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.

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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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NextVR: Building a Patent Portfolio

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In the past year, virtual reality broadcasting startup, NextVR, has been a frequent topic in the media for its impressive media deals and ability to raise funds.  Earlier this month, NextVR closed an $80
million
Series B round of funding, with an eye towards expanding into Asian markets where demand for virtual reality content is growing.  Continuing on with its global push, it was also recently announced that, in conjunction with FOX Sports, NextVR would present the opening football match of the 2016/2017 Bundesliga season in virtual reality.

Less reported, however, is the fact that NextVR is quietly building a patent portfolio for encoding, streaming and displaying 360 video.  Last week, six new patent applications were published having NextVR as the assignee.  According to our search of FPO, NextVR has 32 worldwide patents and patent applications.  (By comparison, Oculus has 42.)

NextVR patent fig 14The majority of NextVR’s patent applications, published on August 18, are directed to methods and apparatus for using “selective resolution reduction on images to be transmitted and/or used by a playback device.”  These applications appear to cover methods and devices for downsampling video content using texture maps and mesh models before presenting the video content on a HMD.  As the application explains, “reducing the resolution of images which are less likely to be viewed while maintaining the resolution of portions of images corresponding to an environment which are likely to be viewed, it is possible to make efficient use of limited bandwidth available for streaming image data to a playback device.”

While downsampling video is certainly not a new technology, the novelty of NextVR’s invention appears to relate to the use of texture (or “UV maps”), which are stored on the server and sent to the (HMD-connected) client ahead of the image data.  The application describes “different UV maps in combination with selective resolution reduction can be used to allocate different amounts of resolution to different portions of an image of an environment depending on which portion of the environment is considered important at a given point in time while the same environmental model is used despite the different allocations of resolution.”  Another interesting aspect of the technology, as described in the application, is that “the data rate used for transmitting images can be held relatively constant since the number of pixels in the images can remain the same with the UV map controlling the allocation of pixels to portions of the environment.”

NextVR’s recently published patent applications can be viewed here.

Valve’s Chaperone Patent Application

A key distinguishing “feature” of the Vive, a virtual reality system jointly developed by HTC and Valve, is room scale technology.  Room scale allows a VR system to track a user’s position within a physical space through the use of “lighthouses” placed in the corners of a room.  Room scale purports to create a more immersive experience, whereby a user can physically move about within her virtual environment.

The downside to all of this is that Vive users may run into walls … or worse.

Enter: Chaperone.  Chaperone is a feature of Vive, wherein graphical representations of physical boundaries appear when the user is about to collide with a wall. A recently published patent application reveals Valve’s attempt to patent the aptly-named feature to prevent such accidents (and perhaps avoid lawsuits like this).

Vive Chaperone Patent FIG 9

U.S. Patent Application No. 14/933,955, published on May 5, 2016, is entitled “Sensory Feedback Systems and Methods for Guiding Users in Virtual Reality Environments.”  The application is assigned to Valve, and claims priority to a provisional application filed in November 2014.  The application presently includes a single independent claim which recites, in part, “a method for warning a user of a head-mounted display of potential collisions with real-world obstacles.”  (The USPTO has yet to issue its first office action.)

The specification of the ‘955 application is an interesting read for VR enthusiasts (i.e., geeks) for other reasons.  First, for historical buffs, the application includes a photograph of an early HMD, Vive Chaperone Patent FIG 2which could be described as “less-than-flattering.”

Second, to define a user’s physical “play” space, the Vive setup currently requires a user to physically walk around the edge of the room with a controller in hand.  The specification of the ‘955 application discloses defining the boundaries of the user’s physical space through the use of “lasers or ultrasound.”  Could this be a feature of Vive 2.0?

Third, the specification also describes the “teleportation” game mechanic that is presently used in two room-scale games: the Lab and the Budget Cuts demo.  This game mechanic addresses the problem of locomotion within a “virtual space” (e.g., spacecraft hangar) that is larger than the real-world space in which the Vive system is setup (e.g., your home office).  It will be interesting to see if Valve attempts to file a continuation on this game mechanic, especially in light of Alice and the Federal Circuit’s recent decision in In re Smith.

Finally, it will also be interesting to see how the claims of the ‘955 application will change, if at all, throughout prosecution, especially in light of expectations that Oculus will be implementing its own room scale technology in the near future.