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Apple patents solar-powered MacBook with two-sided display and rear touch inputs

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted Apple a patent for a laptop with a unique display unit that not only serves as a solar power supply, but also an external screen and secondary means of touch input.

Display
Source: USPTO


Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,638,549 for an "Electronic device display module" describes a two-sided glass laptop display housing which carries the usual screen on its front face. On the rear, however, the module holds photovoltaic cells for solar charging, a secondary display and sensors for touch input.

As noted in the patent, the two-sided display may be manufactured using a variety of materials, including metal, ceramic, fiber composites and glass. In some embodiments, the rear of the display can be composed of electrochromic glass that allows light to pass through only when desired.

Much like the current MacBook lineup, a logo is disposed on the rear of the housing and can be illuminated via the same LED lighting as the front-facing display. Unlike current models, which feature an Apple logo made from translucent plastic embedded in the display chassis, the patent calls for the logo to be screened out of a patterned ink layer.

Display


As noted above, in one embodiment the rear panel is made of electrochromic glass. Sometimes referred to as electrically switchable glass, the material can change state from translucent to transparent when a voltage is applied across its surface. This allows for a rear-facing display to remain hidden until user activation.

The electrochromic layer may also be disposed in a more granular fashion. In some cases, the layer that is divided into multiple sections like halves, quarters, eighths or other quadrants. Each section can be activated independently, allowing individual control and localized adjustments for light passage. For example, the layer may be activated to display a logo or reveal a small LCD display.

Display


As for the touch sensors, the document implies any number of technologies can be deployed, including capacitive, optical and acoustic, among others. The sensors are able to collect touch data which is then translated into system commands. For example, a user can touch a certain area on the rear panel to unlock a magnetic latch mechanism that holds the display housing closed. In another example, pass codes, media controls and other software input may be managed from the rear sensor array.

Finally, Apple proposes a photovoltaic system may also be disposed between the rear panel and front-facing LCD screen. With the glass backing and electrochromic layer in transparent mode, light is able to hit photovoltaic cells, which in turn converts the energy into electrical power for storage or immediate use.

The patent goes on to describe in detail LED lighting techniques, construction and a variety of build options relating specifically to the display housing.

Display


It is unknown if Apple will one day implement such an advanced component in its MacBook series of products, though the company has successfully manufactured dual-glass designs in smaller devices like the iPhone 4 and 4S.

Apple's two-sided laptop display patent was first filed for in 2010 and credits Adam T. Garelli, Dinesh C. Mathew, Thomas W. Wilson, Jr., Keith J. Hendren, Peteris K. Augenbergs, Brett W. Degner, Bradley J. Hamel, Michael A. Damlanakis and Patrick Kessler as its inventors.
post #2 of 18
i love typing on glass. i would like to see apple do away with the keyboard altogether and make that area a huge touchscreen. add haptic if people need it.
post #3 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

As noted in the patent, the two-sided display may be manufactured using a variety of materials, including metal, ceramic, fiber composites and glass...

…and sapphire.

"You can't fall off the floor"   From 128k Mac to 8GB MBP

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"You can't fall off the floor"   From 128k Mac to 8GB MBP

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post #4 of 18
Come on Apple, it's about time you pull a rabbit out of the hat and create the next "insanely great" device. Something that will astound people as much as the Mac did 30 years ago. Make it brilliant, make it do LOTS of great things that will change the way people currently think and work/play/live.
Why? because I believe this is what Apple is all about and I think this will keep Apple going for another 30 years...
post #5 of 18

I like this idea. Apple could build a pretty secure laptop that embodies some touch screen facilities and won't even open up unless you enter a password on the touch screen. 

 

Added to that the opportunity to just leave it lying on your desk and charging itself with all the free light that's floating about, and you're onto a winner.

 

All it has to do is look nice... and I'm pretty sure that Sir Jonny can do something fairly stunning with this... say, a unibonded clamshell with a silver look when the electrochromic glass is in the off-state.  Alternatively, a return to the old 'insides on show' if it's left clear (I think that would look rather cool).

 

Either way, I really *WANT* one.

post #6 of 18
To sided displays have been so popular in the Windows world, let's bring them to the Mac. 1oyvey.gif
post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

To sided displays have been so popular in the Windows world, let's bring them to the Mac. 1oyvey.gif

 

Tablets have been so popular in the Windows world, let's bring them to the Mac.  Oh wait...

 

The fact that the Windows world royally screws something up doesn't mean that Apple would also royally screw something up.

post #8 of 18
"Come on Apple, it's about time you pull a rabbit out of the hat and create the next "insanely great" device. Something that will astound people as much as the Mac did 30 years ago. Make it brilliant, make it do LOTS of great things that will change the way people currently think and work/play/live. Why? because I believe this is what Apple is all about and I think this will keep Apple going for another 30 years"


--- Yeah, lazy Apple! You should invent something like the iPod that could displace every other form of personal music player and improve music distribution, or invent an iPhone to revolutionize modern communication! Something like a tablet, maybe...
post #9 of 18
Solar-powered laptops are caught in an inevitable Catch-22. Bright enough sun to drive the solar cells mean an impossible to read screen and vice-versa.

What'd make more sense would be a MacBook Air-sized solar array, one that would perhaps open out to double its area, coupled with a built-in battery. Users could place the array in the sun and work, like all sensible people, in the shade. Or they could charge that array's battery in the sun and later connect it to their MBA. Apple could provide MagSafe cables in various lengths to connect the two.

Heck, if I were Apple, I'd also license a company with the expertise to make Mac/iDevice solar arrays for installation on the side of homes. Users could power their gear from it all the time and have emergency power when the AC power goes down.
post #10 of 18
The publishing of this patent will be heralded as proof that Apple is creating this very thing.

By folks that forget that Apple never tells ahead of time. Tim even confirmed that the Cult of Secrecy is a legacy of Steve he has zero intention of ever ending.

So my guess is that they prototyped this, decided it was bunk and published a patent so if Dell etc are crazy enough to so it perhaps Apple can recover some of the R&D losses via licensing.

A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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post #11 of 18
Originally Posted by waybacmac View Post
…and sapphire.

 

And IGZO.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

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Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

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post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

The publishing of this patent will be heralded as proof that Apple is creating this very thing.

By folks that forget that Apple never tells ahead of time. Tim even confirmed that the Cult of Secrecy is a legacy of Steve he has zero intention of ever ending.

So my guess is that they prototyped this, decided it was bunk and published a patent so if Dell etc are crazy enough to so it perhaps Apple can recover some of the R&D losses via licensing.

 

They bought Fingerworks in 2005 and had been submitting multitouch patents ever since.  Of course not evert such patent has made it to product but Apple will telegraph through acquisitions, patent submissions and other strategic moves.  They hide it as well as they can but some things, at least in hindsight, were obvious precursor moves to enable a product later on.

 

I think the key is not to look at these patents just in the context of the current products (which they are most likely to try to use to misdirect) but what kind of products they might enable.

post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by CogitoDexter View Post

I like this idea. Apple could build a pretty secure laptop that embodies some touch screen facilities and won't even open up unless you enter a password on the touch screen.

If they keep the power button and every other button on the inside, it might be a little too secure.

Having a laptop behave like an iPad would be quite neat but you can see how much Apple's laptops cost with one panel. To keep it the same price, the rear panel can't be an independent display like the internal one or like Windows laptops. It would have to just be a pattern display, maybe allow your own designs. I like the idea of them using metal perforations to do this but it has to maintain structural strength.

They will be testing out all sorts of ideas to see which work. The ones that don't are more likely the ones we get to hear about before they are announced.
post #14 of 18
This article got me thinking again about something I posted a while back:

"I was thinking about how Apple might be able to make a watch that would still look like a very nice high end watch without looking to "techy" and would appeal to both men and women. So I thought I would see what others thought of this idea. Have the face of the watch(s) look like a nicely designed (typical style) watch. But the glass is made of a smart glass material that automatically glazes over when a message, phone call etc comes in. That way, the interface can be layered on top of this frosted glass and when the alert (phone call, email etc) is done, the glass clears and you have a normal watch again."

I just couldn't remember what the glass was called. Now I know "...electrochromic glass. Sometimes referred to as electrically switchable glass,..."
post #15 of 18
Great idea, the dual display would probably make second smaller and non retina however to keep price low, the built in solar panel great, imagine it getting uh 10 watts (rated)on 13 inch MacBook.
post #16 of 18

I imagine the point to the solar panel would be not so much to use the laptop in the sun, but to have the machine passively charge itself when it's lying around not being used. If it ever goes totally flat, sure, use the power cable, but given that MacBook Airs now last the whole working day on a battery charge, having the machine able to charge itself when the lid is shut or the system has gone to sleep would be a massive advantage. I know solar cells aren't cheap, but I'm honestly wondering why nobody has done it yet. It seems stupid not to.

post #17 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by CogitoDexter View Post

I imagine the point to the solar panel would be not so much to use the laptop in the sun, but to have the machine passively charge itself when it's lying around not being used. If it ever goes totally flat, sure, use the power cable, but given that MacBook Airs now last the whole working day on a battery charge, having the machine able to charge itself when the lid is shut or the system has gone to sleep would be a massive advantage. I know solar cells aren't cheap, but I'm honestly wondering why nobody has done it yet. It seems stupid not to.

Solar panels aren't very efficient. One that fits on a laptop screen might get 10W peak as opposed to an 85W charger. Typically a Macbook Pro would get about 5 hours from a 95 Watt hour battery so would use about 20W. If the solar panel operated at peak all the time, it could double battery life for average use but it wouldn't operate at peak all the time.

There's a list of panels here:

http://www.rensmart.com/Products/SolarPV

1.63sqm produces 315W peak. The MBP has a screen roughly 0.08sqm so no more than 15W peak. If it was out of a storage case and in bright sunlight for maybe 3-4 hours, that could get half the battery life back. For PC manufacturers, the easier route is just to put in a larger battery.

Now if Apple could come up with a way to make more efficient solar panels (more than the 20% efficiency in that list), it would be more worthwhile. The sun produces about 1kW per sqm so at 100% efficiency, a MBP screen could get 80W. That would never happen but a high enough efficiency could fully charge a laptop. The ideal use would be a large display, low power laptop like a 15" Air. There would be potential uses in the iOS devices too, e.g smart cover.
post #18 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

Solar panels aren't very efficient. One that fits on a laptop screen might get 10W peak as opposed to an 85W charger. Typically a Macbook Pro would get about 5 hours from a 95 Watt hour battery so would use about 20W. If the solar panel operated at peak all the time, it could double battery life for average use but it wouldn't operate at peak all the time.

 

It wont double the battery life but it could enable some kind of persistent activity without killing the battery so long as there was light.  I have a Logitech solar keyboard that replaced my apple keyboard with 2 AAs.  That runs the BT module in the keyboard on nothing more than the ambient light in my room that only gets indirect sunlight in the day and a desk lamp at night.

 

Even 4-5W can do a lot.  Enough to power a smaller rear LCD, touchscreen and some low level of CPU activity while the lid is closed.  Maybe even WiFI or LTE radio.

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