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Microsoft Patents Power Technology

MS Design Lets You Put Batteries In Any Way You Want 453

Posted by timothy
from the dis-orientation dept.
jangel writes "While its strategy for mobile devices might be a mess, Microsoft has announced something we'll all benefit from. The company's patented design for battery contacts will allow users of portable devices — digital cameras, flashlights, remote controls, toys, you name it — to insert their batteries in any direction. Compatible with AA and AAA cells, among others, the 'InstaLoad' technology does not require special electronics or circuitry, the company claims."
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MS Design Lets You Put Batteries In Any Way You Want

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  • by bob_jordan (39836) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:13AM (#32770898)

    Thats one of lifes great problems solved. Any chance they can work on Windows stability next?

    Bob.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by maxume (22995)

      If you have major trouble on XP, you bought a shit computer. That's hardly something you should blame Microsoft for.

    • by Zemplar (764598) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:47AM (#32771762) Journal

      Thats one of lifes great problems solved. Any chance they can work on Windows stability next?

      Bob.

      What, are you kidding? They want a solvable problem to work on!

      • by hedwards (940851) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:26AM (#32772180)
        What are you talking about? I recently put a Win XP disc into a solvent and it did indeed dissolve. Therefore XP must be solvable.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by severoon (536737)

        This is great and will save a lot of confusion, especially in devices that stack batteries between contacts. I think the directions will read something like this: With MS Instaload technology, you can now install batteries any way you like unless your device stacks batteries between contacts. In that situation, make sure that the batteries are all in the same orientation between a given set of contacts, but you have complete and total freedom to orient the battery stacks—not the inidividual batteries

  • by GrumblyStuff (870046) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:14AM (#32770918)

    They even made a logo for it. http://www.windowsfordevices.com/images/stories/microsoft_instaload_logo.jpg [windowsfordevices.com]

    Neat but not buzzword or logo worthy.

  • An actual patent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by White Flame (1074973) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:16AM (#32770930)

    For once, we're hearing about an authentically clever, afaik new physical design which solves a real problem and is actually sanely applicable to be patented. I wasn't expecting that when I clicked on this story. Gotta hand it to Microsoft for this one.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by tius (455341)

      "solves a real problem ..." I wouldn't have gone out of my way to call this a real problem. I can see it as a risk mitigator in medical devices and emergency equipment, but beyond that it just adds to the noise that dumbs down the public.

      • by NekSnappa (803141) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:18AM (#32771504)
        I don't see this a solving as "real problem" either. But you lost me on that "dumbing down the public" bit.

        I mean really. If you want to go there I'm sure that there are plenty of people competently doing tasks using modern computers that they wouldn't be able to do if all they had was an abacus. So is that dumbing down the public as well?
        • by derGoldstein (1494129) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:20AM (#32772108) Homepage
          Well, for the sake of argument:
          The '+' and '-' symbols on batteries makes children ask about what they are. Before that, all they know is that it's something that "makes things go". When they get even the simplest explanation of polarity, they may get curious and want to learn more. Otherwise, batteries are just a black box that contains a mechanism you can't see and may not think to ask about. It encourages asking questions, because the adult will have to at least explain to the child that if it's inserted the wrong way, bad things can happen. Probably the most common question from a child (well, most kids) is in the form of "why is _something_ the way it is?". Just having a bit of additional information on this otherwise tightly-sealed "thing" draws questions. Remove that and the need to ask the question goes away.

          So, technically, this does have the potential of causing some "dumbing down". But then, solving all sorts of problems leads down this path.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by bingoUV (1066850)

            The '+' and '-' symbols on batteries makes children ask about what they are.

            This is where USPTO comes to the defence of civilization. Some electronics manufacturers will not be able to afford a license on this Microsoft Patent. So their battery would need to be placed in the correct orientation. So children would ask - "Why do batteries need to be placed this way in this device but works any which way in the other device?"

            Such a question would not only enable you to teach electrical engineering to the said children, but you could also go on a long and cathartic rant about patents a

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Well, computers HAVE dumbed down the public. When I was young and computers took entire buildings to house [kuro5hin.org], people knew the difference between their, there, and they're. Now that we have the internet and spell checkers, nobody knows how to spell or use an apostrophe correctly. We used to not have calculators, and did all our math with pencil and paper (some of us used slide rules). A lot of folks growing up with calculators and computers couldn't compute without them. Cash registers didn't use to tell you h

    • by Idaho (12907)

      For once, we're hearing about an authentically clever, afaik new physical design which solves a real problem and is actually sanely applicable to be patented. I wasn't expecting that when I clicked on this story. Gotta hand it to Microsoft for this one.

      Whenever reading something like this, I cannot help wondering which company they bought the solution from.

      It's certainly a clever design, and even if they bought it elsewhere that was a very good decision. Which, if technology blogs are anything to go by, are

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by maxume (22995)

        Dude, they employ thousands of the smartest CS people in the United States. That might not translate into products you like, but fucking try to acknowledge a little reality through the smell of your own farts.

    • by am 2k (217885)

      Yes, I'm all for Microsoft dropping this stupid software business stuff and fully invest into battery container research!

    • by Xest (935314) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:47AM (#32771206)

      Yes, but unfortunately Slashdot has still mostly jumped on it as an opportunity to slag off Microsoft.

      Sure this may not be ground breaking, but if Microsoft can take it mainstream then why slag them off for it? as simple as it may be, the fact remains that no one else has bothered to take it mainstream yet.

      It's not just about the ingenuity or difficulty of inventing a device, but in taking it to the greater market, there's no point inventing the most complex amazing thing ever if no one actually ever gets chance to make use of it. So this is where the real test is- whether Microsoft manage to take it mainstream and hence whether we all do get to benefit from it in the long run.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      If you had given the problem to solve to 10 mechanical engineers, you would get 9 times the same solution. The last one would have a slightly more innovative approach. Sorry, no, this is as innovative as a new algorithm : it has some cleverness, but forbidding other people to copy the functionality that is trivial to implement is still absurd.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rwa2 (4391) *

      Say what you will about MS software, but I've only heard good things about MS hardware - mice and keyboards and all that.

      Doesn't keep me from wanting to file off the MS logo on my gear, but whatever.

  • So, since Microsoft designed it, if the battery-powered device does not work anymore, we can fix it by simply removing the batteries and inserting them again...

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Your batteriy is not a Genuine Microsoft Battery"...*Pzzzzzt!*...Blue Smoke Of Death

  • by jamesh (87723) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:25AM (#32771024)

    Now if only someone could invent something that would stop my wife putting non-rechargable batteries in my charger and blowing them up. She said it was an accident... I just think she likes the explosions.

  • by twisting_department (1329331) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:26AM (#32771032)
    I have to say it again. This is the most brilliant invention Microsoft has ever come up with. It fixes an every day niggle that every one has just accepted for decades. It's dead obvious but no one thought of it before (I assume so far). Perfect candidate for a patent. And for all those who don't read articles: No it does not uses diodes, it's purely mechanical therefore does not drop any battery voltage or waste power like a bridge would. It's probably as cheap to make as regular battery contacts. Just hope it is as reliable as normal contacts. Brilliant I say. Well done Microsoft. I always thought you had some innovation in you somewhere.
    • It's probably as cheap to make as regular battery contacts.
      It won't be, it requires more peices of material in the contacts themselves (twice as many contacts plus an extra insulating peice) and more wiring (since you have to take both the positive and negative leads to both ends of each battery slot).

      BTW you can make contacts that protect against damge from backwards insertion far simpler (and i've seen them in equipment) just by shaping the plastic right at the positive end (basically you put the positive contact inside a slot so the flat negative end can't touch it). The only advantage of these new contacts over that style is that they allow things to work both ways round.

      Just hope it is as reliable as normal contacts.
      Indeed I have two main concerns with this

      1: reliability, how long will these fancy contacts last.

      2: failure modes, when normal battery contacts fail they tend to fail by just not making good contact, they can then be cleaned, bent back into shape etc. This thing looks like it could easilly fail in a way that shorts out the battery and looks like it would be difficult to fix poor contacts without ruining the mechanism.

    • by lanswitch (705539)

      This is the most brilliant invention Microsoft has ever come up with.
      Saddening, isn't it?

  • ".... something we'll all benefit from. The company's patented design ...."

    Something's wrong there.

    ".... something MICROSOFT will benefit from. The company's patented design ..."

    There. Fixed it for you.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by XxtraLarGe (551297)

      ".... something MICROSOFT will benefit from. The company's patented design ..."

      Just because somebody wins doesn't mean somebody else has to lose. If I want to quickly swap out the rechargeable batteries in my camera so I can take a few more shots, then I win also. I may pay a little more for the privilege, but if it's worth it to me, I've lost nothing.

  • I think this is a nice feature. What also surprised me as pretty cool: My Logitech mouse operates with two AA batteries, but if you want to reduce the weight, it works with only one. Great!

  • What about a battery that does not fit if it's inserted the wrong way? By the age of 3 we all learn to put pegs in the holes of the right shape, so it should be user-friendly enough. Let me just patent it before Microsoft will...
  • One problem tho.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Creator (4611) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:42AM (#32771140) Homepage Journal

    Users will be looking at these abiguos contacs and not be able to figure out which way to insert their batteries.

    (No it doesn't help that any way will do if the user doesn't know it.)

    • Presumably the user will just jam the batteries in whichever way they please in their frustration and.. hey presto, it works.

      I suppose a more serious side-effect would be that they might start thinking this holds true for -any- battery compartment, and subsequently kill their device.

    • Re:One problem tho.. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by SimonInOz (579741) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:11AM (#32771422)

      So we have a slightly more expensive, rather fragile-looking, patented way to make it possible for people to put batteries in the wrong way.

      Ok, so this might - possibly - be used in some devices. Probably expensive ones. And they'll have big signs saying "Put the battery in any way" and this will go well until a) the battery gets a bit of corrosion and they try to clean the contacts, at which point they will short things out and the device will melt, or b) they use another device where they put the batteries in the wrong way - and the device won't work.

      So we now have a situation where you have to examine a battery connection in every device even more closely to see which way the battery goes. It might be + or a - or either will do.

      Actually, I don't think this is an improvement.
      It LOOKS like an improvement - but it's not. It add a further level of complexity.

      So Microsoft have taken a standard system that has existed for a very long time, and modified it to make it a) fragile, b) patentable, and c) more expensive (more contacts, more wiring), not to mention d) less reliable (and battery contacts are already unreliable - oh for the days of PP9s - now THOSE were good properly gendered contacts).

      Great.
      I don't want one. I can tell a spring from a contact. It's not too hard even with my eyesight. But a funny hermaphrodite thing as a third option? Now that's confusing. (Anyone remember those weird hermaphrodite connection used by IBM token ring? No? - I thought not).

      • Re:One problem tho.. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by NewWorldDan (899800) <dan@gen-tracker.com> on Friday July 02, 2010 @10:03AM (#32773524) Homepage Journal

        I'm here to tell you, I think this is a good idea. I like the design. See, my wife is generally quite smart. She's got BAs in chemsitry and biology and a MS in forensic science and she still can't put batteries in the WiiMote correctly. I make electronics, and if there's any way, however improbable, to hook things up wrong, my customers will find that way. If this connection works half as well as advertised, it'll be fantastic. I'm sure MS can dig up statistics about what percentage of their tech support calls are from people who put the batteries in backwards. And I'd bet that that number is high enough that someone sat down and said, "we need to find a better way of dealing with batteries".

  • Do You Think... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pandrijeczko (588093) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:44AM (#32771174)

    ...that someone who is too stupid to put a battery in the correct way round probably shouldn't be using an electronic device in the first place?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You are stupid one here. Why assume dumbproofness when you can just think of it as the fulfillment of an incomplete design ? I can think of multiple situations where quickly swapping batteries without looking would be awesome.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by daid303 (843777)

        I can think of multiple situations where quickly swapping batteries without looking would be awesome.

        Only if you are a woman...

    • Re:Do You Think... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:52AM (#32771816) Homepage

      So when I'm outside at night I'm stupid because I can't read the polarity "written" by embossing the black plastic my device is made of?

    • You might think so. But I have seen, recently, a smoke alarm where the battery orientation message was about 4pt and needed a magnifier to read it; another device where the orientation message was on the side of the battery compartment and could not be read when the first cell (of 3) had been inserted; and another where the contacts were reversed (i.e. you actually had to put the battery in in what appeared to be the wrong way round. The truth is that many manufacturers simply cannot be bothered to do the j
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by stewbacca (1033764)

      ...that someone who is too stupid to put a battery in the correct way round probably shouldn't be using an electronic device in the first place?

      There needs to be an equivalent "Godwin Law" for the slashdot mentality to blame the user for being stupid.

      It would be something like, "You are only authorized to operate a computer if you are deemed smart enough by a slashdot member with a 5-digit or lower id". Because only smart people benefit from the use of computers and electronics. Got it.

  • ... how long until someone FINDS a way of putting in the batteries where it STILL doesn't work? Smart money says about 30 seconds.
  • you know, the MAIN business you actually were involved with ? the main business you have been screwing up with, while screwing with a lot of other fields ?
  • I can see how this works with the mechanical differences of each end of a battery, but I'm not sure how this system will age. With the current treatment of battery terminals you eventually get to the point of having to bend the tabs in order to get good battery contact. As a mechanical solution this type of failure mode will also occur with the MS solution. However before if gets to that point I can see that there is a new failure mode that can occur. With just enough bending I can see the end cap of a

  • by nospam007 (722110) * on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:12AM (#32771446)

    Perhaps Apple should patent their 'batteries not changeable by yourself because you are morons' system too.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:17AM (#32771496) Homepage

    This will be a patented technology that will simply be ignored. I'll admit that on occasion I find it cumbersome to get the batteries in right, but for crying out loud! This is ridiculous.

    Life needs these little challenges. Let's put it this way: it is well known that people who retire to a life of leisure don't typically live long after working their whole lives. When people stop using their muscles, their bodies turn to mush. And when things are too easy, people stop thinking as much and their minds turn to mush. Life without challenges is life that won't live long.

    Okay, so that's the big picture. The smaller picture is where this stupid battery invention comes in.

    And besides that, this only works with those types of cells. How about those coin and button cells that typically stack on one another to produce the voltage to power a TTL device? And beyond that, batteries have apparently, in spite of my personal resistance and preaching to the contrary, have gone to being non-removable for all of the most important and expensive devices. Where does this fit in any more? In wireless mice and remote controls? That's just about it these days.

    • by rwa2 (4391) *

      Heh, I agree. But I think you're looking at the wrong problem.

      Yeah, this won't help fix stupid people. But hopefully it will slightly reduce the number of times stupid people call you up and ask them to fix their mouse / flashlight / TV remote.

      Sure, they'll just come up with other things to bug you about. Buy those people tasers ;-)

  • Well, let me be the first to suggest them to stick it up theirs!

    But seriously: simple elegant idea, almost too good to believe it hasn't been invented before, and in fact it has... nothing to see here please move along.
  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:47AM (#32772436) Homepage

    That is SO useful! How can people be expected to look at a simple instruction diagram to find out which way to slot a battery into a gadget?

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