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 …
A reflector behind the display? You mean like the Psion 3a? Or most Gameboys? Or any number of cheap thrown-together-in-China "PDAs" (and I use that term very loosely)? Or pretty much any digital watch with an LCD? (though I thought the 80s LED ones were so cool...)
As for the light gathering, with umbrellas and tubes. WTF? Isn't the purpose of an iWhatever to be small, compact, and perfectly formed? Who is going to unpack all THAT kit just to see the display a little bit better?
Oh, and I suspect there may be elements of prior art here too - I'm sure I can remember about a decade ago an umbrella-shaped thing that used solar panel detection to follow the sun. The purpose was to concentrate the sunlight into the "umbrella" which was a bunch of solar panels. This would then power some sort of ultra-low powered computing device. It was intended to be used in Africa, and capable of running purely off sunlight power if necessary, though a lead-acid was part of the kit...
...but then, I was just about to hit "Submit" when I had an amusing hiccup of the imagination. Poor Apple user thinking his computer was on the fritz because the already dim screen was going lighter and darker, when what really happened was the sky clouded over and the poor umbrella-light-tubes jobbie was hunting for the best light source and not finding anything worthwhile. Come on, tell me that wouldn't be amusing to watch...
Prior art exists
yes, this does remind me of the old handheld games I used to play as a child. Without an external light source, the games were useless. I had to slide the console so that the screen was 45 degrees up, then move the bottom part of the display (which had some simple reflector) in the direction of an external source (the sun was the best source).
this is nothing more then a redesign of those old games display system. Prior art exists, were does this get reported?
There might very well be some prior art in this general area. however like a lot of Patents, it might be an improvement or a different method of doing the same thing. AFAIK, that is fair game for a patent application.
Ok, time for my train (until they too go on strike)
Even the cones are not innovative. They have been used in industrial lighting for ages. This is usually implemented using low profile pyramid shapes on ceiling panels. It ensures that any light from windows or local sources is dispersed in a more "smooth" manner around the room.
The perfect source!
The sun that shines out of every Apple user's fundament or at the very least Ste...I'll stop now before I get hunted down by iRate fanbois....
Not for me
"ambient light is fed into either the backside"
... where (as I understood it,) the sun don't shine.
wouldn't this fail the non-obvious test as light tubes are already widely used in building works, and as mentioned above, there are many other applications that use reflected light instead of generated light.
+1 for WTF?
Did Apple just patent a mirror ?
I mean, I like patents, really I do, but seriously,
Light pipes for household illumination have been around for years.
What's the non-obvious part of this? he asked rhetorically.
External light source?
Apple users don't need an external light source - the glow off their own halo should be enough to light any display. ;-)
If the US patent office passes this then they will prove how stupid they are. As others have said there is so much prior art - look in books on solar living.
Ah yes, but ...
... as I understand it :
a) The patent search carried out by the USPTO (and UKPO, for that matter, although they are reputedly a bit more more thorough) consists largely of a trawl through the patents database and a few other 'specialist' databases, contents not revealed (to me anyway), and
b) that counts as a different application area, sort of thing.
Process wise, anyway.
It is stupid though, it's clearly failed the 'man in the street' test, which isn't part of the patent search process, but ought to be. Maybe USPTO should simply start throwing this stuff on the web as soon as it comes in and crowdsource their process a bit.
They will. And as mentioned above about the light from the halos surrounding their head, when is Apple going to patent thoses?
I mean really, they came up with the idea firs......oh wait my bad.
Didn't Sony do this
...in the late '90s with their Mavica?
I've got an old Mavica which has a window at the top of the casing, meant to capture sunlight and illuminate the LCD with it when the backlight was off. It was of about as much use as a chocolate teapot, but that's not stopped anyone before, has it?
Useless to fight the sun
Backlight will never stand a chance against the sun, that's why transflective displays (like used by Nokia in the n900 and earlier) are much better. When external light gets too strong, make sure the light reflection makes the screen readable too.
I can read the screen of my n900 in full sunlight, no need for a backlight.
Prior Art On Trucks?
Does no one else remember the way that trucks used to have name boards on the cab which were brightened up using 'Solar Radiation', (or light to anyone who cares)?
Now let me see, that was considered old hat back in the early '50s and I well remember it being discussed in comics, (or 'children's papers') or the like back then.
Can I please have a patent for recycling any old idea that has fallen out of use due to easier methods being adopted by technology lovers who cannot believe easy solutions?
The ONLY patentable aspect is that it is so adjectivally obvious that no one believed that it was worthy of a patent.
Light pipes to illuminate?
It's not worthy of a patent.
An implementation might be worthy of being copyright or a registered Design. If this sort of stuff is getting approved it ultimately will bring the system into disrepute.
40 years ago toy cars used this (on the roof) to "light" the headlamps.
Lots of prior art with optical equipment...
In particular, that's the very same technique used by the WERRA series of 1950s East German cameras to illuminate their 'match-needle' viewfinder exposure display.
They used a curved frosted-glass window to conduct light into the display, directed it through a prism, and used it to back-illuminate the meter needle. This made a black band appear on a white bar at the bottom of the screen, and you centred this to get the correct exposure.
Lovely cameras, the Werras, with a lot of clever engineering, and quite underrated, even though they used top-quality Zeiss lenses. Just the camera range for a geek to collect....
as any El Reg reader knows
the time scale for the money making opportunities of this patent is short, as previously reported in El Reg, when the LHC kicks in at full power the sun will be put out, thus rendering this patent worthless. I know this, because no mention was made of the patent using moonlight, ergo, I/We shall still be able to avail ourselves of our werewolve activities without patent trolls sniffing our arses/crotches.
isnt this a transflective backlight display?!
How is this different from a standard 'transflective' LCD backlit display?
(such as this diagram http://www.nemacom.co.uk/Downloads/transflective_lcd_explained.pdf)
Obvious really :-)
"How is this different from a standard 'transflective' LCD backlit display?"
Because that display will let you use any old light, whereas Apple's version will only let you light that Steve Jobs has personally approved, and it includes facilities to make it dark again if he subsequently changes the Holy Mind.
It will work in conjunction with Apple's new BlueTooth buggering ID chip and only allow you to use 'Made For iPhone' desk lamps which will cost £600 each, which is a lot for a lamp but it will pretty. Sadly the Apple lamp won't work in conjunction with any of your other lamps, and it will very likely have a funny plug on it.
... is that Apple patented it, therefore it can't ever have existed before and was pulled directly from the ear of the Almighty, the Lord and Saviour of all mankind, Steven of Jobs.
I actually had an honest to god argument with an apple fanbo the other day. Apparently the smart phone didn't exist until Jobs gave birth to the iphone and now every other phone is just a knock-off.
"Because that display will let you use any old light, whereas Apple's version will only let you light that Steve Jobs has personally approved"
The Royal Light that shines from His Behind.
Aren't you talking about the Solar whatsit in "The Man with the Golden Gun"
Everything has been done already?
Sunlit screens = transflective displays. Also, the first Gameboy Color if anyone remembers that fiasco...
Sensing how much light there is in the ambient ... well, both of my Blackberries have been able to do that for quite some time.
I would be more amused if someone came up with a cellphone with the ability to charge under the sun ... Solar-powered smartphones FTW!!!
Boom boxes ?
Whooo dude that's retro
(Smiley - cos that's *nearly* as retro)
I had a handheld TV that did this in the 80s. You opened the case partway and watched the LCD from a mirror on the base. There's a good reason for them not being made any more. Even with impossibly perfect optics, color LCD screens can never be more than 16% transmissive. E-ink is more efficient but it doesn't need backlighting contraptions.
Dear patent office...
I herewith wish to apply for a patent for any device that captures any existing and non-existing light source , visible, invisible or not visible, by any means, known or unknown, reflecting it internally, externally or by means of quantum mechanics, transferring said light by means of existing (on any plain of existance) or yet to be invented (by me or onyone or anything else), thus providing said light to any and all locations visible, invisible or not visible.
That should just about cover it.