Apple has filed a patent application for using "artificial muscle" technology to focus cameras in devices such as its iPhone and iPad, a tech that could allow for slimmer mobile shiny-shiny. Illustration from Apple patent application 'Artificial Muscle Camera Lens Actuator' Fire up that 'muscle structure' to pull the lens …
. . . the iEye? Aye!
Right, I'm going . . .
So erm... like an eye then. Lots of prior art available.
Well the tricky bit is, as they say, making something that's mass-producible instead of just a cute lab one-off. This is the sort of thing that deserves a patent.
An interesting idea and deserving of a patent if it meets the standard required, unlike most Apple patents reported here. I'm more concerned about the prior art. From the article, Apple is aware of several previous patents. As well, I would be asking Apple to provide a demonstration machine. If you can't do that, you don't deserve a patent.
That's it, isn't it? Both the iris and the focussing have been done in the lab, and as far as my fuzzy memory serves, the methods for the polymers and at least the iris have been patented. The lens focussing is debatable since it's just about the first thing anyone with anatomical knowledge will think of when being able to play with artificial muscle. It's a squid eye, makes for a neat demonstration to backers. To my taste this falls within the Obvious category, the USPTO's....well...
Scaling up to mass production would be tricky and worthy of a patent, but I don't see any methods regarding that included. Just the usual "we'll get there when we figure it out" fluff.
Their track record may have made me suspicious, but to me this still looks like your average Apple patent trying to cover a beermat idea on Lawyerese and hot air.
Yes and no.
Given the filing (and the other good news from SCOTUS), they can't patent the concept of using a muscle like membrane for focusing. They can however patent a specific way of making the muscle like membrane and a specific set of controllers for the membrane, which is what they seem to have done here. I say "seem" because we'll have to wait for them to wield the patent in court before we know exactly what they intend.
Normally I would roll eyes... (I don't Apple)
But this is actually awesome.
Wow. Someone make my phone have a mechanical eye.
It is, of course, impossible to know whether this artificial-muscle focusing scheme will ever make it into an Apple iPhone or iPad
It won't. It's simply so that if someone actually produces something similar they can stifle that innovation and stamp out competition which is what their business model is founded on.
Bring it, fanbois. My post vote ratio needs balancing anyway.
Aren't EAPs used in some vehicle clutches already?
Seem to recall automatic cars using them.
But yes it is indeed a good idea, wish Apple well in developing this.
Having autofocus on webcams etc would be very handy, the front camera on many phones is not autofocus so this might be a feasible modification.
IIRC artificial muscle was used (rather than hydraulics etc) as the motive force for Battlemechs in the books/game of the same name.
Here's hoping it becomes cheaper. Sheds await its availability.....
(but no iRobot, please)
When artificial eyes are available (and it is just a matter of time) Apple can license this technology...they didn't invent.
Unfortunately, the USPTO stopped asking for working models some time before 1900 (ran out of storage space)
I remember meeting Tony Hooley in Cambridge years ago, and he'd invented and developed a little low-power piezo device that did exactly this. Plus it could rotate the lens too, with a Mexican wave of muscles... Mass producable too. Another Brit first!!
ooh, now THAT is innovative! 2003? Surely there's been an advance in nano-tech materials to make this work?
Would it be an I-sphincter?