In today's technological world, there's rarely a day that passes where we're not looking at some form of screen. Whether you're reading the latest news on your phone, watching TV, or working at a computer, screens are a common feature of modern life.
Given how important screens are to our day-to-day lives, it only makes sense that tech companies are constantly working towards improving and expanding the abilities of smart device screens. Here are just some interesting developments from patents that could change our screens in a multitude of ways.
1. Apple's Automatic Screen-Protector: Say Goodbye to Shattered Screens
No matter how careful you try to be, sometimes accidents just happen. But someday soon your accidents might not result in a broken screen. A patent filed by Apple in 2014 seeks to put everyone's minds at rest with self-deploying screen protectors.
The device was designed by Stephen Lynch, Tyson Manullang, and Emery Stanford, and features sensors which would deploy a foldable screen protector when they sense that the phone has fallen.
2. Samsung's Foldable Devices: Roll, Fold, and Stretch Your Screen
Samsung have been working hard in recent years on some of the most interesting screen designs around. Their latest patents feature screens that can fold, stretch, and even roll up.
Their plans include tablets with dual screens divided by a hinge, to allow for folding. But their other plans aren't quite so straightforward. Their rollable smartphone design features a modular screen with magnets that allow for a flexible display that can be fixed into different shapes.
Just this month Samsung have been awarded a patent for a foldable smartphone, that can be folded in half or into thirds. The folding display isn't just a cool gimmick that will allow users to make their phone more compact, however. Folding the screen will also allow users to switch their display to dual-screen mode, letting you view and use two apps simultaneously.
3. Microsoft's Surface Studio With Flexible Display: A Desktop Screen that Can Move from 90 to 20 Degrees
Just last month, Microsoft were awarded a patent for their Surface Studio computer monitor. The innovative design allows the screen to be moved from a standard 90-degree angle, to 20 degrees to be used in artist mode.
The screen can also be used at various degrees between 90 and 20. The screen's fluidity allows for a number of uses, from creating artworks to usual office tasks. The screen is also Microsoft's thinnest to date.
4. Samsung's Extendable Smartphone Screen: Giving Your Phone A Widescreen
Another one of Samsung's exciting screen patents is their extendable smartphone display. This awesome innovation would allow users to expand and shrink the display of their phones whenever they wanted.
The interior of the phone houses two separate screen extensions, which can be pulled and locked into place to extend the screen. Though this would mean that the phone would have to be thicker than current models to accommodate the screen extensions, it could be worth it for the ability to watch videos and play mobile games on a larger screen.
5. Apple's Cracked Glass Sensors: Alerting You To Breaks As They Happen
In February 2017 Apple filed a patent for sensors that could detect when cracks occured in an iPod or iPad's screens, no matter how small or unnoticeable they were. They followed this patent with another in September of 2017, which outlined a software that would relay the information from the sensors to the user.
The proposed system would detect cracks, and alert the user to the extent of the damage and available options for fixing the screen. It would also give users the opportunity to schedule repairs while still protected by their warranty, allowing them to keep their device in perfect condition.
6. Google's Auto-Aligning Display: A Screen That Moves to Meet Your Gaze
Last November Google filed a patent for a motorized Pixelbook lid, which would register the user's line of sight and automatically align to their vision. The proposed device would feature a camera that acts as a sensor to locate the user and the direction of their gaze.
The motorized lid can then move with the user. For example, if a user is standing and then sits down, the lid will automatically adjust by following the user's movements.
7. Apple's Augmented Reality Display: Information at Your Fingertips
Since 2011, Apple have been investing in transparent mobile device displays. In 2016 they started filing patents that suggest that they're taking the initial technologies they designed in the direction of AR applications.
One notable example is a patent of theirs from August 2016, which outlines overlays that can be generated when viewing real-world objects through the device. In the patent, they offer the example of visiting a museum and viewing artifacts through your smart device. The patented screen would generate an overlay with information on the artifact currently being viewed.
8. Samsung's Smart Bracelet: A New Generation of Wearable Tech
The screen wouldn't have to stay rigidly stuck to the bracelet, however. As outlined in the patent, the screen could be tilted and secured in certain sections to adapt to the wearer's needs. This flexibility will be possible thanks to the use of either a shape memory alloy, an electroactive polymer, or a shape memory polymer.
9. Samsung's In-Air Gesturing Sensors: Taking the Touch Out of Touchscreens
Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft alike are all scrambling to patent in-air gesturing technology at present. The tech would allow users to control their devices without actually having to touch them.
In September 2017, Samsung filed a patent for a multi-layer panel to be installed in their Notebook computers. The panel could detect changes in the electromagnetic field between the user and the electrodes of the panel, meaning that it could sense a user's in-air gestures and translate them as functions on-screen. This technology could usher in a whole new era of how we interact with our smart devices and screens.
10. Apple's 3-D Display: Aligning the 3-D Experience to Your Line of Vision
July 2016 saw Apple file a grant for a 3-D display, invented by Jean-Jacques Drolet. The so-called "Fine-Course Autostereoscopic Display" could align itself to the user's line of vision by using the front-facing camera as a face sensor, giving the user the optimal 3-D experience.
It achieves this through the use of a beam steerer, allowing the subpixels to emit light at various angles. Apple hopes to use the technology in everything from MacBooks to television sets.
11. Facebook's In-Air Gesturing Desktop Screen: Facebook's Move Into the Hardware Market
As previously stated, in-air gesturing technology is a hot commodity right now for all major manufacturers. However, it might surprise some people to learn that Facebook is looking to get in on the action too.
In August 2017, Facebook filed a patent for an in-air gesturing desktop screen, invented by Oculus' Robert Wang. The proposed device could feature a camera that would interpret the 3-D poses of a user's hands, and input the gestures as commands to the screen. Not only is this an interesting development for touch-less tech, but it also suggests a coming range of Facebook hardware.
12. Microsoft's Hover Touch Screens: Screens You Don't Need to Touch
Microsoft and Apple are currently neck-and-neck when it comes to creating hover screen technology. The proposed screens would allow smart devices to sense "pre-touch", meaning they can be operated simply by moving one's finger above the screen without actually touching it.
June 2017 saw Microsoft file a patent for such a display, which describes the use of a front-facing camera and tilted mirror to detect the user's movements. This could, theoretically, allow the device to locate the user's hand or stylus and determine its movements within a 3-D space.
13. Apple's Wearable Displays: Screens for Clothes and Products
Wearable technology has been gaining traction for quite some time, and Apple is looking to add to the market of smartwatches and other wearables with ever-more innovative designs. In June 2016, the tech giant filed a patent for a conformable wearable display.
This display could be integrated into textiles or wrappings, and allow wearers to change the design on their clothing at will. It could also allow sellers to affix digital price tags to their products and update them quickly and remotely.
14. Samsung's Wraparound Display: Viewing Media On Every Part of Your Phone
People at Samsung are no strangers to unusual display designs, and their April 2017 patent for a wraparound smartphone screen is no different. The proposed design features a front-to-back, 360 screen which would make all areas of the device interactive.
Their wraparound display would feature a smart sidebar, which holds icons and widgets. Users also have the ability to drag the display to the left or the right, depending on which side of the device they wish to view media on.
15. Apple's Spatially Interactive 2-D and 3-D Displays: Images that Change As You Move
In May 2015 Apple filed a patent for an interesting spatially interactive display. The proposed display would allow for different imagery to be viewed by two or more users simultaneously from the same device.
This effect would be achieved through creating an overlay that allows for the generation of 2-D and 3-D displays simultaneously. Depending on the perspective of the viewer, only one of the displays will be visible. Meaning you get an entirely different image as you move from one position to another, relative to the device.
16. Samsung's Phablet With Retractable Display: Dual Projectors and an Expandable Screen
Samsung is really setting itself up as the company at the forefront of exciting new display technologies. Its April 2017 patent for a phablet with a retractable display is a perfect example of their vision and ingenuity when it comes to pushing the boundaries of what a screen can be.
The proposed design features a screen that can be rolled out to expand, or retracted and stored within the device. Rather than relying on common OLED overlays, the display would be provided by two projectors. This means the display would be capable of creating 3-D images as well as 2-D. The design would also feature hover touch technology, meaning the user would not have to touch the device directly to operate it.
17. Apple's Energy-Saving Backlights
One issue that plagues smart device users is short battery life. Apple is hoping to make their devices more energy efficient by implementing a new form of backlight, which would be less of a drain on a device's battery.
The backlights, which were filed as a patent in early 2015, would utilize radioluminescent or photoluminescent light. The radioluminescent light could be achieved through harnessing a source of ionizing radiation. The technology could be applied across all Apple products, from iPhones to iPads and even MacBooks.