Leaked Apple Patent hints that the next-gen Pencil will sport a rotating element

Steve Jobs openly despised and ridiculed the styluses that were the mainstays of pocket PCs and Palm devices that predated smartphones, but more than a decade later, Apple would embrace the stylus and make it its own. Granted, the styluses of Jobs’ era were nothing more than glorified sticks to poke at tiny screens, providing no additional benefit to the user experience. The Apple Pencil was, of course, anything but simple, and it has succeeded and thrived in a market dominated by long-time player Wacom. Of course, there are really no other options when working with an iPad, but Apple’s premium tablets probably wouldn’t have enjoyed as much success if the Apple Pencil didn’t exist. Of course, the creativity tool is hardly perfect, and this concept based on a newly awarded patent brings a touch of style to a more powerful Apple Pencil of the future.

Designer: Sarang Sheth

The first Apple Pencil was a minimalist’s dream, a simple, nondescript white cylinder that opened the iPad Pro to whole new worlds of creativity. There was, of course, plenty of room for improvement and innovation, and the second-generation Apple Pencil brought a faceted barrel for a better grip, as well as a touch-sensitive area you can double tap to trigger some function inside an app. While it was a significant step up from the first-gen Pencil, it was still leagues behind something like a Wacom pen, often regarded as the gold standard when it comes to styluses.

Apple is naturally aware of the limitations of its own stylus, but it is also aware of how the Pencil’s minimalist design played a big role in its favorable reception. Simply adding buttons would have solved one problem at the expense of a well-loved trait, so that was definitely a no-go. A newly awarded patent (reported by Patently Apple), however, reveals one idea that the Cupertino-based company has played with, one that could hit two birds with one stone.

In a nutshell, it extends the second-gen Apple Pencil to include another touch-sensitive area, one near the middle of the stylus, to expand the number of gestures that people can use. For example, rather than just double-tapping the area, one can also slide their finger on the touch-sensitive surface. This gesture can be mapped to some action, such as changing the size of a brush or scrubbing the timeline of a video.

The patent also mentions the possibility of a twisting motion for the Pencil, one that could be tied to a motion sensor inside the barrel. Rather than complicating the internals of the Apple Pencil, however, this concept design opts for a more direct approach that also turns out to be more elegant. It adds a knob on the top end of the Pencil with a design similar to the Apple Watch’s crown. The control mechanism is simple, intuitive, tactile, and stylish. It is unambiguous in its function, requiring no additional training or mental shift to use.

Admittedly, this design requires the use of the other hand to turn that knob, but it also means that there will be no accidental activation or triggers just because you have a fidgety hand. It breaks away from the Apple Pencil’s unibody design and minimalist appearance, but it also adds an embellishment that is still in line with Apple’s aesthetics. Whether Apple implements even the original design laid out in the patent is still a matter of conjecture, but it hopefully has an upgrade ready for the Apple Pencil ready for artists, designers, and creatives soon.

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Toyota Patents Dog Walking Robot That Can Pick Up After Your Pet

Because picking up poop is one of the least desirable aspects of dog walking, Toyota recently applied for patents related to a dog-walking robot that can even clean up after a dog takes care of its business. The future, ladies and gentlemen! It finally doesn’t involve me standing around with a plastic bag on my hand, waiting to pick up a turd.

The “guidance vehicle” features a moving platform that an owner can ride on, which moves along a pre-programmed route, constantly monitoring to ensure it maintains a safe distance from the dog. And when your dog does pee, it sprays a jet of water to help dilute the urine, so it doesn’t kill the grass. And when it poops? It uses a robotic arm to pick up the nuggets, so your neighbors don’t yell at you and/or become passive-aggressive.

Will Toyota’s dog walking robot ever see actual production? That’s debatable, although stranger things have happened, including Toyota applying for dog-walking robot patents in the first place. But if it ever does see the light of day, they better call it the Pet Prius.

[via Autoblog]

Samsung foldable phone concept seems to be inspired by Tetris

Flexible displays open up a world of possibilities, though some of them might make less sense than others.

Samsung is probably regarded as a king of foldable phones, though its dominance is being challenged a bit by an upstart like OPPO. It still has a wide lead and has plenty of resources to through at R&D. For more than a decade, the company has been dreaming up the different ways foldable devices can change and improve our lives. Some of those dreams do end up becoming actual products, but many remain within the realm of ideas formalized as patent filings. One such patent involves a phone with a flap, which is probably the most accurate way to describe this concept that both makes sense and doesn’t at the same time.

Designer: Jermaine Smit (Concept Creator)

The current breed of foldable phones uses screens that fold right in the middle, whether vertically or horizontally, inside or out. That’s not the only way to fold, of course, but companies are limited by current manufacturing technologies and materials. In the world of patents, however, it’s almost a free for all affair, as long as you can get the design or idea approved first.

With very few constraints, Samsung envisioned a phone that, when laid out unfolded, resembles a shorter version of the L-shaped Tetris block. The top half of the screen extends to the left, and that extension folds back like a flap, with the folded screen facing the same way as the cameras. This transforms the phone into a more regular shape, like the I-block of the same game.

The patent reported by LetsGoDigital almost has an uncanny resemblance to one of LG’s weirdest phones, the LG Wing and its swiveling screen. That existing phone forms a T-shape, though, again like a Tetris block, with a smaller square screen that acts as a secondary display. Samsung’s idea is almost similar but with one extra trick that LG couldn’t pull off.

That flap seems to be functional even when folded, which makes it possible to display things like notifications on the backside of the phone. It can even be used as a viewfinder, allowing the owner to take selfies with the more powerful main cameras. The curved part of the screen at the edge can also be used as a display for something like the date, battery status, and maybe even a ticker for notifications.

When unfolded, that extra screen could display a different app or extended controls for the same app. Conversely, you can use the top portion to watch a video in full, leaving the bottom half of the screen for typing or other things. Unfortunately, the LG Wing proved that a successful implementation relies heavily on software as much as hardware, and not even Samsung, with its fancier Android skin, is there yet. Then again, this is just a patent after all, and it’s simply an act of calling dibs on an idea, whether or not Samsung ends up implementing something as odd as this.

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Motorola wrap-around display phone concept is pretty but also pretty impractical

A phone that’s almost 100% screen has some benefits, but the ergonomic and practical concerns could outweigh those.

Most of the time we spend on our smartphones is, of course, spent on the screen. It is, after all, the primary point of interaction and feedback on modern mobile devices. Despite its importance, the screen actually covers less than half of a phone’s surface, which some might consider being a waste of space. Unsurprisingly, phone makers have been trying to come up with ways to take advantage of all the places where you can put a display on the phone, and Motorola’s patent reveals how that beautiful but unusual design can actually become useful.

Designer: Parvez Khan (Technizo Concept) for LetsGoDigital

Phones with displays that wrap around the body and leave almost nothing uncovered are right up there with foldable phones, transparent displays, and holograms that spark people’s imaginations. Given how small phones are compared to laptops or even tablets, it’s understandable that manufacturers and consumers will want to take advantage of every piece of real estate available on the pocketable device. Motorola is hardly the first to try, but it is one of the few to go the extra mile and explain why you might want to have an all-display phone.

Flexibility will be the name of the game for a phone where there is practically no front or back. No matter how you pull it out from your pocket or your back, that side facing you will always be the front, and the software will adjust the elements on the screen to match. You might not even have to fully pull out the phone, as long as you can see a small part of the screen. Again, the software could adjust the user interface elements, so you can immediately see who’s calling and swipe to reject or accept the call, even if only the “bottom” part of the phone is visible from your pocket.

Such a phone with a wrap-around display will have to do more work than most phones to pull this off. For one, it will need to use a variety of sensors to determine which direction the phone is facing in a pocket. The software running on the phone needs to be especially dynamic, as it needs to shift UI elements around to match the position and orientation of the phone. There are no physical volume controls, for example, and the phone will have to know on which side to place those depending on how a person is holding it.

Those might be easier to pull off than resolving some usability and ergonomic concerns that an all-screen phone might introduce. Phones whose screens curve off to the sides are sometimes criticized for accidental taps from palms for fingers. An all-screen phone might not have room for cameras either, and the current state of under-display cameras still leaves a lot to be desired. And then there’s the problem that dropping the phone on any side can actually damage the screen, knocking scores off its repairability and sustainability.

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