Last week Microsoft executed a focused media blitz previewing their Windows 8 Phone and tablet called Surface that created a lot of buzz. The new Surface tablet will come to market with the release of Windows 8 later this year and will be a worthy iPad challenger. Microsoft's pro model will include Intel's Ivy Bridge processor, a high end keyboard built right into its magnetically connected cover and offer a next generation stylus that will deliver a true real-time experience. Instead of trying to copy the iPad, like so many competitors have done to date, Window's Surface brings some real innovation to the table from its original Metro user interface right through to its industrial design. Yet under the surface, there's been a literal bombardment of interesting if not exciting patent applications about where the future of Surface may be headed – and we'll be covering some of those applications throughout the week. In today's report, we take a basic look at one of the patent applications behind Microsoft's new electronic pen.
Overview of Microsoft's New Pen Digitizer System
An overview of Microsoft's invention presents an introduction to simplified concepts of an encoded micro pattern and a pen digitizer. An encoded micro pattern can be integrated into a display surface of a display device, or integrated in a display screen that is positioned over the display surface of a display device. The encoded micro pattern is easily scalable and can be used for various sizes of displays from a small phone display, to a portable laptop, to an LCD display right on up to a large whiteboard. In fact, as you could see in patent FIG. 4 below, the invention equally applies to a tablet, desktop computer and even a television. The latter could apply to writing on a large wall sized HDTV display in a board room for business presentations.
The encoded micro pattern includes segments of encoded bits that can be optically-imaged by a pen digitizer, and the position of each segment in the encoded micro pattern can be determined independently from the encoded bits that are unique to a particular segment.
Digitizer System with Encoded Micro Pattern
Microsoft's patent FIG. 1 illustrates an example digitizer system 100 in which various embodiments of an encoded micro pattern and a pen digitizer can be implemented. The digitizer system includes a pen digitizer 102 and computing device 104 with an integrated display device 106
The digitizer system also includes an encoded micro pattern 108 that includes segments 110 of encoded bits 112. The encoded micro pattern can be integrated into a display surface of the display device. Alternatively, the encoded micro pattern can be integrated in a display screen 114 that is sized and designed to position over the display surface of the display device. The display screen can be implemented to add digitizer functionality to virtually any type of device.
According to Microsoft, "the written image that is displayed on the display device can be generated in approximate real-time when the segment is optically-imaged by the pen digitizer as a user writes with the pen digitizer on the display device.
The Pen Digitizer
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 3 shown below we see an illustrated example of a pen digitizer that has a form factor and approximate size of a conventional writing pen. The pen digitizer includes a light source 306, such as an LED or an infra-red (IR) laser, to generate light that illuminates the encoded bits in the encoded micro pattern. The light source can be implemented for all colors and wavelengths, and can be operable for any type of molecular reflectors, such as quantum dots and other types of nano-structures that may be incorporated or embedded as part of the encoded micro pattern. The light is reflected to image the encoded micro pattern, and may also include regenerated light from the nano-structures.
The pen digitizer also includes light guides 308 that are configured coaxial within the housing 302 of the pen digitizer. The light guides are configured to transfer the light from the light source to focus the light around an imaging tip 310 of the pen digitizer through which the encoded bits of a segment in the encoded micro pattern are imaged. In embodiments, the light guides are implemented as fiber optics.
Alternatively or in addition, the light guides can be implemented as internal channels that may be molded within the housing of the pen digitizer. The light guides are also designed to refract the light 312 where the light exits a light guide and the refracted light 314 further illuminates the encoded micro pattern around the imaging tip.
An end view 316 of the pen digitizer further illustrates the housing and the light guides that encircle the imaging tip to uniformly distribute the light all of the way around the imaging tip so that a user can hold and rotate the pen digitizer in any direction. The pen digitizer also includes a photo array 318 that optically-images reflected light from the encoded bits of the encoded micro pattern when a lens 320 focuses the reflected light from the encoded bits onto the photo array.
The pen digitizer also includes a transmitter that can then communicate the segment data to a computing device that processes the segment data to determine a position of the segment in the encoded micro pattern. The digital signal processor is electrically coupled at 328 to the transmitter, such as an RF transmitter, Bluetooth, or other wireless transmitter, which may be located near the other end of the pen digitizer along with the battery.
Microsoft's patent application was originally filed in Q4 2010 and published by the US Patent and Trademark Office in Q2 2012.
A secondary patent report covering another aspect of Microsoft's new digital pen will be posted later this morning. Until such time, we close out today's patent report with a look back at last week's Surface Event presentation in regards to their new digital pen.
Microsoft's new ePen "Inking" feature for Surface
During Microsoft's special event presentation for their new Surface tablet last week, they briefly touched on a several points pertaining to their new electronic pen technology. Mike Anguilo, Microsoft's Corporate VP of Windows Planning, Hardware & PC Ecosystem was the key presenter for covering Surface's new ePen "inking" system. One of the first points that he made pertaining to new pen was just how smooth it was to work with, even when you zoomed in on the text. The text remains undistorted "because it's being sampled at 600 dpi; that's sub-pixel accuracy for ink," according to Anguilo. One thing that I'll have to get used to is that you don't "write" on a tablet with an ePen, you "ink." You're not "writing," you're "inking."
Mike Anguilo went on to describe several other interesting points about Microsoft's new inking system. "The pen almost feels like it's riding on the screen. Since this screen is optically bonded we've eliminated the layers in between the thin cover glass and the screen – so it feels like your "inking" right on the page. The distance between the stylus and where I see the ink is only 0.7 millimetres. That's the thinnest and closest distance of any tablet PC, any inking tablet ever.
Another thing that's going on here is, as I'm moving my hand [on the tablet], you see that the page is not moving underneath my hand. That's because Windows has "Palm Block" technology. This surface has two digitizers. It has one for touch and a separate one for digital ink. And what happens is that when I bring the pen close to the screen, Windows sees the proximity of the pen and stops taking touch input so that my hand doesn't mess up what I'm writing.
And, when I'm done with the pen, you could see the little magnetic charging connector there, the pen just clicks in. So that's one of the cool things on Surface for Windows 8 Pro in inking. " The ePen charger is noted above while the ePen magnetically resting on it is shown below.
Microsoft's Surface tablets are due out later this year in concert with the release of Windows 8. The Pro model of Surface using the Ivy Bridge processor and offering the new digital pen is expected to be released roughly three months after the release of the first consumer Surface tablets.
Update: Also see our second report titled "Microsoft Invents New Cooperative Touch + Pen Input Mechanism."
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