Apple Won 57 Patents Today Covering the iPhone X Dot Projector, a Rounded Apple Watch Interface and more
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 57 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover Apple's detailed invention about creating an Apple Watch with a circular interface filed months after the Apple Watch debuted with a rectangular interface. The second patent covered is Apple's fourth detailed invention that relates to the iPhone X's Dot Projector included in their TrueDepth camera. We wrap up this week's granted patent report with our traditional listing of the remaining granted patents that were issued to Apple today.
Patent: Integrated Light Pipe for Optical Projection
Apple's newly granted patent covers their invention relating to miniaturized integrated optical devices. The projector is now a part of Apple's TrueDepth Camera. Apple calls this aspect of the iPhone X's camera the "Dot Projector."
Apple's granted patent states that miniature optical projectors are used in a variety of applications. For example, such projectors may be used to cast a pattern of coded or structured light onto an object for purposes of 3D mapping (also known as depth mapping).
An image capture assembly captures an image of the pattern that is projected onto the object, and a processor processes the image so as to reconstruct a three-dimensional (3D) map of the object.
They are useful as projectors of patterned light, for example in 3D mapping applications as described above, but they may also be used in various other applications that use optical projection and sensing, including free-space optical communications.
Apple's patent FIG. 9 is a schematic side view of an integrated optical projector #110. The integrated light pipe #20 in this embodiment serves as a beam expanding telescope for light source #112, while diffractive stack #106 serves as a patterning element, projecting patterned light onto a target.
Apple's granted patent 9,939,721 was originally filed in Q3 2017 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. This is Apple's fourth granted patent related to the dot projector. The other three could be viewed here: One, two and three.
One of the inventors listed on this granted patent is Apple's hardware engineer in Israel Moshe Kriman who was the Director of Electro-Optics of PrimeSense that was acquired by Apple in 2013.
The second inventor on this granted patent is Adar Magen who is currently Apple's HW Development Engineering Manager in California. Magen's background includes working at PrimeSense as an Optics Product Engineer and attended Technion – Israel Institute of Technology's Laboratory for Nano-Material based Devices.
Patent: Curved and Circular Displays
Apple notes in this granted patent that pixel arrays often have rectangular shapes. However, rectangular pixel arrays will not fit efficiently within a device having a circular shape. Circular displays can have bottleneck regions in which signal lines become crowded, leading to inefficient use of display area. It would therefore be desirable to be able to provide improved displays such as circular displays or other displays with curved edges.
Apple further notes in their summary that the active area of a watch may have a curved edge and may have a circular shape. A circular ring-shaped inactive area may surround the circular active area of the display. Display driver circuitry may overlap the inactive area. For example, curved strips of gate driver circuitry may run along left and right portions of the inactive area.
While the patent figures focus on an Apple Watch, the invention of circular displays could also apply to a future pendant, eyeglasses, headset, headphones, a gaming device and more.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 below is a perspective view of an illustrative electronic device having a circular display. Display #14 of FIG. 3 is mounted in a housing #12 with a circular footprint; A display with folded data lines that help reduce signal line crowding in this way is shown in FIG. 5. As shown in FIG. 5, the display may have substrate layers with a circular outline (e.g., with a circular periphery); and FIG. 8 is a top view of an illustrative electronic device having a display with a circular outline.
Apple's granted patent 9,940,866 was originally filed in December 22, 2015 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Once again the filing date is important to note. The Apple Watch came to market on April 24, 2015. Today's granted patent showing a circular Apple Watch display was filed eight months later in December 2015. Filing the patent for an alternative shape after the Apple Watch debuted tells us that Apple's engineers were purposely inventing an alternative shape for the Apple Watch.
The shape of the Apple Watch is not appreciated by many consumers and Apple may be considering a future alternative design to appeal to a larger audience and compete with a number of competitors like LG, Samsung, Misfit and Garmin, who have won over some of the market selling smartwatches with a circular interface.
The Remaining Patents granted to Apple Today
Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of granted patents with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any Granted Patent should be read in its entirety for full details. About Making Comments on our Site: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit any comments. Those using abusive language or behavior will result in being blacklisted on Disqus.