Microsoft invents an Elaborate Hinge & Locking System for a Future Multi-Functional Foldable Device
In July 2018 Patently Mobile posted a report titled "Microsoft Invents a Foldable, Mobile Device for Suit Pockets and Purses to keep users Productive while on the Go." Microsoft revealed patent figures supporting devices with two and three possible folds. At the time the thinking of the day was that this was a part of Microsoft's Andromeda project.
In Mid-March 2019 Microsoft was granted a patent for a specialized hinge to support their future foldable device(s). The difference in 2019 is that Intel revealed Project Copper Harbor which is a Wintel platform reference design for large, thin foldable devices which may or may not offer telephony though certainly cellular data. The lines between the two Wintel projects are beginning to blur.
The mid-March report covered the mechanics of a specialized hinge and in late March the U.S. Patent Office revealed a new patent application covering a more detailed and elaborate hinge to support a single folded device as noted in the patent figures below.
In patent FIG. 1 above, the device is show in one orientation where there could be a virtual keyboard on the bottom and a display above for typing documents, emails, texts. A fuller example illustrated below came from our 2018 patent report.
In patent FIGS. 2C and 2D below Microsoft illustrates images of a "user-controllable lock" #204 that can automatically open the first and second portions #102 and #104 a few degrees without further user effort. In this case, the hinge assemblies #106 provide a force that biases the first and second portions apart from the closed orientation unless the user-controllable lock maintains the closed orientation.
This bias can be viewed as a 'pop-up' feature. Further, once the device is popped-up, the device can maintain the orientation without user intervention (e.g., the user doesn't have to hold the device open). Microsoft makes no mention of using biometrics to open or lock the device. So it's a device function rather than a security feature.
As shown in patent FIG. 2C, when the device isn't locked, the gap between the two displays will allow a gap so that user could see incoming messages or texts.
Microsoft notes that "The present hinge assembly concepts can be utilized with any type of device, such as but not limited to notebook computers, smart phones, wearable smart devices, tablets, and/or other types of existing, developing, and/or yet to be developed devices."
The remainder of the patent is describing springs for the hinge, bend radius, range rotations and various other mechanical details.
Microsoft filed for this hinge patent in September 2017 and USPTO published it on March 28, 2019.
Later this year first generation foldable smartphones form Huawei and Samsung will be hitting the market.
Wintel foldable devices using two separated display panels could be hitting the market over the next two years if they can get their act together. Foldable 5G devices should at least have a cellular data connection if not a full cellular connection.