The flurry of patents we've seen relating to the highly anticipated Surface phone from Microsoft in recent months has been staggering. From what we can only hope is a result of the buildup to the official reveal of the phone in 2018, Microsoft has been filing multiple patents with the USPTO that detail the various mechanisms of the device.
Today, we have a new series of patents that exhibit the novel range of options Microsoft may be considering in order to circumvent the problem of having to fit a camera sensor into a device whose halves, when unfolded, will likely only be 6mm thick. Having such a small chassis leads to profound limitations as there isn't enough space to move the lenses, making it harder to do things like optical zoom.
Microsoft previously filed for a patent that solved the problem by having a camera sensor and an 'optical arrangement' with different fields of view stacked on top of one another when the device is folded to create an effect that is similar to zooming in, but it seemingly considered other means of fitting a more traditional setup into the chassis by optimising the space available.
The first of these patents considered dividing a larger camera into two parts placed in each of the two halves of the device, which would then use micromechanics to bring these into alignment when the camera needs to be used.
Another idea the company's engineers came up with is to have a floating camera bump, which would fit a camera thicker than its chassis into a cavity with a floating hinge, protruding on either side of the cavity when a force is applied from the other direction. Think of this as a camera on a spring.
The last of the patents issued to Microsoft today has the camera protruding from the inner panel of one half the folding device, with a housing cavity on the inner panel of the other half. This opening would then automatically close if you have the device in an unfolded state.
These patents were all filed way back in 2016 so it is, of course, unclear which, if any, of these ideas Microsoft may have decided to implement in the final product, which has also not yet been confirmed by the company. Here's hoping we find out soon.