This Week in Patents: Boeing plans to reinvent aircraft windows

This Week in Patents: Boeing plans to reinvent aircraft windows

This week, the US patent office issued 6570 patents.

Each patent adds a little something new to the human knowledge base. As we cannot list all six thousand, the PatentYogi team has selected the four most interesting patents.

Boeing plans to reinvent aircraft windows
Patent Number: US 20160325836


Boeing is very sensitive about passengers comfort while traveling in their airplanes.  Accordingly, the company keeps innovating solutions to make the travel more comfortable and enjoyable. This includes solutions like ending passengers wild goose chase to locate empty cabins, to providing location-based services onboard aircraft, and converting interior surfaces of airplanes into projection screens.
A recent patent application for Boeing indicates that they are reinventing windows of aircrafts.

Window seats in aircrafts are in demand as most passengers like to see outside of the aircraft during the duration of a flight. However, the windows in the cabins are typically limited in size because of structural constraints. The small size of cabins windows limits visibility outside of the aircraft to passengers seated in window seats.

Boeing plans to modify existing windows and convert them into wide panoramic windows that are designed to increase the viewing area outside of a cabin.

The patented system includes multiple window plugs that fit within existing windows of an aircraft.  Each plug includes a camera, which is positioned to capture video exterior to the aircraft. The video captured by the cameras is displayed on displays installed on interior walls of the cabin (for example, over the existing windows).

Further, passengers are provided with control devices that allow the passengers to control the operation of the displays and cameras. For example, a passenger can control zoom and pan function of a camera and to change the video being displayed on a corresponding display.

The displays can also be used to display movies in VIP aircraft and premium class cabins.

Microsoft has invented embroidered touch sensors
Patent Number: US 20160328043


Designers of devices are continually looking to improve the accuracy and efficiency of touch, gestural, and other input mechanisms supported by devices to make it easier for users to interact with device, and thereby increase the popularity and utility of the devices.

Traditionally, sensor systems utilize rigid components (such as printed circuit boards), which makes it difficult to shape the sensors and include sensors in flexible and irregularly shaped objects and surfaces. Thus, the rigidity of traditional sensor systems limits the ways in which the sensors may be employed and the kinds of devices that can make use of the sensor systems.

A recent patent publication from Microsoft reveals that the company has invented an embroidered sensor assembly, which is formed on a flexible substrate, such as a suitable fabric material. Google is also working on a similar technology to develop interactive textiles.

According to the patent publication, conductive patterns are sewn into the flexible substrate using embroidery techniques to form an array of sensors that can be configured in various ways and used in many different applications.  The conductive patterns form nodes and electrodes that correspond to positions of individual sensing points.

Sensors can be arranged to measure mutual capacitance or self-capacitance.  Alternatively, they can be arranged to implement pressure and force sensitive controls for an input device, such as a keyboard.

Other types of sensing is also possible such as for detection of proximity, controls, switches, motion detection, tracking, game controllers, wearable garment embedded control, communication indicators.

The embroidered sensor assembly is flexible and therefore can be shaped to conform to various different kinds of objects and form “smart” surfaces for those objects. Further, an embroidered sensor assembly can be manipulated into a selected shape and embedded within a rigid structure to form a composite object that includes a touch sensitive surface. The embroidered sensor assembly is included on a pipe. The embroidered sensor assembly can be configured to measure various characteristic related to material conveyed via the pipe such as direction, flow rates, and turbulence.

The technology could be used to make all surfaces “smart”.

Disney has invented airbags for drones
Patent Number: US 20160332739


As drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (“UAVs”) take over the world, they pose a significant security threat to life, property and even to themselves.

Drones have become more commonplace in entertainment environments such as theme parks, film sets, sports environments, and news environments.  Drones are mostly used for providing entertainment, aerial cinematography, delivering packages, gathering video, images, and audio. A pilot can wirelessly navigate the drone from a remote location. Alternatively, the DRONE may have an autopilot feature so that it is operated and navigated by a computing device.

As drones increasingly fly over locations where people are present, safety for those people is an important goal.  Equipment malfunction, aerial hazards, and aerial maneuvers are examples of events which may result in a loss of propulsion.

Several systems have been developed to deal with the security threat posed by drones. This includes using parachutes which deploy when the drones malfunction.  However, parachutes often entangled with the drones.  Moreover, a parachute requires a fall distance to deploy and properly decelerate a vehicle. Therefore, a parachute is less effective at low altitude.  Another solution is to use geofencing. The geofence allows the drone to fly within a perimeter, e.g., a safe distance away from people or objects.  Geofencing restricts the use and benefits of a DRONE.  Since a geofence is a control system rather than a physical barrier, the DRONE can still fly through the geofence as a result of hardware or logic failure.

Disney has developed a solution that will work in all scenarios.  Basically, Disney has developed an airbag for drones.  The airbag may be deployed by a pilot by sending an activation signals.  Also, the drone may automatically deploy the airbag on detecting a condition warranting activation. Such conditions include power failure, motor failure, guidance system failure, unexpected change in control source, navigation failure, air pressure change, change in acceleration or speed, mid-air collision with an obstacle and the like.

The airbag is inflated to cover the hard, sharp, and spinning parts of the drone, e.g., the propellers, and the frame. As a result, any impact of the drone is with the airbag rather than a hard or spinning drone component.

Further, there may be two airbags. For instance, a first airbag is positioned above the center of gravity of the drone whereas a second airbag is positioned below the center of gravity of the drone. Each airbag has dimensions such that both in total engulf the entire frame structure and propulsion mechanism, e.g., propellers, of the drone. In contrast with previous approaches, e.g., the parachute configuration, that allowed different components of the drone to be exposed after the safety mechanism was activated, the drone uses the airbag to engulf the hard, sharp and spinning components of the drone to reduce the effect of impact.

Disney is blurring the line between virtual video games and the real world
Patent Number: US 20160325180


Computer graphics technology has come a long way since video games were first developed.  Relatively inexpensive 3D graphics engines now provide nearly photo-realistic interactive game play on hand-held video game, home video game and personal computer hardware platforms costing only a few hundred dollars.

These video game systems typically include a hand-held controller that a user uses to send commands to the video game system to control a video game.  For example, the controller may be a joystick operated by the user.

Many smartphone games (such as Pokémon Go) use camera to capture video of a physical, real-world scene.  Then, virtual objects are inserted into the captured images before the images are displayed.

However, while video games allow the user to interact directly with the video game system, such interactions primarily influence the graphical depiction shown on the video game device (or on a connected display), rather than physical objects outside of the virtual world.  That is, a user may specify an input to the video game system, indicating that the user’s avatar should perform a jump action, and in response, the video game system could display the user’s avatar jumping.  However, such interactions are typically limited to the virtual world, and any interactions outside the virtual world are limited (e.g., a hand-held gaming device could vibrate when certain actions occur).  As such, the interactions between conventional physical and virtual worlds are limited.

Disney is planning to change this.  A recent patent publication from Disney reveals that the company wants to integrate physical objects with video games.  The users can modify aspects of the game by perform out-of-game activities using the physical objects.

For example, a user could synchronize an Iron Man toy figure with a video game system.  A particular game could then task a user with carrying the toy device to a particular geographic location (e.g., a particular ride within Disneyland theme park) and the Iron Man toy could use a global positioning system (GPS) receiver to determine when the Iron Man toy reaches the particular geographic location.  Upon receiving, from the Iron Man toy an indication that the out-of-game activity has been completed, the video game may be modified.  For example, a user avatar within the virtual world of the game could be granted rewards, such as experience points, skill points, ability points, in-game currency and so on.

Disney may provide these video games and toy figures to visitors are Disneyland.  This will make their visit even more interesting and fun.

This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.

This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.

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