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Apple eyeing move to 'programmable magnets'?

Coded magnets could introduce new means of data transfer and user interfaces, indicates patent application uncovered by Patently Apple.

Patently Apple

Apple's MagSafe magnetic connector system is one of those nifty little design touches that's cool but not necessarily earth-shaking. Or is it?

According to an Apple patent application discovered by Patently Apple, the company could have big plans to expand its use of magnets in its future products. The relatively complex patent was filed in July 2011 and describes the use of coded magnets that are able to transfer data between devices and lay a foundation for tons of potential uses.

So imagine that MagSafe connector not only holds itself in place thanks to its magnets, but the magnets also communicate information about what's being connected, meaning a single port could be used to connect multiple devices.

The patent application also describes possible uses for coded magnets involving new methods to securely pair accessories like a stylus to devices such as an iPad. On top of that, the stylus could have programmable magnets in its tip, opening up new possibilities for data transfer and user interfaces--just when we were finally getting the hang of multitouch gestures...

The Patently Apple crew has a real field day describing all the possible future applications for the new invention--everything from new ways to secure data to magnetic ID recognition, improving the cooling systems of electronic devices, and all kinds of new haptic feedback effects. Imagine if the on-screen keyboard on your iPad subtly swelled or vibrated while typing to simulate the feel of using a physical keyboard. I might not have to carry both a Netbook and tablet around anymore.

The patent also seems to be related to another application that surfaced today. It uses magnetic fields for inductive wireless charging--a concept that's been gathering a bit of steam lately.

It's important to remember, of course, that this is all a bit speculative, as Apple has patented plenty of inventions that it's yet to implement in consumer products. I'm still waiting for this touch-screen guitar with baited breath.