Apple wins patent for Adjustable Privacy Level Displays that are designed to keep spying eyes from seeing your work
Apple's engineers began to work on displays with a privacy mode as back as 2009 (published in 2011) in context with a tiny iPod display. In February of this year a new display privacy mode patent application surfaced covering flat or curved displays from a MacBook to an iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch. Today a granted patent surfaced covering a more advanced version of this idea wherein a user could one day have the ability to adjust the privacy level that they felt comfortable with.
Apple notes that electronic devices often include displays. For example, laptop computers have displays. Displays are typically designed to display images over a relatively wide angle of view to accommodate movements in the position of a viewer relative to the display. In some situations, such as when a user of a laptop or other device with a display is using the device in public, the wide viewing angle is undesirable as it compromises privacy. Apple's newly granted patent is to finally remedy this.
Apple's granted patent covers a display that has layers such as liquid crystal display layers having a liquid crystal layer interposed between a color filter layer and a thin-film transistor layer, organic light-emitting diode layers having organic light-emitting diodes formed from thin-film transistor circuitry, or structures formed from an array of crystalline semiconductor light-emitting diode dies. The display layers may be configured to form an array of pixels that display images and may include a polarizer.
An angle-of-view adjustment layer may overlap the display layers. The angle-of-view adjustment layer may include one or more liquid crystal layers. A first polarizer may be interposed between first and second liquid crystal layers. The second liquid crystal layer may be interposed between the first polarizer and a second polarizer. The first and second polarizers may have pass axes that are aligned with a pass axis of the polarizer in the display layers. One or more liquid crystal layers in the angle-of-view adjustment layer may include dichroic dye.
An electronic device may include a display with display layers overlapped by an angle-of-view adjustment layer. Control circuitry in the electronic device may be used to supply electric fields to the liquid crystal layers in the angle-of-view adjustment layer.
The control circuitry may place the angle-of-view adjustment layer in a wide angle transparency mode that allows images on the pixel array to be viewed over a wide angle of view and may place the angle-of-view adjustment layer in one or more narrower angle transparency modes (privacy modes) in which the angle of view for images on the pixel array is reduced to enhance privacy.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 below illustrates a cross-sectional side view of a display. An adjustable angle-of-view control layer such as angle-of-view adjustment layer #90 may overlap the footprint of the display and have one or more electrically adjustable structures that the control circuitry can control dynamically to place the display in a normal viewing mode or a private viewing mode.
Layer 90 may, for example, have one or more liquid crystal layers that can be adjusted to produce a variable amount of viewing angle restriction (adjustable privacy) based on user input, input from sensors, information on the nature of which content is being presented on the display etc.
Apple's patent FIG. 6 above is a graph showing how the angular spread of light transmission through an angle-of-view adjustment layer may be narrowed when multiple liquid crystal cells are stacked in the angle-of-view adjustment layer.
Apple's granted patent 10,649,248 was originally filed in Q4 2017 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. This granted patent was never made public as a patent application under Apple to keep it off the grid until it was granted.