New Surface Phone haptics patent suggests project still alive

We have been inundated with patents depicting Microsoft’s folding phone over the last few weeks, to the degree that it is somewhat boring now, and the particular topic of this patent is not exactly the most exciting. It does, however, have one new element which suggests the device may still be heading to market, which is, of course, the ultimate result fans are looking for.

The patent addresses the issue of haptic feedback in a dual-screened device with 2 separate bodies, which, due to their very thin construction (“having a thickness of a just few millimetres,”) cannot afford wasting space by duplicating a vibration motor on each half of the folding device.

The solution patented by Microsoft is to have the haptic motor coupled to the hinge of the device in such a way that the vibration is transmitted to the other half of the handset and even amplified on that end.

The inventor writes:

Modern multiple part electronic devices are being designed to be thin, e.g. having a thickness of a just few millimeters, and therefore, inside the housing portion of the electronic device, the space which is available for a haptic element is also very small. At the same time, the haptic elements cannot be substantially downsized, because it weakens their haptics performance. At least some of the embodiments may allow, for example, a simple arrangement of a traditional haptic element that can cause a haptic feedback both in the housing portion of the electronic device wherein the haptic element is physically located but also in another near to housing portion connected by a connecting element to said housing portion. Since the haptic element is arranged in a direct contact with the connecting element that connects the housing portions, the haptic effect is transmitted via the connecting element to said another near to housing portion. At least some of the embodiments may allow that the haptic effect, such as vibration, is amplified by the mass of said housing portion whereto the haptic effect is transmitted via the connecting element, and a strong haptic feedback can be generated therein without having to arrange further haptic element in that another housing portion.

What is interesting about the basic technology patent is something less obvious than the text-  the filing date. Unlike most of the patents we have seen so far, which dates from  June 2016, this one is dated the 18th August 2016, which provides evidence of life at least for another two months. The basicness of the patent also suggests Microsoft has been solving and ironing out the smaller problems of the device after the biggest issues have already been addressed.

As usual of course any device could be cancelled at any point, even after it has been produced (see the Surface Mini for example) so we will have to wait and see if it will actually hit the market.

The full patent can be seen here and the rest of our Surface Phone coverage here.

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