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Apple has Won a Patent for Smart Footwear Accessories that are used in context with playing VR Games

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Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to smart footwear that includes an electromagnetic haptic output system having magnets in a sock or shoe. The new footwear is in context with VR Gaming accessories. The smart shoes or socks could provide users with various sensations on their feet, like hot or cold and much more, making the game evermore real.


Devices such as wearable devices sometimes incorporate haptic output components. Haptic output components may supply a user with haptic output while the user is interacting with software such as gaming software.


It can be challenging to design a haptic output device. If care is not taken, haptic output may too weak or may not provide a desired sensation for a user, haptic output may not be applied to an appropriate location on the body of a user, or a haptic output device may be overly bulky or difficult to use.


Apple's invention covers new haptic output devices that may include foot-shaped structures such as socks and shoes with cavities configured to receive the feet of users. The haptic output devices may also include foot platforms with planar exterior surfaces on which a user may stand.


In hybrid arrangements, haptic output devices include foot-shaped support structures with components such as magnets and foot-platform components with corresponding electromagnets.


Haptic output components may be arranged in an array on a haptic output device. The haptic output components may include piezoelectric components, electroactive polymer components, electromagnetic actuators, and other haptic output components.


During operation, shear forces and forces normal to the inner surfaces of a foot-shaped support surface and/or the exterior surface of a foot platform may be generated. These forces may provide a user with a sensation of resting or sliding across a tiled surface or other surface with surface irregularities. Friction effects (e.g., resistance to lateral motion) and other effects may also be produced using the haptic output devices.


Control circuitry may supply control signals to haptic output components in a haptic output device to produce haptic output. The haptic output may be generated based on sensor signals such as sensor signals associated with foot movement and/or based on information received from an external electronic device.


The Footwear is related to Gaming


Apple's context for the new footwear is gaming. Specifically, Apple notes that during a VR computer-game, the HMD can be coupled to footwear that could supply haptic output that provides a user with a sensation of shear force on the user's feet (e.g., rendering friction, slipping sensations, etc.), that provides the user with a sensation of increased normal force on the foot of the user, and/or other haptic sensations.


The haptic output that is provided may be provided based at least partly on feedback on user foot movement and/or other information that is gathered with motion sensors. The footwear may be used to provide a user with sensations of continuous movement, continuous slipping, and/or other sensations during a game.


Apple's patent FIG. 8 below is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative haptic output device having the shape of a sock or shoe; FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative haptic output device with a platform-shaped foot support structure.


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Apple's patent FIG. 11 above is a bottom view of an illustrative foot and an associated array of haptic output components; FIG. 14 is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative electromagnetic haptic output system having magnets in a sock or shoe on a user's foot and corresponding electromagnets in a platform


The socks or shoes may include heating and/or cooling elements, positioners, and/or other input-output devices. These temperature control components may, for example, be located in portion 10' of device #10, as shown in FIG. 9.


Portion 10' may, for example, include one or more heating and/or cooling elements such as Peltier effect devices, resistive heating elements, fans for cooling and/or distributing heat, etc. By adjusting the temperature of one or more regions under a user's foot, the user may be provided with the sensation of walking on different types of materials (e.g., cold tiles, hot sand, etc.). Sensations associated with other surfaces (e.g., standing, walking, and/or sliding on rocks, sand, etc.) may also be rendered, if desired.


Although described in the context of haptic output devices that provide a user's feet with haptic output, haptic output devices such as haptic output device 10 may, if desired, be used to provide haptic output to other portions of a user's body (e.g., a user's head, hands, arms, legs, torso, etc.).


For more details, review Apple's granted patent 10,945,484


10.52FX - Granted Patent Bar


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