Feeds

Apple display patent enslaves sun

Or cute little umbrellas

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

An Apple patent application published Thursday describes a variety of techniques for capturing light from external sources to either replace or supplement traditional backlighting of electronic-device displays.

The goals of the application, entitled "External Light Illumination of Display Screens", are threefold: to make displays more visible in bright sunlight, to cut down on the power needed to backlight displays, and by doing so to allow devices to be built with smaller batteries, thus reducing weight and bulk.

Although the application - like most of its ilk - is maddeningly opaque and convoluted, the methods it describes break down into two general techniques: first, piping light from external or internal sources to the back or edges of a display using what the filing refers to as a "manifold" or "light harness"; and second, using a reflector to capture ambient light or supplement internal lighting sources.

Those external light sources can include - but, this being a patent application, aren't limited to - "an accessory light bulb, the centralized illumination system in a vehicle cabin, or the sun".

In the manifold method, ambient light is fed into either the backside or the edges of the display through light-guide pipes constructed of "any suitable material, such as glass," that can have a reflective coating to minimize light loss.

Apple 'External Light' patent illustration

Inside a manifold, 'reflecting cones' (410) supported by LEDs (60) distribute light

The light-capturing ends of the manifolds can be arrayed around any or all sides of the display. They can either be the only method used to backlight the display, or they can be used in conjunction with traditional backlighting. In the latter example, the device may either sense when the ambient light is sufficient to illuminate the display and turn off the backlighting, or when ambient light is insufficient and fire it up.

A manifold can have internal "reflecting cones" to break up the light beam in order to distribute the light evenly. In addition, LEDs can be placed between those cones to supplement the light captured externally and traveling through the manifold.

In addition, the manifold can have a reflector or "funnel" that can be aimed at an external light source to direct light into the manifold. It can either be aimed manually or set to "automatically redirect itself toward a light source" by using, for example, solar cells to determine where light is brightest, then a motorized device to orient the light-capturing element.

The external light collector "may resemble an umbrella, and may include thin reflective material on a lightweight frame that the user may collapse when not in use". A fiber-optic cable can also be used to channel the light captured by the collector into the light-distributing manifold, thus allowing the collector to be set at some distance from the display.

The second ambient light–capturing method involves either a reflector placed behind the display or - in its simplest form - merely a translucent backing for the display that simply lets in any ambient light to do the backlighting.

Apple 'External Light' patent illustration

When closed, a reflector can direct light from a manifold (540) or an internal light source (530)

Apple 'External Light' patent illustration

When the reflector is open, the sunlight can either bounce off it or directly backlight the display

In a combo method, the reflector could be pivoted closed to direct light from a manifold or internal light source to the back of the display. The reflector could alternatively be pivoted open - perhaps by "using a wrist flick motion similar to that used to open a cellular telephone" - to reflect ambient light. It could also be removed entirely to simply let powerful ambient light such as the sun - diffused by a transluscent panel - to backlight the display when the device is properly oriented to do so. ®

Bootnote

Although the illustrations accompanying the patent application all picture a laptop, proper patentese requires that the definition of an "electronic device" to be as broad as possible - in this case the list is pretty long:

[It] can include, but is not limited to, music players, video players, still image players, game players, other media players, music recorders, video recorders, cameras, other media recorders, radios, medical equipment, domestic appliances, transportation vehicle instruments, musical instruments, calculators, cellular telephones, other wireless communication devices, personal digital assistants, remote controls, pagers, computers (e.g., desktops, laptops, tablets, servers, etc.), monitors, televisions, stereo equipment, set up boxes, set-top boxes, boom boxes, modems, routers, keyboards, mice, speakers, printers, and combinations thereof.

What, no left-handed smoke shifters?

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.