Apple File Patents For Inductive Charging, Flexible Displays, And Tactile Feedback

I’ve said before that I hate patents. It’s mainly because they tend to be boring concepts that never make it to a real-life device. Today, though, my opinion could change, as some very interesting new patents have emerged onto the web.

The first is inductive charging, not a new concept, but one Apple has steered clear of for the most part. Now, however, Apple appears to be looking into it, but they aren’t just interested in charging, oh no, Apple seem to be entertaining the idea that an inductive charging dock could also be used for syncing, or even transferring data between devices.

This is definitely a patent that I hope to see in reality, but it probably won’t, especially considering that Apple have just released their ‘lighting’ cable for charging and syncing iDevices, so I doubt Apple will be interested in replacing it just yet.

PatentlyApple explains:

“In some embodiments, the surface may be configured to inductively charge the user device when the user device is placed on the surface… A docking device may include, for example, processing equipment, input/output (I/O) interfaces, memory, a power supply, any other suitable components, or any combination thereof. A docking device may be configured to charge a user device, act as a conduit in the transfer of data between the user device and a host device, synchronize data with the user device, transfer data with the user device (e.g., upload, download), run diagnostics for the user device, synchronize data between more than user devices, perform any other suitable docking function for a user device placed on the surface, or any combination thereof. One or more docking functions may be selected, performed, or both, by the docking device depending on a physical orientation of the user device on the surface.”

Now here’s the patent that gets me excited. Get this, Apple have come up with a design for a curved display, presumably for an iDevice. I’m not sure how much I’d like a curved iPhone display, it seems like a very awkward design, and glare could be a big problem, depending on how much the display curves. But that’s just my opinion.

Something that Apple could achieve due to this technology is tactile feedback. If you don’t know what that is (because I didn’t), it’s basically a physical response to touch actions.

So, if you’re using an on-screen keyboard, you’ll feel feedback on the display, rather like a physical keyboard. This is an interesting concept, for sure, but it’s a safe bet that we won’t see it anytime soon on an Apple device.

UnwiredView explains how this could happen, and how it could even incorporate laser microphones:

“But the shape of displays or devices themselves is not the most interesting or important part of this. It’s what else flexible surface of the display would allow Apple to do – like replacing and improving all traditional input/output elements of the phone… E.g. – by placing an array of piezoelectric actuators below the display and activating them on demand for tactile feedback…Call up a keyboard, actuators pop up and now you can feel the letters as you type… put a transducer behind it to transform electric current into vibrations, add some support structure/barrier around it and that part of your flex display becomes a speaker membrane…. Put an array of transducers behind the screen and you got yourself a bunch of display based speakers. Get each transducer to vibrate differently, and now your iPhone can have subwoofers, woofers, mid-range speakers, tweeters…”

I’m not expecting to see any of this technology coming from Apple any time soon, but unlike most patents, they don’t leave me miserable after reading them, which is a plus. What do you think about these patents? let me know in the comments below.

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