Completely absurd patent by Vivo shows a smartphone with its own built-in tiny drone camera





What will they think of next? A smartphone that can 3D print?? (Okay scratch that, that would actually be pretty awesome)

Just last week (Friday to be specific), LetsGoDigital uncovered this rather outrageous patent filed by Chinese phone manufacturer Vivo at the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) showcasing a phone with its own drone camera. Sort of like how Marvel superhero Falcon had his own flying sidekick ‘Redwing’, Vivo’s phone had its own mini-drone that could pop out on command and click photos at you from any vantage point.

Sliding cameras on smartphones aren’t new, although Vivo’s concept takes it a couple of notches ahead. The patent shows a phone with a massive pop-out tray on the front. Within it, sits a tiny drone (sort of like the Air Selfie Drone from AirPix but smaller) with four propellers and a bunch of cameras and sensors. Fire your camera app and the tray instantly pops out and the drone takes off. A front-facing camera on the drone’s body lets you click photos (either of yourself or of landscapes) from a variety of vantage points, going above and beyond what your smartphone camera and your outstretched hand can do. Given how small drones, it isn’t entirely an idea I can actually dismiss… although what would Vivo’s marketing team call it? A Dronephone? A Smartdrone? A Phdrone?!

Practicality aside, the tech isn’t too far-fetched. The drone fits right into the phone’s slightly thick body, and comes with dual portrait-mode cameras on the top (that directly face you when the tray pops out), a main camera on the front (that works as the drone’s eyes), and IR sensors on the left and right that help the drone detect and avoid objects. The presence of cameras on the drone mean Vivo’s smartphone doesn’t need any cameras at all. This means no front-facing camera and a clean notch-less hole-punch-less display, as well as no massive camera bump on the back. The smartphone is a complete monolith of glass, metal, and screen, punctuated by a charging port and a set of buttons. The drone tray sits flush against the phone when closed, and pops up only when you fire up the camera app. (I’m assuming the app has drone controllers built in too)

Now let’s argue practicality from both sides of the argument. There’s a fair amount of evidence to say that this is a terrible idea. Moving components on a smartphone are historically the first to fail – Dust gets stuck in it, components wear out, parts accidentally break. The presence of a drone would mean saying goodbye to water-resistance, and there’s also a high chance your drone can get lost or stolen, leaving you with absolutely no camera (that’s if Vivo implements something exactly like this). Not to mention the fact that it practically means the end of privacy as we know it. (Imagine hundreds and thousands of drones flying around in every public space, or worse, or a drone entering a private space).

That being said, drone photography is truly the final frontier in consumer photography. The smartphone camera is already comparable to a DSLR, so now imagine being able to point that camera from any vantage point. You could take distant selfies without selfie sticks, sunsets from inside your house, and get better photos at concerts. It’s safe to assume that the drone would have a rather small battery (given its size), but one could easily make the argument that the drone could also wirelessly charge while docked inside the phone). As far as safety and privacy go, companies could build safeguards and throttles into the drone, preventing it from flying too far from its smartphone. There’s a lot to discuss and unpack here, although at the end of the day, fair reminder – this is just a patent and it’s likely that we won’t see anything like this for at least a couple of years. It’s fun to dream though…

Designer/Visualizer: Sarang Sheth for LetsGoDigital

This concept was first published on LetsGoDigital. Click here to view the original piece.

Xiaomi tries building what Google and Motorola couldn’t – the modular smartphone

The modular smartphone still remains an elusive pipe dream, nearly a decade after the Phonebloks surfaced on the internet. Google tried it, Motorola managed to execute a strange version of it with the Moto Mods, and every company that considered it eventually abandoned it because it was a logistical nightmare with very little net positive benefit. It’s safe to say Xiaomi isn’t ‘every company’. The Chinese giant’s company’s name loosely translates to ‘little grain’, and it talks about a philosophy of building a lot from a little. This means they’re not averse to taking risks, and they’ve definitely surprised before, with their phones like the Mi MIX 2 that was designed by Philippe Starck, the Mi TV LUX, a transparent television, and even their latest bit of innovation in the Mi MIX Fold, with its liquid camera lens. According to LetsGoDigital, it seems like the company is also trying its hand out at designing the modular smartphone by splitting the device into four distinct parts – the screen, the camera, the battery+pcb, and the speakers.

LetsGoDigital uncovered the patent on the 26th of April, and partnered with Jermaine Smit (aka Concept Creator) to bring the patent drawings to life. The phone’s components attach to one another using sliding dovetail joinery, with contact points that allow for communication between modules. Finally, a primary screen snaps on the front, hiding the crease-lines and providing a large, bezel-less display. The three modules play a rather interesting role when combined together. The upper module houses the camera, but also contains the phone’s motherboard. The central module houses the battery, while the third contains the speaker along with the phone’s charging port. Conceptually, the modules would be interchangeable, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you had to switch the phone off prior to swapping parts.

Jermaine Smit’s camera modules give this conceptual Xiaomi smartphone a variety of features, including camera modules with different capabilities. The different modules have anywhere from a 3-4 lens setup, with one of the higher-end ones even coming with its own backward-facing display that’s emblematic of the Mi 11 Ultra that released earlier this year. Unlike the Ultra, which had a tiny display, this concept’s display is a respectable 2-inches diagonally. I’d assume it would be big enough to use as a viewfinder for selfies (given that the phone doesn’t have a front-facing camera) and even for notifications.

Although this concept, and Xiaomi’s patent, unlocks some pretty interesting possibilities, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Not many of these patents really make it to a public reveal or to a retail outlet, but instead, aim at protecting a company’s intellectual property and research. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Xiaomi just announced it as a one-off concept to show that their tech isn’t just a dream, it works in reality too. Until then, all we have are these (pretty intriguing) renders!

Designer: Jermaine Smit for LetsGoDigital

Image Credits: LetsGoDigital

Apple patent reveals a new type of Pencil with replaceable nibs for different creative applications

Watch out, Wacom and Adobe! In a new patent granted to Apple by the US Patent and Trademark Office, the company is reportedly looking at a next-generation Apple Pencil with swappable nib modules. While the patent doesn’t exclusively outline what these nibs would look like or be used for, it focuses more on the underlying technology, which would allow nibs to connect to the pencil handle via a special lightning-style connector.

The Apple Pencil is arguably the iPad Pro‘s secret sauce. Along with the Pencil, the iPad Pro becomes the ultimate creator’s setup (for both 2D as well as 3D creation). It would therefore make sense to explore how the Pencil could further become a ‘power-user’ tool, allowing creators to unlock new potentials. Yanko Design has imagined what these new nibs could look like, with explorations for more niche 2D uses. The interchangeable nibs include a fine-tip nib, a chisel nib, and a flexible brush-pen nib. Other nib styles could unlock 3D modeling features like being able to sculpt on the iPad.

While the current Apple Pencil has features like tilt recognition and pressure sensitivity, allowing it to function as any sort of drawing tool, the presence of a specialized nib helps seamlessly replicate the tactile experience of, say, drawing with a brush pen or a chisel marker. Moreover, the ability to replace nibs essentially increases the lifespan of the Pencil by allowing you to replace nibs when they wear down after constant use. “The filing suggests the nib could contain several different sensors for varying purposes. The component list includes tactile sensors, contact sensors, capacitive and touch sensors, a camera, a piezoelectric sensor, a pressure sensor, or a photodiode”, reports Apple Insider.

Designer/Visualizer: Sarang Sheth

Patent via: USPTO

Xiaomi patents indicate they are working on a smartphone with a sliding display

It seems like flexible displays have finally found their place in the smartphone world. Folding phones haven’t been their best application (because folding screens leave a crease behind, and result in thicker phones), but sliding/rolling displays seem to be an interesting approach that allows phones to have larger screens in smaller, thinner bodies. LG, Oppo, and TCL have all indicated they’re working on smartphones with rollable scroll-inspired displays, and according to a new patent discovered by LetsGoDigital, Xiaomi seems to be working on a rollable display smartphone too.

The conceptual Xiaomi phone uses the sliding mechanism and flexible display to its advantage. The design comes with virtually no bezel on the front, and the display cascades off the base (like a waterfall), transitioning to the back and turning into a secondary display that works with the main camera. Upon command (either through a voice command or a tap on the screen), the front of the phone slides downwards and reveals the front-facing camera setup on the top. It includes the selfie camera, as well as an ambient light sensor, a distance sensor, and a dot projector. The receiver is also hidden behind the slider display.

This dual-screen dual-camera opens the Xiaomi slider concept up to quite a few use-cases. The larger screen on the front can be used for selfies, facial-unlock, and even video conferencing, while the smaller screen on the back can act as a viewfinder for more elaborate group photos, videos, etc. For visualization purposes, the sliding concept contains the quad-camera module from the Mi10 Pro.

Designer/Visualizer: Sarang Sheth in partnership with LetsGoDigital

This concept was first published on LetsGoDigital. Click here to view the original piece.

Gifts for Designers: Apple’s patents, turned into graphic posters that you can hang on your wall!

As someone who knows a bunch of designers, I’ll attest to the fact that it’s mighty hard finding a creative gift for someone who’s entire job revolves around creativity. Buy them something and there’s a sizeable chance that either they already own it or don’t like it. It’s rare to find something they’ve never seen before… something that takes them by surprise and delight, but you’re in a fair bit of luck if you’re reading this and looking for something to gift a designer friend, relative, colleague, or the person you got in the Secret Santa sweepstakes at work.

Retro Patents’ graphical posters literally put design history on your walls. Taking graphical representations and diagrams from actual patent files available at the US Patent and Trademark Office, Retro Patents turns them into posters you can hang on your wall. Their catalog spans a bunch of products and services, but we have our eye on three of the most recognizable products of our time… the original iPhone, iPod, and the Macintosh computer which put Apple on the map. All three posters feature the patent images taken directly from the open-source files, complete with the patent number, application name, and the holder of the patent. The posters are printed using Epson UltraChrome water based HDR ink-jet technology on Ultra Premium Luster Photo Paper for the finest results, before being framed and shipped.

Designer: Retro Patents

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