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  • EEVblog #98 – Microsoft InstaLoad Battery Technology – Patent Busting Time?

    Posted on July 5th, 2010 EEVblog 52 comments

    Microsoft’s new Instaload battery technology allows batteries to be inserted into a product either way around.
    Is it one of those brilliant “why didn’t anyone think of that before” moments, or just another silly patent on a really obvious idea?
    Is it workable in practice?
    Can YOU bust the patent by finding prior art before 2006?

    See the Microsoft Patent here:
    http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=hVXGAAAAEBAJ

    OR DOWNLOAD THE FULL PDF PATENT HERE: http://www.eevblog.com/files/Microsoft%20Instaload%20Patent%20US7527893.pdf

    You can get Dave’s T-Shirt here:
    http://www.eevblog.com/store


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    • http://toolhacker.com wartexmaul

      you did not address the problem of having 2+ batteries in a holder. How do you obtain 6 volts if you have all cells + terminal facing the same direction?

      • karma

        Yes, well thought.

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        That’s trivial. Each cell holder pair has a defined +/- output, just wire them in series as you would a normal battery holder.

        Of course that’s impossible with say a traditional flashlight like tubular series arrangement.

    • idris

      This is the same as the approach used by various flashlight manufacturers, except for another, but related application: reverse polarity protection. These companies include Fenix and 4Sevens, who may possibly use the same circuit designer.

      http://i243.photobucket.com/albums/ff97/selfbuilt/Quark-7.jpg

      http://i243.photobucket.com/albums/ff97/selfbuilt/Quark1232-5.jpg

      There would be at least a couple of problems extending Microsoft’s approach to the flashlight application:

      – These high-end flashlights almost always use their aluminium battery tubes as a conductive path. I imagine having to run another conductor to the head would introduce design complexities that inevitably reduce reliability. Some might find this a worthy trade-off … but this feature wouldn’t be a selling point for me.

      – Many lights like this take two or more cells in series, inserted directly into the tube. The Microsoft approach requires 2 contacts for every cell. The problems associated with trying to design a cylindrical form factor light that accommodates this need are obvious. I can’t imagine how it would be done elegantly without significantly increasing the cost of the tube and reducing its reliability.

      Nice shirt!

      • karma

        Yep, I think patent is already busted.

      • http://none Mr. Placid

        I 2nd the bust.

      • idris

        I wouldn’t jump the gun just yet, someone would have to find an example of this approach from before 2006. Anyone motivated to do this could ask around on the forums at http://www.candlepowerforums.com — if it’s been used in a flashlight, someone there will know about it!

        Also, I don’t know enough about patent law to be sure that using the same approach to solve a slightly different problem would count as prior art.

      • http://purplecowsolutions.com Scott

        I agree with idris. The reason such an obvious solution hasn’t appeared before is there was no need. In most cases this approach is not practical. For a long time I have wondered why vendors didn’t just implement a much better approach than this one – just let all the cells go in the same way – vs. reversing each one.

        Such an approach is even simpler, but also suffers from one of the major drawbacks of the MS patent – you have to run a bunch of wires back and forth between terminals. I believe I have seen it in a product, but very rarely. It really adds to cost and complexity, especially if the tail end is a flap of some sort like in a digital camera.

        Another big problem with the MS approach is contact springs. There isn’t much allowance for them – which can lead to a lot of contact failures over time.

        IMHO, this kind of idea is great for software, but not really a very good hardware solution.

        If the wire routing issue can be solved, I think a much better approach is running all the cells the same way. For reasons Dave mentioned, it is really less confusing and more reliable.

        Scott

    • Zach

      When I first heard you taking about the batteries going any direction, I immediately thought of them using a diode bridge, but this is way more simple. I agree this is one of those stupid simple patents.

    • brims

      Microsoft has yet to come up with anything that is their own, I’m sure this has been done before. I don’t like the idea, just put them in correctly.

    • karma

      This may work for NiCd or standard “safe” batteries but I would never use this method for a LiPo batt (or similar).

      It just scares me thinking about a negative contact just a mm from the positive and viceversa.

      I think it is a bad idea unless you want to design a LiPo based, randomly fused bomb.

      PS: super nerd T-shirt! but I like it!

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        NiCd are one of the most unsafe types, they are capable of massive shirt circuit currents!
        Circa 50amps for a AA!

        • me

          And don’t forget about Lithium batteries (Energizer Lithium).

        • http://upsetgames.com Sean

          Haha Dave! Please do your next blog on “shirt” circuits!

          • http://upsetgames.com Sean

            Oh, was this a subliminal message for the new shirts you have out or something?

    • http://thexmoschallenge.wordpress.com/ Berni

      Actually i seen a better version of the idea inside my camera. The contacts are the same shape but not on both sides, so if you put the battery in backwards well both sides don’t make contact and keep the camera from blowing up. So no possibility of shorting out and you still have to look they go the right way in. They also got them in two nice tight fitting tubes so it aligns the contacts properly.

      When i first loaded in the batterys i instantly noticed the unusual battery terminals and went “Wow why didn’t anyone think of this before”

      I really agree that people would start putting batterys in backwards and blowing stuff up if this technology would become too popular.

    • shodan

      why no one thought of this before ?
      because no one thought it was really needed

      no one asked “hey we have to figure out a way to prevent our customer from installing batteries the wrong way”
      probably because it hadn’t been a problem until recently ?!
      maybe microsoft was the first to release a product that failed badly enough when you put the batteries the wrong way that it caused some manager to ask the question

      the genius is not the solution, it is the question !!!

    • John Dowdell

      i heard about this earlier today and wondered if it was circuitry. The mechanical approach is simple but riddled with “what if”s.
      I was childishly tempted to count the number of times you said nipple but i restrained myself.
      JD

    • Matt

      Brilliant shirt!!

    • charlie

      Prior art doesn’t always automatically mean an invalid patent.

      I’m not a fan of patents, but unfortunately they’re just an unfortunate part of business these days, its a lot easier to get funding and for just to patent everything you can.

      Even if you have a great product.

    • Andreas

      I bet we will see this battery holders in products aimed for blind people with numb fingers.

    • Anthony

      You don’t really need much prior art to bunk this patent.

      http://www.bitlaw.com/patent/requirements.html

      requirement 4 “Nonobvious”
      http://www.bitlaw.com/patent/requirements.html#nonobvious

      It really seems like a stupid idea, lots of people have probably thought of it before, and decided it wasn’t worth the patent fees because it’s just not that useful, and it’s catering to idiots that can’t figure out how to insert batteries, in the long run it makes the product cost more.

      just stupid really.

      AC Batteries would be better than this. Figure out a chemical that can produce alternating current in a battery form, and bank that :)

    • http://robo-x.net avrfreaks

      I been keeping tabs on Microsoft and actually there first product to use this Insta-Load is going to be there Mice, Wireless Keyboards, IIS 8 Server Loading Control. Actually there will be software written by a few Microsoft people, and battery loading will eventually take the laptop market, assuming that apple keeps off.

      ~~~~Great Dave~~~~

    • Brian Hoskins

      Loving the Back to the Future reference in the vid :-)

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        Loving the Back to the Future reference in the vid

        Glad someone got it!

    • http://hackedgadgets.com Alan Parekh

      Cool design but it looks like the patent people failed at this one.
      http://www.patentvest.com/console/reports/docs/grant/05431575.html

    • http://sparkylabs Simon

      another dummy orientated idea from M$ just like they sell dummy OSes to people who are dummies or have no choice now they take the “made for idiots” further, as you say, now we all need to know if it’s a M$ one or a normal one.

      I’m a firm believer in natural selection !

    • haley

      i see future with gadgets consumers that are ignorance on electricity and electronics

      • haley

        and when people get use to not caring the polarity of AA or AAA, what about the tiny and compact button cells? people will start to confuse with them.

    • http://www.terminalsolutions.biz SydneyStew

      Heh Instead of mythbusters dave should start his own reality tv show!!! PatentBusters :)

    • Embedded

      Tublar 2004 Kodak. Wrong way insertion works if both batteries are the wrong way.

      DSC Toronto did extensive battery holder patents in the 90’s for wireless door zone’s.

      First of all the dead flat holder will not work. The holders need to have ridges raised in the sheet metal. After about 6 months a dead flat plated metal will corrode open irregardless of how good the plate is.

      The wire holder is dead on old TI fabrication techniques and it is preferred. I believe the tubular holder can be busted based on Kodak patents since the bridge on 3 volts cannot be brought back from the hinge to the circuit board. I do not know about the flat side push in unit.

      But here’s your chance Dave patent the pull out insulator for two way microsoft holders for pre-loading the batteries in China. Anything is US patentable for this “new” implementation.

      Yes I got a patent on DNIS (Dialed Number Identification Service) and CALLER-ID for security receivers. Real stupid really to allow that just because you are adding it to a Security Alarm Account number.

    • Steve Nolan

      Why not just use a germanium full wave rectifier after the battery, only .2 volt drop and no mechanics required, simple.

      • ModernRonin

        Cost. Germanium is a lot more expensive than wire.

    • http://www.elvtechnology.com.au Shaun Clarke

      Am I the only one that thought this was some quick resume from hibernation/power off feature for Windows computers from the title?

      • Anthony

        I thought that to at first.

    • huh

      I don’t see that invention that useful. It adds a cost, albeit minimum (think about the licensing from MS) to the appliance, it’s dangerous in case of short circuits and it doesn’t seem that handy even in emergency conditions: I can perfectly feel with my fingers the different ends of any battery holders in the dark and change batteries accordingly without looking.
      This invention clearly aims at forcing one day every manufacturer to use it: lazy people -the majority- will of course choose simpler no-thinking-about-polarity-required gadgets, thus forcing hardware makers to adapt).
      I’d rather spend some money researching better cells shapes, leads shapes and containers for batteries.

    • Andreas

      A pragmatic solution for the problem with confusing people who are “hardwired” to look for the orientation first: just put in polarity marks anyway, even if they are unnecessary. However, I guess in our modern times this would be shot down by some dilbertian manager, “because it distracts from the instaload experience” or similar bullshit.

      About the other problems, like the short circuit potential (especially considering wear and tear by years of usage) and the spring problem, I think the old proverb still holds: Design a product for idiots, and only idiots will want to use it.

    • Michael Thompson

      I’m not a fan of this either.

      If you blow yourself up because you put the batteries in wrong, you can write it off as evolution in action.
      If some ENGINEER blows you up, however…hoo boy, it’s all over then pal.

      Wait…

    • Mark Z.

      Better watch out busting that patent – they have enough money in their left pocket to say, “have that asshole killed”.

      Tee Hee.

    • Oli.

      Hi everyone,

      The most important question that needs to be asked..

      Q. Being a Micrsoft product, will it be prone
      to Viruses?

      Hahahahaahaha…..

    • Anonymouss
    • Mario

      think that is not as viable in practice, due inter alia
      the differences between the batteries.
      I think it’s a stupid invention.
      That people watch the polarity!. Learn to do
      things carefully and read the manuals.

    • Dakota

      “I didn’t have the time to paint it or build it to scale.” Ha ha. Hurry, that pole has to make it to the insta-load socket at the stroke of midnight at exactly 88MPH.

    • Petrus

      How the InstaLoad will manage with this batteries ?
      http://linksador.net/shopping/wp-content/uploads/2008/11/duracell_batteries_set.jpg

      The tip is not isolated, it will surely short circuit or drain the battery (if there is a polyswitch between both ends)

    • http://monda.hu L

      http://www.eevblog.com/store – This link is dead right now.

    • http://www.hoevendesign.com Paul

      Looks like an potentially dangerous solution for a non existent problem.

    • Ivan

      Or you can use a Schottky diode or diode bridge…

    • Rugged_Cat

      Looks like typical Microsoft:

      Make easy things stupidly easy and complicate a design needlessly. Cater to the lowest common denominator of human intelligence, then do a patent war to suck money off people for a ridiculously useless idea, while shutting down progress through patent fascism. What’s the brilliant idea anyway? Dave said himself its obvious, so now its patented and smaller businesses will pay MONEY for something obvious???

      Besides what exactly does this solve? People putting batteries backwards? wasnt that solved with the spring type holders and key type holders already? That wasnt simple (or complicated) enough? is it really such a big deal when someone will spend 10 more seconds the first ever time they insert a battery to figure out they’re trying to do it the wrong way??? WHAT A LOAD OF TRASH!

      sounds like windows and their shitty dependence on a graphical UI that crashes everything when it goes down, needlessly complicates the system, all just to cater to people without a brain cell. all other OS have graphical UIs but they’re not integrated stupidly into the core.

      I call bullshit on this crap – microsoft can bite my groin. Why don’t you make a computer with one button and an AI to nag the user constantly while trying to guess what they want through body language? go make something actually useful you moneymongers!

      Instaload? More like wHAT-A-LOAD!

    • phunkz

      Hello from Germany.

      I like the design.
      Think of photografic flashlights or battery powered bike lamps. You often have to change them in the dark – sometimes in a hurry, (for not to miss the next shot). I always had to look for to orientation and sometimes I get it anyway wrong. All of them (I know ) need 4 aa cells, most of them slot in. And in this configuration i will find it very useful.

      Could be the first useful invention by microsoft. ;-)

      phunkz

    • jopki

      There is no way I would ever buy a product equipped with this useless and plain dangerous gimmick. I could see all the FMEA engineers out there scratching their heads… Dave, I’ll buy you a case of beer if this patent ever becomes mainstream!

    • Nazareth

      Now, if you think this a “Why didn’t I think of that.” idea then you haven’t seen this shitty idea. http://www.ebay.com/itm/RIDGID-19793-Floating-Flushable-Sonde-Transmitter-/221445912836?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item338f347904 :)