Coming soon -- the 'chameleonic' Mac?

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The shape of things to come perhaps: An iMac that glows in a variety of different colors depending on what you like or what's happening in the box. The United States Patent & Trademark Office has noted Apple's application for a patent for something the company calls an Active enclosure for computing device. As described, the technology might make future Macs change their appearance using a light effect.

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Published today, the patent application was filed by Berkeley, Calif.-based Beyer Weaver & Thomas LLP, a law firm that specializes in intellectual property. The firm lists Apple, Sun, Nikon and other major industrial manufacturers as clients. The patent application number is US 2003/0002246 A1, and the inventor's name is listed as Duncan Kerr -- Kerr is a member of Apple's industrial design team, working with Jonathan Ive and others. According to the record, the patent was filed on February 13, 2002.

With the introduction of the original iMac in 1998, Apple led the way for computer users to customize the appearance of their computers by offering iMacs in different color schemes. With each successive model of CRT-based iMac, Apple offered colors inspired by nature -- first the original "Bondi Blue" models, named after a popular surfer's locale in Australia, then to fruit colors, then to colors named after gems, pigments, and herbs. With the introduction of the flat-panel iMac, Apple returned to a white chassis color alone. This patent could lead the way for Apple to provide iMacs or other computers tinted using light itself -- either in a single color or "a plurality of colors."

Through dense technical and legal language, the requested patent apparently calls for what Apple calls "chameleonic" computers to be built using "an illuminable housing," using a light source comprising Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). The housing would also contain "a light pipe" used to distribute illumination to spots within the computer's chassis.

The invention goes beyond just changing your iMac's color to suit its surroundings, however. Apple also describes a potentially useful application for its "active enclosure:" Showing you what's going on inside the box. Apple said that its technology could adapt to display input and output, for example. Or, the chameleon Mac could change color to let you know that a specific task or event was taking place.

It's more than just colors, too. Apple said that "dynamic light effects," are possible too, like rainbows, stripes, dots, and flowers, for example. You could turn your Mac into a lava lamp.

This story, "Coming soon -- the 'chameleonic' Mac?" was originally published by PCWorld.

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