Amidst Galaxy Note 7 Recall, USPTO Publishes Samsung Patent Application for HMD with a Heat Radiator

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As reported by various news outlets today, Samsung announced an unprecedented recall of the Galaxy Note 7 just weeks after launching the smartphone due to the phone’s battery, with some scattered reports that “the cell can explode while charging.”

In a bit of irony, yesterday, the USPTO published Samsung’s patent application for a HMD having “a heat radiator” for removing heat from the space between the display and the optical assembly while a smartphone is actively engaged.  The device in the application appears to be a version of the Gear VR, with which the Galaxy Note 7 was designed to operate.

As seen in FIG. 6 (below) of Samsung’s application, the HMD includes a heat radiator 400 on a side surface of the frame 202.  The heat radiator 400 includes a fan 410 with a blade, or a piezo cooler, and also includes a fan duct 420 and a fan cover member 430.  The fan 410 and the fan duct 420 is installed in the frame 202 in a mounting opening unit 260.

 

Samsung 748 FIG 6

As shown in FIG. 7 (below), the heat radiator 400  dissipates the heat from the smartphone 300 by bringing external air into the frame 202.  Heat is transferred to the air introduced into the frame 202 through the heat radiator 400, and then the air is discharged through an outlet on the bottom surface of the frame 202, thus making it more comfortable for the user of the device 200.

 

Samsung 748 FIG 7

Samsung’s application also discusses using a heat diffusion member that can be installed to more efficiently transfer heat from the smartphone to the air in the frame 202. The heat diffusion member may be a graphite sheet, a heat transfer member containing carbon such as graphene, a metal member such as a copper sheet, or a heat transfer member such as a heat pipe or heat sink.  The application makes no mention of fire suppression technology.

According to public records, Samsung’s patent application claims priority to a Korean patent application that was originally filed in February 2015.

Oculus Patent Filings Reveal HMD-Mounted Depth-Mapping Apparatus

03_Oculus-Full-Lockup-Horizontal-BlackEarlier today, the USPTO published two patent applications (here and here), assigned to Oculus VR, directed to depth-mapping technology using a HMD-mounted device.

As shown in FIG. 13 (below), the patent applications describe the apparatus, as follows,

oculus 821 pub FIG 13

“[A]pparatus 1310 comprises a headset 1340 configured for use with a mobile device 1320 (e.g., a smartphone). The head mounted apparatus 1310 may include an illuminator 1312 (e.g., laser transmitter, infrared pattern illuminator) and a camera 1314 (e.g., an IR camera 214). [..] The head mounted apparatus 1310 is further configured to physically and electronically interface with the mobile device 1320 and the headset 1340. [..]  The head mounted apparatus 1310 allows a virtual reality headset to be enhanced by allowing three-dimensional images of objects from an environment surrounding the head mounted apparatus 1310 (e.g., body parts of a user) to be viewed within a virtual reality scene. Hence, the head mounted apparatus 1310 provides hardware for coupling to a near eye display and executes instructions for controlling the head mounted apparatus 1310 and analyzing captured data.”

Interestingly, the apparatus in FIG. 13 appears to have another camera/projector adjacent to the camera 1314.  However, neither of Oculus’s patent applications identify or describe this feature of the drawing.

Claim 1 of the ‘812 publication recites:

1.  A method comprising:

projecting a structured light pattern into a volume, the structured light pattern comprising a predefined structure having a plurality of features, each feature comprising a predefined variation;

detecting light reflected from one or more objects in the volume, the detected light including one or more of the features of the predefined structure of the structured light pattern;

correlating the one or more features in the detected light with the predefined structure; and

determining depth information for objects associated with each of the one more features in the detected light based on the correlating.

Curiously, FIG. 13 in Oculus’s patent application also appears to resemble the depth-sensing “unicorn” accessory teased by Intel last month (reported by UploadVR).  As shown in the photograph (below), Intel’s device appears to be mounted to an HTC Vive.  Dimitri Diakopoulos, an Intel engineer, revealed to UploadVR that the accessory “could track hand movement[,] IR-tracked controllers [and] scan the environment in real-time.”  The photo, taken from Diakopoulous’s Twitter feed, appears to have been removed.

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Apple Receives Patent for Head-Mounted Display for Use with Smartphones

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Apple has been in the news a lot lately  — from the $14.5 billion EU tax fine to the anticipated announcement of the iPhone 7 just a few days away.

However, Apple has been conspicuously silent about its plans with regard to virtual and augmented reality. Although Apple has not made any formal announcements (apart from recent statements by Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, regarding VR and AR), it’s patent filings may provide a hint about the direction they are going.

On Tuesday, the USPTO issued a new patent to Apple (USP No. 9,429,579), entitled “Head-Mounted Display Apparatus for Retaining a Portable Electronic Device with Display.” This marks the seventh U.S. patent that Apple has received relating to HMDs. (Samsung has fourteen U.S. patents relating to HMDs, with five of them being design patents.) Although recently issued, the ‘579 patent is a member in a family of patents, whose parent was filed in September 2008.  In other words, Apple has been toying with the idea of an HMD for at least the last eight years.

Claim 1 of the ‘579  patent recites:

A head-mounted device that is worn on a user’s head and configured to integrate with a cellular telephone that is removable, the head-mounted device comprising:

a frame that is configured to physically receive and carry the cellular telephone, wherein the frame places a display screen of the cellular telephone in front of the user’s eyes; and

an optical subassembly configured to receive at least one image frame from the display screen of the cellular telephone, wherein the optical subassembly is interposed between the display screen and the user’s eyes.

As described in the specification, the optical subassembly (shown below at 604) may include “lenses, light guides, light sources, mirrors, diffusers, and the like.” Specifically, optical sub assemblies may include “aspherical and diffractive optical arrangements.”  In addition, the optical subassembly may also include “one or more optical modules that may be operative to adjust or modify the displayed media based on any suitable criteria.” For example, the “optical modules” may offset left and right images so that the user is given the illusion of viewing media in three dimensions.

As we’ve said before, a company’s patent filings are certainly no guarantee that a commercial product will ever be released.  However, based on recent rumors surrounding Apple’s acquisitions, hirings and iPhone 7 technology, it is a good bet that Apple has something in the works.

Sony’s HMD Patent Application

Earlier this year, at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Sony announced that its virtual reality headset for the PS4 would launch in October 2016.  At GDC, Sony also demonstrated the social aspect of its VR systems, in which multiple players interacted with each other in a virtual reality environment.

Sony 163 Appl FIG 11

Last week, on May 12, the USPTO published Sony’s patent application, Sony Computer Entertainment’s U.S. Patent Appl. No. 14/996,163 (the ‘163 application).  The ‘163 application is simply entitled “Head Mounted Display,” claims priority to a provision filed in June 9, 2013.  The “inventive concept” of the claims here appears to be rendering a player’s hands into the virtual reality scene, as shown below in claim 17 (emphasis added).

17.    A method for operating a head mounted display (HMD), comprising,

providing the HMD having a head attachment portion and a viewing module coupled to the head attachment portion, the viewing module including an inner side having a view port into a screen configuring for rendering a virtual reality scene, and an exterior housing;

providing a communications module for exchanging data with a computer system, the computer system is configured to generate the virtual reality scene for the screen;

providing a depth camera integrated into the viewing module and oriented to capture depth data of an envrionment in front of the exterior housing; and

processing, by the computer system, the depth data captured by the depth camera to identify hands of a user wearing the HMD in the environment, wherein the hands are rendered into the virtual reality scene, the hands being tracked such that movements of the hands appear as movements of virtual hands extending into the virtual reality scene.

As evident from the claims, the rendering of the virtual hands relies upon data captured by a depth camera located on the HMD.  This is interesting because the depth camera appears to be technology that Sony developed as early as 2011 in response to Microsoft’s Kinect technology.  More information about Sony’s depth camera can be found here and here.