Apple concept describes optically-based docking mechanism with wearables in mind

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited October 2015
Apple may be exploring the possibility of docking two devices using optical transmitters, rather than plugged-in connectors, a proposed invention from the company reveals.




Titled "Optical Data Transfer Utilizing Lens Isolation," the application describes a system in which two devices are placed next to each other but don't require any wire contacts to transfer data. This is useful for preventing corrosion from moisture and other outside elements, Apple notes.

The filing was published on Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Organization, and was first discovered by AppleInsider.

Of particular concern in the proposed patent is safeguarding wearables, "such as electronic watches or glasses," the document suggests. It argues that oils, acids, and other chemicals on a person's skin can be even more corrosive than straight moisture.

Apple originally filed for the patent in March 2014, which might imply that the company was considering optical docking as a way of syncing the Apple Watch. The final product does have an optical heart rate sensor that doubles as a wrist detector, but the device can only transfer data via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

None of Apple's fall 2015 products appear to use the technology. And although the company is believed to be looking into augmented reality, no specific AR glasses have been rumored, and such a product could easily turn to existing wireless sync methods.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    I was just hoping to get down to just a single connector (Lightning or USB-C) but this sounds great. The one reason I dislike docks is the damn connector makes it a two-handed operation.

    I wonder if Apple's new iPad Pro keyboard connector could fast enough to be efficient, or maybe integrate the optical sensor into the center of that flush design that alligms with magnets.
  • Reply 2 of 12



    surely there is nothing new or innovative in this patent. Its a nice method - but surely its prior art. Maybe I'm missing something but i dont see whats 'new'

    we designed a small data gathering device for scoliosis vests several years ago. To access the data, you placed it on a reader which used two optical paths to communicate, configure and download the data.

  • Reply 3 of 12

    A misunderstanding of patent laws does not invalidate Apple's patent. But oh, do the trolls wish it were so.

  • Reply 4 of 12
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

     

    A misunderstanding of patent laws does not invalidate Apple's patent. But oh, do the trolls wish it were so.




    if you were answering my post, its why i said..'maybe I'm missing something' (I'm not a Troll btw, i have some history on this site)

    from USPTO...

    In order for an invention to be patentable it must be new as defined in the patent law, which provides that an invention cannot be patented if:

    “(1) the claimed invention was patented, described in a printed publication, or in public use, on sale, or otherwise available to the public before the effective filing date of the claimed invention”

  • Reply 5 of 12
    surely there is nothing new or innovative in this patent. Its a nice method - but surely its prior art. Maybe I'm missing something but i dont see whats 'new' we designed a small data gathering device for scoliosis vests several years ago. To access the data, you placed it on a reader which used two optical paths to communicate, configure and download the data.

    I don't think I've ever seen a patent that didn't list prior patents in the filing. I'd guess the method is what Apple thinks it patentable.
  • Reply 6 of 12

    That would be optical "transceivers", not just transmitters. To transmit means to send. Combine that with receive, and you have "transceive".... two-way communications.

  • Reply 7 of 12
    a super thin optically ported iPhone would be way cool...the future is looking good.

    don't let Samsung know.
  • Reply 8 of 12

    This would require the keyboard to be battery powered, so kind of a dealbreaker. But for docking, I can imagine it would be great.?

     

    Waterproof iPhone 7 with inductive charging (Apple watch style), optical connector for data transfer, and no physical ports? Except for the 3.5 mm jack of course. Don't you dare take my jack, Apple.

  • Reply 9 of 12

    surely there is nothing new or innovative in this patent. Its a nice method - but surely its prior art. Maybe I'm missing something but i dont see whats 'new'
    we designed a small data gathering device for scoliosis vests several years ago. To access the data, you placed it on a reader which used two optical paths to communicate, configure and download the data.

    The idea is not new I worked for a for fiber optic enrollment company back in the 90's and this was an idea we explored not sure any of it was patented at the time. In this case Apple may have solved some of the issues at the time. In this case Apple is not trying to do high speed communications. Because any dirty on the lens will cause problems.

    For a dock it does not eliminate the need for power so you still need an electrical connection.
  • Reply 10 of 12

    We already created that in an EU-funded project and reported it in a report in 2013 autumn, since in my understanding the project reports are considered public documents.

     

    We developed two versions of a bi-directional inductive power transfer system, and reported the first version (no data transfer) + some prototypes in CHI2014. We were obliged to report the data-transfer version, even though it was not part of the CHI-paper. It might very well be that the patent is not valid, simply due to us being first.

     

    But it is good to know that we are going to the right direction with our work. ;) 

  • Reply 11 of 12
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,725member
    A misunderstanding of patent laws does not invalidate Apple's patent. But oh, do the trolls wish it were so.
    It's not a patent. It's an APPLICATION for a patent. The USPTO is attempting to better vet methods patents so this one may never be issued, or require significant claims changes before issuance.

    Based simply on the assumed accurate comments from [@]thekryt[/@] that they described just such a system in an EU article some time back this one sounds as tho it might never issue, but of course that's a USPTO decision.

    BTW, anyone curious about why some patents are applied for several years before a patent is actually awarded? It's generally because the "invention" is not patentable as described in the applicant's claims so back and forth it goes until one party gives in or gives up.
  • Reply 12 of 12
    singularitysingularity Posts: 1,328member
    gatorguy wrote: »
    A misunderstanding of patent laws does not invalidate Apple's patent. But oh, do the trolls wish it were so.
    It's not a patent. It's an APPLICATION for a patent. The USPTO is attempting to better vet methods patents so this one may never be issued, or require significant claims changes before issuance.

    Based simply on the assumed accurate comments from [@]thekryt[/@] that they described just such a system in an EU article some time back this one sounds as tho it might never issue, but of course that's a USPTO decision.

    BTW, anyone curious about why some patents are applied for several years before a patent is actually awarded? It's generally because the "invention" is not patentable as described in the applicant's claims so back and forth it goes until one party gives in or gives up.

    Depending on the jurisdiction that the patent is filed in. It is often due to the ability to file first and then provide detailed data to back up the claims and assertions on how it is novel and is achievable. Then you get into negotiations with your patent attorney on how vague and specific you can get away with.
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