Apple reveals new Flex Screen Feature with Force Detection
On May 30, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a new flexible display invention. Apple has filed a number of flex display based patents over the last year including one for advanced concepts and features, another relating to the a next generation Smart Cover and yet another relating to unique functionality beyond the gimmickry of flex screen designs. Today's patent extends on the latter patent in that it ties a flex screen directly to an application such as Apple's GarageBand. In the future, playing the piano will be more realistic allowing the user to press the keys harder or softer to get the right sound that they're seeking. I'm sure that Apple is working on other applications for this new functionality but we'll just have to wait until they roll it out to see just how cool this could be.
Another Flexible Display Invention
Embodiments found in Apple's latest invention generally relate to devices and methods for detecting force measurements (e.g., exerted pressure) of a flexible display panel of an electronic device. In certain embodiments, the display panel force measurements may be useful to detect intentional pressure exerted on the flexible display panel (e.g., a touch force input for a graphical user interface).
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram of an electronic device with a flexible display and a force detection system, while patent FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a handheld electronic device including a display with flexible regions and the force detection system.
Adding Magnitude of Touch Inputs on a Flex Display
Apple's patent FIG. 3 illustrated below shows us an iPhone running GarageBand that uses a magnitude of touch inputs. The proposed flexible display will be able to provide flexible regions (# 44) that enable enhanced flexibility of the flexible display.
According to Apple, The flexible regions may be placed anywhere on the flexible display. As a user touches the keys of the piano or drumsticks and/or the drum the iPhone (or iPad) may provide a visual and/or audio indication of a note (e.g., 58A, 58B, 58C, and/or 58D) being played. It may be beneficial to interact with the GUI based upon magnitude of touch inputs. For example, when playing a piano, pressing keys with increased force may result in louder notes. Thus, by determining a magnitude of force input, the audible and visual indicators of the notes may provide variations in the loudness of notes.
For example, the GUI may provide a visual representation of notes 56A and 56B when keys on the piano are pressed. Depending on the magnitude of force used to press the keys, the GUI may provide variable loudness indicators (# 58). For example, the magnitude of force used to play note 56A was less than the magnitude of force used to play note 56B, as indicated by the loudness indicators. Similarly, the magnitude of force used to play note 56C is greater than the magnitude of force used to play note 56D, as is indicated by the loudness indicators.
Apple states that the flexible display may be enabled to provide one or more flexible regions, such that more accurate magnitude of force measurements may be obtained through the flexible display.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 noted above illustrates a cross-sectional view of the layers present in a particular embodiment of the flexible display. The operation of the TFT layer and the corresponding pixels of the display panel may be coordinated and/or controlled by one or more driver chips, such as a chip-on glass (COG), chip-on flex (COF), or gate-in-panel (GIP)) in communication with the TFT layer.
Apple's patent FIG. 6 illustrates an example of force being applied to the flexible display and FIG. 7 provides a process for detecting the force being applied to a flexible display.
Resetting the Baseline of the Strain Gauges
And finally, Apple states that in certain embodiments, it may be desirable to reset the baseline periodically. Over time, the strain gauges may retain some of the capacitance and/or resistance changes caused by forces exerted on the flexible display. Resetting the baseline may help to ensure that any retained capacitance and/or resistance changes are taken into account when determining the changes in resistance and/or capacitance of the wires. The baseline may be measured at pre-determined time periods or upon the occurrence of certain events. For example, the baseline might be re-measured daily at midnight or once per month at 3:00 A.M. In other embodiments, the baseline may be reset by through at a manufacturer's facility when the handheld electronic device is brought in for repair.
In iPhone embodiments, the baseline may be reset automatically each time a new cellular service tower is encountered by the cellular telephone. Further, the baseline may be reset through the use of a menu setting displayed on the GUI.
Apple credits Stephen Lynch, Benjamin Rappoport, Fletcher Rothkopf, Paul Drzaic and Scot Myers as the inventors of patent application 20130135244 which was originally filed in Q4 2011. It should be noted that our patent report is based on Apple's "Detailed Description" segment of their patent application. To review Apple's patent claims, see Apple's patent filing. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing to market of such an Apple product is unknown at this time.
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