We recently came across an interesting Microsoft patent which describes a dual module mobile device. Due to limited screen real estate and small device form, there are lots of limitations on user interaction model on current smartphones. Microsoft is describing a system where there will be two separate mobile display modules and they can be combined together to form a single display system. Depending the position and distance between the modules, the content on these displays may vary. For example, moving first module forward relative to second module may cause first display to zoom out of a displayed first user interface portion, while second display may zoom in on a displayed second user interface portion.
A dual module portable device may be provided. A motion of a first module of the dual module portable device may be detected. Based at least in part on the detected motion, a position of the first module may be determined relative to the second module of the portable device. Once the relative position of the first module has been determined, a portion of a user interface associated with the relative position may be displayed at the first module.
Microsoft has described lots of such of use cases for this dual module display system. Read more about it from USPTO.
Microsoft has applied for a patent for an external clip-on controller very reminiscent of MOGA’s Bluetooth game controllers.
In their abstract they claim:
A set of reconfigurable clip-on modules for mobile computing devices includes two or more modules and at least one of the modules has an input button or other control and at least one of the modules can communicate with the computing device without needing to be connected to it via a wire. The input button is mapped to a user input in a program, such as a game, which is running or displayed on the computing device to which the modules are clipped. In an embodiment, user inputs via the buttons or other controls on the clip-on modules are mapped to user inputs in a game running on the device, which may be a touch-screen device, and the mapping between user inputs via the buttons and user inputs in the game may change dependent upon the game being played, user preference, or other criteria.
The patent does not appear to make any novel claim, making the application somewhat odd, but hopefully it suggests a direction Microsoft is thinking of expanding Windows Phone to.
The USPTO has just published a patent Microsoft applied for last year in which they describe a device with a main display and a secondary display which wraps around the edges of the device, which could be a smartphone or tablet, and which displays additional information.
Nokia has expressed a desire to enter the wearables space after exciting the handset market.
They have now been granted a patent for a new control scheme for a head-mounted display, or what they call a near to eye display (NED).
Existing control mechanisms may comprise, for example, motion sensors, gaze tracking systems or touch sensors. However, existing control mechanisms are often difficult, inconvenient or hard to use.
Now, an improved method and technical equipment implementing the method have been invented.
Nokia’s new control method would either use gaze tracking or tracking of hand movements, the first by an infra-red camera facing inwards and the second by a general camera facing outwards. Users will be able to select commands by blinking or specific hand gestures.
Bezels are a necessary evil for large handheld devices as otherwise the supporting hand will cover the displayed content on the screen, and also cause spurious activation.
Nokia has been granted a patent for making bezels a touch more useful by making them touch sensitive.
An apparatus, method, and computer program product are described that provide for an active digital bezel area on a display of a device. Touch input may be received in a bezel area provided on the display, where user interaction with content presented within the bezel area at a location corresponding to the location of the touch input is initially disabled. A force component of the touch input may be detected and compared to a predetermined force threshold. In cases in which the force component of the touch input exceeds the predetermined force threshold, user interaction with the content at that location may be enabled. In this way, the force exerted by the user in applying a touch input in the bezel area may be considered an indication of the user’s intent to interact with corresponding content within the bezel, and such interactions may be provided for accordingly.
Nokia has of course shown off multiple prototypes through the years of bendable and deformable devices which takes input through force sensors. It may be that Nokia is finally getting ready to bring such a device to market.
Microsoft-Nokia deal has already got most of the approvals in the countries where it is needed. US, EU and India are among them. China is one of the few nations that is yet to approve the deal. According to Global Times, there is a reason behind the delay. Usually, China’s Ministry of Commerce approves such deals after a 30-day first-phase of investigation. But this deal is now in the second-phase of anti-trust investigation, they fear that Nokia’s patent fees for the China’s domestic handset vendors might go up after this deal gets over.
The sources attributed the ministry’s careful moves mainly to requests from domestic mobile phone manufacturers, including ZTE, Lenovo and Xiaomi, who fear that upon the completion of the transaction, Nokia will charge them high patent fees for the usage of valuable technology on handsets.
In the past, Nokia adopted a loose system for patent protection in China and only charged a few of the country’s phone makers patent fees, but now it is likely to sign official patent licensing contracts with all domestic users or even charge them higher, according to The Economic Observer.
Currently, the company’s patent fees are generally 2 percent of a device’s selling price, said the report.
I hope the deal gets approved soon so that Microsoft will start the huge integration process within the company. They already got the plans in their hands, they need to execute it well.
We all know that Nokia and HTC are fighting it out in the court related to patent infringement. Last week, U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that HTC infringes two nokia patents that are related to method for receiving and transmitting radio signals, and a method for eliminating unwanted signals. Since there is a possibility of HTC devices getting banned in the US, HTC is working with Qualcomm on reworking a radio chip for the HTC One, reports Wall Street Journal.
I saw some comments that once the Microsoft-Nokia deal is completed, HTC and Microsoft can work on these patent issues. The real fact is that, even after the Microsoft-Nokia deal, Nokia will still own most of the patents and the on going patent battle with other companies with continue. I hope HTC soon settles the issue with Nokia and starts focusing on the devices.
NPU reports on two Nokia patents which indicate that Nokia Lumias may be getting Galaxy S3-type hover interactions, where the phone will sense fingers some distance above the screen.
Nokia envisions it working in two ways:
1) Text or objects enlarging if you hover your finger over them. This will also make it easier to locate touch points e.g. enlarging sections of a web page.
2) Being able to manipulate text input and icons via hover mode. One mode would enlarge the text under your finger and then pan the text based on movement of your hand. As seen in Figure 8 above this should make positioning the cursor even easier.
There actions have been seen largely as gimmicks on the Galaxy platform, but I think Windows Phone could probably do with a few more gimmicks to attract the punters.
Patentbolt reports that Microsoft has applied for a patent for voice-controlling the camera in Windows Phone.
From the application the app is mainly designed for portraits or group shots, but Microsoft also suggests users may be able to manage other functions, such as deleting pictures by voice or controlling the video camera. Interestingly Microsoft suggests the device may always be listening in a low power state for commands to activate the camera, bringing to mind Google’s recently demonstrated voice search feature in Chrome. The patent also notes that snapping fingers or clapping hands could function in the same way.
Microsoft notes the feature would also be useful in tablets, or for the Xbox via Kinect.
Microsoft filed the patent application in Q4 2011, somewhat preceding the number of apps we have seen pop up recently with the same function.
Nokia has applied for a patent for a flexible, low-profile hinge with integrated connector suitable for use in foldable tablets and smartphones.
Nokia has expressed interest in bendable smartphones before, including creating a prototype, the Nokia Kinect (right), with a bendable screen which responded to both touch and twists.
In Nokiaâ€™s new patent they propose using multi-layered strips consisting of elastomers and composite fabrics, with the first layer possibly a thermoplastic or thermoset material which would act as a sturdy spring, or natural or synthetic rubber, while the second layer could be Kevlar or Cordura fabric.
An electronic coupler could be integrated so as to connect the hardware in both portions.
Patent applications of course is very little guarantee of an actual product, but with Nokia promising â€œdifferent form factorsâ€ I think few companies would be as motivated as them to disrupt the status quo.
Another interesting Microsoft patent application got published today. The whole idea of this patent is to have secondary devices which can be attached and detached from a smartphone. It will function appropriately in both the modes. For example, a keyboard device can be used for the smartphone when attached to it, when detached it can act as a remote control for a TV, etc.
MOBILE COMMUNICATION DEVICE HAVING MULTIPLE, INTERCHANGEABLE SECOND DEVICES:
A mobile communication device comprises a first device with a first display and multiple second devices. The second devices are releasably attachable to the first device and are interchangeable with each other. The mobile device can operate as a mobile cell phone with one or more second devices operable as a mobile phone hand set. The second devices can comprise one or more game controllers, batteries, physical keyboards and/or mobile phone handsets with a display. In a detached configuration, the first device is separated from the second devices and can wirelessly communicate with one or more of the detached second devices. In a three device configuration, the first device can send commands, control signals or content to one or more external devices in addition to the second devices.