Apple recently began equipping its retail stores with advanced tables that allow hidden power and data ports to be exposed with a simple hand gesture, and a new patent filing details the technology behind it, as well as other potential future implementations.
The new patent application, discovered by AppleInsider, applies to Apple's own retail store product display tables, some of which feature stowed-away data and power ports that are hidden in plain sight. When needed, a store employee can expose these ports with a specific signal detected by the sensor.
The signals used to activate the sensor may include a hand motion gesture, proximity signal, RFID signal, fingerprint match or weight threshold signal, all of which could be transmitted over a wired or wireless network. The proposed invention is titled "Table With Electrical Ports."
The patent application is of particular interest because Apple is already using this technology in some of its retail stores. As can be seen in the video below from an Apple Store in Brussels, a simple wave of the hand causes a section of the table to flip over, exposing the hidden ports, in a method the uploader referred to as "magic."
The hidden ports allow for more surface space, and also create a cleaner aesthetic on the table tops. Once the ports are no longer required, the surface containing them can easily rotate back into place using the same signal.
The application notes that the table is equipped with a motor coupled to an assembly in order to rotate the port housing back and forth between each position. Beyond retail, Apple says the concept could be used in other situations requiring the use of ports, be it a desk, a temporary workstation or a mobile kiosk.
Apple Retail Chief Angela Ahrendts has led the company's efforts to re-design accessory displays in Apple Store locations to showcase products in a way that mimics traditional "small-town" storefronts. However, on the subject of Apple's "iconic" hardware tables, which were created by Apple design chief Jonny Ive, Ahrendts recently indicated they would remain as-is for the foreseeable future.
U.S. Patent Application 20150320203 was first filed with the USPTO in May of 2014 and credits Kully Mandon, Christopher M. Green, Jonathan P. Siegel, Edwin Wood & Andrew Murphy as inventors.