Apple's 'smart bezel' hides portions of a device display until needed, acts as secondary input

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted Apple a patent for a touch-sensitive bezel that can serve as a secondary mode of input for devices with small screens, as well as change from transparent to opaque upon sensing a user's finger.

Bezel
Source: USPTO


Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,477,114 for "Electronic device, display and touch-sensitive user interface" describes a method of deploying a touch-sensitive bezel which extends over a portion of a portable device display, and can hide or reveal that area on command.

The patent describes a system in which a portable device's display is partly overlapped by a touch-enabled bezel that is either partially, or entirely, light-transmissive. In the patent, the screen is split into two sections, the uncovered "active viewing area" and the covered "second portion" of the display.

When embedded sensors detect a finger is in close proximity or touching the device, signals from the controller trigger the second portion to illuminate, thereby changing the appearance of the overlaid bezel. The patent outlines a number of bezel state changes, including simple color-changes and light transmission, to more complex embodiments where the bezel itself turns from opaque to transparent.

For example, the second portion to illuminate briefly to indicate a touch or near touch, or may remain lit until a second touch event is detected.

Bezel
Illustration of display with active area (62), sensor (73), second screen portion (68) and bezel window (66).


In this implementation, the extended bezel area serves as a type of window through which a user can see the device's display. The bezel can be made from a number of materials such that the window disappears from view when the second portion of the screen is not illuminated. Thus an illlusion is created where the window portion of the display is "hidden" until a user triggers a touch event.

According to some embodiments, color changes and text or graphics can be displayed in the second portion of the display which, in concert with the bezel's touch-sensitive capabilities, can create a secondary form of input.

Any number of masking technologies can be applied to the bezel window, though the patent notes circular polarizers or electrowetting techniques as particularly viable potential candidates. In non-portable applications where power consumption is not a critical issue, plasma technologies can be applied.

Bezel
Top-down view of display with bezel window.


Interestingly, the property appears to be from Apple's recent Kodak patent buy, as the application was divisional application to an invention assigned to the struggling photography pioneer. The technology jibes with other Apple patents regarding touch-sensitive or otherwise interactive bezels, however, including one dating back to 2006.

While mere speculation, the patent could conceivably be used in a wearable computing device, allowing for pleasing aesthetics while maximizing utility. Apple is widely rumored to be planning a wristwatch-like product, dubbed the "iWatch," which many believed will be dominated by a multitouch screen. Most recently, the company has been on a worldwide "iWatch" trademark application spree after making a number of filings earlier in June.

Apple's "smart bezel" patent was first filed for in September 2012 and credits Michael E. Miller, Jerald J. Muszak and Michael J. Telek as its inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,671member
    1. What? No rounded corners? Ah, the top-down pic has those.

    2. If Apple is indeed implementing this, wait for the competition to do the same, saying it's just a logical and natural thing to implement. Just like build-in batteries and unibody design.

    Yeah Apple, just patent every piece you guys are tinkering on. It might just help the competition, creating the need to innovate themselves as well.
  • Reply 2 of 27
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    The 3 inventors listed on this patent are from NY/NJ. I didn't know Apple had corporate employees working on the east coast. I thought all corp employees in the US were in California, Austin and Orlando.
  • Reply 3 of 27
    irelandireland Posts: 17,771member
    iAd is in NY.
  • Reply 4 of 27
    mobiusmobius Posts: 378member
    Idea: Why not just dispense with the bezels altogether and have an edge to edge display? You could have sensors along each edge which would intelligently know when you were just holding it or wanted to interact with things along the edge. I think it would look really futuristic and put them way above the competition if they could do this. In addition it would cut down on weight.
  • Reply 5 of 27
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,671member
    Looks like they already have square tablets at IL:

    [IMG ALT=""]http://forums.appleinsider.com/content/type/61/id/27796/width/500/height/1000[/IMG]
  • Reply 6 of 27
    blackbookblackbook Posts: 1,361member
    mobius wrote: »
    Idea: Why not just dispense with the bezels altogether and have an edge to edge display? You could have sensors along each edge which would intelligently know when you were just holding it or wanted to interact with things along the edge. I think it would look really futuristic and put them way above the competition if they could do this. In addition it would cut down on weight.

    That's essentially what this patent is for. It's an edge to edge display of sorts with the edges looking opaque like a bezel but still being interactive elements for the device.

    In one version of the patent it said the bezel could even become part of the display.
  • Reply 7 of 27


    I would rather see just touch sensors extended into the bezel rather than display elements 'underneath' it (why bother? Just make the screen bigger). With an out-of-screen touch sensor you could implement edge gestures such as scrolling and swipe-in without getting your fingers in the way of what you're looking at.

  • Reply 8 of 27
    tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post



    The 3 inventors listed on this patent are from NY/NJ. I didn't know Apple had corporate employees working on the east coast. I thought all corp employees in the US were in California, Austin and Orlando.


     


     


    Perhaps you missed it in the article, this is a patent assigned to Apple from Kodak. Kodak is located in New York. 

  • Reply 9 of 27
    stelligentstelligent Posts: 2,680member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post



    The 3 inventors listed on this patent are from NY/NJ. I didn't know Apple had corporate employees working on the east coast. I thought all corp employees in the US were in California, Austin and Orlando.


    There are many termed employees, or contractors, who work at Apple (not to mention all tech companies). They may not all be based in California.

  • Reply 10 of 27
    jkichlinejkichline Posts: 1,355member
    I've been saying this for a while. Make the entire phone a screen and push to 720p (or higher) while maintaining the standard 640px width on the inside. This would make the phone (in this case) easy to use with one thumb and then, when requested, go into full screen mode for apps that support it like games, movies, etc.

    Of course the same thing could be done on the iPad as well, but the screen resolution would be strange. I think at some point, screen resolution becomes independent of the actual design elements, so you could have a 1080p (x2) display on the iPad edge-to-edge and not have fragmentation as the OS handles the pixel translation.
  • Reply 11 of 27
    xsmixsmi Posts: 137member
    I overheard a comment in a coffe shop the other day in which one of the people called Apple a "Large Patent Troll". So any intellectual property Apple goes out and gets will be seen as second rate to the general public anyway. It's so frustrating at times.
  • Reply 12 of 27
    jason98jason98 Posts: 766member
    blackbook wrote: »
    That's essentially what this patent is for. It's an edge to edge display of sorts with the edges looking opaque like a bezel but still being interactive elements for the device.

    In one version of the patent it said the bezel could even become part of the display.


    This is a subject of prior art dated as early as 3/1/12 :-)
    http://forums.appleinsider.com/t/144963/purported-ipad-3-front-panels-show-identically-placed-home-button-and-camera/30#post_2060263
  • Reply 13 of 27
    curtis hannahcurtis hannah Posts: 1,805member
    This sounds like a multi touch touch sensor home button (a square appears when touched) and could be used for Siri icon to.
  • Reply 14 of 27
    macinthe408macinthe408 Posts: 1,050member


    Waiting for the inevitable stock downgrade from some short-happy analyst who will issue a report saying that "Apple's patent filings, although describing pie-in-the-sky products that might never see the light of day, leave me worrying about the ability of Cook and company to innovate in the near-term. I worry that their patent filings are not good enough. Recommendation: Sell." 

  • Reply 15 of 27
    darkvaderdarkvader Posts: 658member
    This is FAR too obvious, and should not be patentable.
  • Reply 16 of 27
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    darkvader wrote: »
    This is FAR too obvious, and should not be patentable.

    The only obvious part of this patent is the fact that it's applied to an object that has a bezel.
  • Reply 17 of 27
    droidftwdroidftw Posts: 1,009member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by xsmi View Post



    I overheard a comment in a coffe shop the other day in which one of the people called Apple a "Large Patent Troll". So any intellectual property Apple goes out and gets will be seen as second rate to the general public anyway. It's so frustrating at times.


     


    What some people fail to understand is that a patent troll (or NPE if you're feeling cordial) doesn't make any actual products and instead make their money solely on lawsuits.  Apple doesn't fit that description.  To my knowledge Apple has only enforced patents that they use in their own products.  There's a world of difference there.

  • Reply 18 of 27
    As usual, i don't get why its not obvious to just have the touch screen cover the whole thing as far as durability allows it.
    And then decide what acts as bezel and whats fully used screen, in software, how ever it fits the current situation.

    Or is this just their usual weaselly way to patent an already existing destination try to screw everyone already on the road there?
  • Reply 19 of 27
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    [quote name="MatsSvensson" url="/t/158335/apples-smart-bezel-hides-portions-of-a-device-display-until-needed-acts-as-secondary-input#post_2356318"]As usual, i don't get why its not obvious to just have the touch screen cover the whole thing as far as durability allows it.[/QUOTE]

    Because that's not what this is talking about in the slightest and all products already do that.

    [QUOTE]And then decide what acts as bezel and whats fully used screen, in software, how ever it fits the current situation.[/QUOTE]

    See, that's the part that isn't obvious. That's why the patent exists. You cannot possibly claim this is obvious.
  • Reply 20 of 27


    I thought Android already used Smart BezeL


     


    Have they emBezeled it somehow?

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