. To close the lid will simply require a certain touch on the Pixelbook's touchpad to have the lid automatically close via the motorized hinge.
The touch may be set to a certain pressure or duration of touch to trigger the action to begin so that an accidental touch won't open the notebook lid when a user doesn't want it to.
Beyond opening the lid automatically, there's a second feature that follows wherein the Pixelbook's face side camera is designed to track the user's face and auto-adjust the display angle for perfect viewing.
Technically the patent states that the "Computer may include a sensor that is an image sensor and that can function as a proximity sensor for detecting the user. The image sensor may be a forward-facing camera capable of capturing an image of the user when the computer is in an open position.
There may also be a rear-facing camera capable of capturing an image of the user when the computer is in the closed position. The image received from the camera(s) may be used to detect a potential user or recognize a specific user as well as calculate or estimate the distance of a target (e.g., user or object).
The Computer may have multiple cameras that face in a similar direction and provide a stereoscopic image so as to be able to make such a calculation or estimate."
As shown in Google's patent FIG. 5A above, the computer may include front-facing camera #235 on lid assembly #12 adjacent to screen #16. The front-facing camera has field of view #237 that may be relative to the position of the lid assembly As the lid assembly opens, the camera's field of view may rotate upward and as the lid assembly closes the camera's field of view may rotate downward. The camera is configured to capture an image, or a series of images in the form of a video, and communicate the image(s) to the processor.
Google notes that "The processor may be configured to analyze the image(s) and perform digital image processing to detected objects in the image. For example as seen in FIG. 5A, the processor has detected a portion #308 of the user's body, e.g., chin. When the portion is detected, the processor may instruct the motorized hinge to move the lid assembly such that the user's entire face #306 is within the center portion of camera's field of view as shown in FIG. 5B.
Once the processor locates and centers the camera's field of view on the user's face the processor may continuously adjust the position of the lid in order to maintain that centering.
For example, if the user is initially sitting down and the user then stands up, the processor will detect the change in the location of the user's face and adjust the position of lid assembly 12 by rotating toward the fully open position in order to have the user's face remain in the middle portion of the camera.
Conversely, if the user is initially standing and the user then sits down, the processor will detect the change in the location of the users face and adjust the position of the lid assembly by rotating toward the closed position in order to have the user's face remain in the middle portion of the camera. This may be particularly useful, for example, during a video conference.
If the processor determines the face of the user is not currently within the field of view of the camera, the processor may use object detection to classify what is currently in view and predict the location of the user's face.
For example, if the image processing detects a body part (e.g., torso, shoulder, arm), article of clothing, and/or accessory (e.g., hat, belt, shoe) it may use this to predict the location of the face, e.g., above the torso or below the hat. It may then instruct the motorized hinge to rotate the lid toward the open position or closed position in order to alter the cameras field of view.
It will continue to adjust the lid until the face is in the center portion of the cameras field of view. If the processor is not able to predict the location of the face it may instruct that a searching mode be implemented by panning movement of the lid. This can be done by utilizing a motorized hinge to adjust or rotate the lid assembly throughout at least a portion of the rotational range of motion thereof in an effort to locate the face of the user.
The panning motion may cover the entire range of motion capable by the hinge or only a portion of the range above or below the current position (e.g., as little as a fraction of a degree to as much as 180.degree.).
In another example, if the user is not detected (e.g. after a predetermined amount of time spent in the searching mode or after a predetermined number of panning cycles) the computer may close and/or lock itself.
Google's patent FIG. 8 illustrates an isometric view of the hinge structure and FIG. 10 illustrates a flow chart of steps executed by the processor to automatically adjust position of the lid assembly.
More on Locking and Unlocking the Pixelbook
As seen in steps 810 and 820 of patent FIG. 10 above, the processor may detect direct contact of a user via a touch-sensitive surface and subsequently execute an open procedure to open the lid assembly and execute an unlock procedure to unlock the computer.
The unlock procedure may include waking up the computer from sleep or standby mode, restoring from hibernation, powering up the computer, or logging the user into the operating system or application. The unlock procedure may involve accessing the users credentials (e.g., user name and password) and automatically inserting them where appropriate.
The open and unlock procedures may have different levels of security. For example the open procedure may require detection of only a potential user e.g., any person, whereas the unlock procedure may require a specific user be identified or recognized.
The processor may detect a potential user by using a rear-facing camera and performing general object detection or by using a microphone and performing sonar or acoustic detection.
Prior to unlocking the computer, the processor can be configured to require authentication of the user. The authentication may be performed using NFC, bluetooth pairing, voice recognition, facial recognition, iris or eye recognition, or gesture recognition via the touch-sensitive surface or camera. The authentication may be based on a single method or a combination of methods.
The open procedure and unlock procedure may be done simultaneously or one procedure may be executed first and the other procedure done later. In an example, the open procedure can be implemented prior to the unlock procedure so that once the computer lid assembly is opened other features of the Pixelbook could be exposed for use by the processor or user in the authentication step. For example, there may be a front-facing camera that may have a higher resolution or better view of the user's face, which may assist with facial recognition. In addition, the computer's keyboard may be exposed which would allow the user manually insert their credentials.
The processor may use data from additional sensors to dynamically adjust when the open or unlock procedure is executed. In one example, the Pixelbook may include additional sensors such as an accelerometer and/or an ambient light sensor. The processor may use these sensors in conjunction with other sensors to detect characteristics or aspects of the surroundings of the Pixelbook. For example, the processor may detect, via an accelerometer, that the Pixelbook is being moved by comparing the pattern of movement to a movement signature associated with being carried while user is walking.
It may also utilize an ambient light sensor to detect that it has been transported from a bright environment to a dark environment and infer that the computer has been relocated to a portable storage container e.g., computer bag, backpack. In response the processor may deactivate the automatic unlock or open procedure.
Google's patent was granted this past week and originally filed in Q4 2013. One of the inventors noted on the patent is Ken Loo, Senior Product Design Engineer who worked on Google's self-driving car as lead engineer for vehicle sensors, as well as working on the Pixel smartphone and the Pixelbook.
In a Serious Tech War, Consumers Win
The one good thing about a serious tech war between two or more tech giants trying to lead the next revolution is that all teams have to accelerate their innovations and whizzbang hardware features to market in order to keep their core fan base happy while trying to grab new market share.
While Google's over confidence was evident during their hardware event in October, hardware glitches and privacy issues are now dogging them and putting their message off-track as Apple steals all the thunder with the iPhone X around the globe.
Yet in the bigger picture Google isn't going away anytime soon. Their coming Fuchsia OS and new sexy hardware ideas will accelerate not slow down. Every leading tech company is now preparing for the next revolution that goes into high gear with 5G networks.
This is where the rubber meets the road and next generation services, autonomous vehicles and the Internet-of-Things markets will explode. Apple is taking the early lead in Augmented Reality and Google is pushing Machine Learning and AI.
The coming tech war is going to benefit consumers in general as all major players including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and more will be trying to outgun the other with new hardware, software and services.
In the 5G revolution, if you snooze you lose. It's when market leadership could change in the blink of an eye and Google already believes that they've won the war before it's even begun. Yet considering that Google snarkily laughed at the iPhone X as being in the shadow of their great new Pixel 2, it would seem that their vision of grandeur is blinding their judgement.
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