Apple's Invents an Air-Flow System for their future Mixed Reality Headset to Keep a user's face and components cool at all times
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to a cooling system for Apple's future Mixed Reality Headset. This is Apple's third invention relating to an HMD cooling system. The first patent came to light in a March 2019 report titled "Apple Invents a Thermal Regulation System for their Head Mounted Display System." The second patent, which came to light in a September 2020 report titled "Apple's Work on a Cooling System for their Future Mixed Reality Headset has been granted a Patent.
According to today's patent filing, Apple notes that head-mounted devices can employ a wearable device housing that is secured to a user's head, and various electronic components within the housing, such as displays, integrated circuits, memory, audio devices, or electronic circuitry. As with other electronic devices, head-mounted devices can employ a cooling system based on circulation of air to maintain electronic components at desirable operating temperatures. The cooling system can also be used to cool the user's face from heat build-up inside the head-mounted device.
Maintaining efficient operation without unduly detracting from the user experience is a challenging task for head-mounted devices. The shape of the head-mounted device or layout of internal components can lead to a tortuous flow path for the cooling system.
The proximity of the air flow path to the user's head can create undesired effects that detract from the user experience, such as excessive noise that interferes with the audio of the device in a noticeable manner.
Some head-mounted devices may employ movable components that can interrupt the air flow path, such as adjustable optics that can be moved to account for a given user's interpupillary distance (IPD). IPD is defined as the distance between the centers of the pupils of a user's eyes. This adjustability can in turn make it difficult to design a cooling system in a given device that is suitable for different users.
Apple's HMD cooling system may employ an air deflector designed to affect a flow of air within the head-mounted device. The air deflector may be positioned in an air flow path extending through the housing of the head-mounted device, and can be designed to reduce the turbulence of air in the cooling system.
For example, the air deflector can be positioned between a surface of an internal component and an incoming stream of air, at a reduced angle relative to the surface of the internal component so as to create smooth or more laminar flow over or across the component.
The air deflector can be mounted to a movable component, such as an adjustable display assembly, so as to affect the flow of air as the moveable component is adjusted for particular users in a manner that results in a partial occlusion of the air flow path by the movable component.
The air deflector can be configured to pivot or otherwise move to account for changes in the incident angle of air resulting from changes in the position of movable components.
The air deflector can include or be coupled to additional thermal structures to enhance heat transfer affects resulting from the flow of air over the air deflector. For example, the air deflector can include an integrated heat sink and/or be coupled to heat-generating components via a thermally conductive interface material to enhance dissipation of heat from such components.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below illustrates an example of a head-mounted device with an air circulation device to keep the components of the HMD cool over time.
As seen in FIG. 2 above, the air circulation device #140 can be positioned in or otherwise mounted to the housing (#110) so as to urge a flow of air through an interior space (#225) of the housing. The housing can include a port that permits fluid communication between the interior space and an environment external to the housing, to create a flow path of air in the housing.
In FIG. 2, the housing is shown with a pair of inlet ports (#240) at a bottom side thereof, and an outlet port (#250) at a top side thereof, which creates air flow paths (#275) extending from the inlet ports to the outlet port. Each of the ports can include a vent, screen, hole, porous membrane, and/or other fluidic opening that permits fluid communication thereacross.
To dive deeper into the details of Apple's invention, review Apple's patent application number 20210185855.
Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.