The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 41 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover Apple's granted patent relating to possible future iDevices like the iPhone having sidewall flexible displays that could represent virtual buttons to replace physical buttons for iDevice controls including special ones for gaming.
Granted Patent: Side Wall Displays
Apple's newly granted patent covers their invention relating to flexible displays, and more particularly, to electronic devices with flexible displays.
Apple notes that the flexible displays may include one or more flexible layers and may be mounted under a transparent display cover layer such as a layer of clear glass or plastic. For example, a flexible display may be mounted on the underside of a cover layer. Flexible displays may include a touch-sensitive layer that allows a user to provide touch input to an electronic device. Display pixels on a flexible display may be used to display visual information to the user.
Apple further notes that the housing and flexible display may be configured to form planar front and rear surfaces and sidewall surfaces for the device. A flexible display may be mounted so that at least a first portion of the flexible display is mounted on the front surface of the device and forms part of the front surface. The flexible display may have a bend that allows a second portion of the flexible display to cover some of the sidewall surfaces of the device.
Apple later notes that active portions of the sidewall display edges of an electronic device may be used to create virtual user interface controls such as buttons. The buttons or other user input interface elements may be reconfigured during use of the electronic device. For example, the user input interface elements on the sidewall of an electronic device may be repurposed for supporting user input operations in different operating modes of the electronic device. Virtual buttons on the edge of a device may be provided in place of tactile input/output components such as physical buttons and switches or may be formed as part of a dummy button structure or other mechanical feature.
And finally, Apple notes that during operation of an electronic device, a virtual button may be, for example, a virtual volume button for controlling audio output volume and may be repurposed based on user input to become a virtual camera shutter button for taking a picture or may be reconfigured to serve as a controller for another device function. Images displayed on the flexible display may indicate to a user which function is currently being performed by the virtual button. Predetermined inputs to the touch-sensitive layer on the edge of the device (e.g., tapping, sliding, swiping, or other motions of an external object such as a finger across the edge of the device) may be used to change the operating mode of the device.
Apple's patent FIG. 14 noted above is a perspective view of an illustrative electronic device showing how virtual sidewall buttons may form a portion of a gaming controller when the device is operated in a landscape position.
You could find more details and patent graphics in our original Q2 2013 patent application report.
Apple credits Scott Myers, Stephen Lynch and Anthony Montevirgen as the inventors of granted patent 8,976,141 which was originally filed in 2011 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
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