updated 07:05 pm EDT, Wed August 16, 2006
Apple's 'Display Actuator'
A new patent filing reveals that Apple is working to streamline the interface on its products and make them more intuitive for users, while shrinking the device itself and maximizing the space available for visual output. The invention allows the company display visual information on the surface of a device, while using the same area or visual out display to act as an input device. On August 16, the European Patent Office published Apple's patent applications titled "Display actuator" under application number EP 1691263 - 05255454.0 and "A Movable Display for Generating Input Signals," under application GB2423135 - 0518098.9. The two patent applications share a common set of patent illustrations yet cover differing aspects of the same invention that combines the input and output of devices. The company says such an invention could be used within virtually any electronic device such as a mobile phone, laptop, or other electronic device.
In its patent filing, the company calls the input/output component a "display actuator," which provides for both output of visual information as well as a mechanical input device for actions such as clicking (e.g., a mouse button), sliding, etc. The company said the display portion of the component can output virtually any type of information, while combining an input mechanism that could capture user selection or input.
By way of example, the display device, which displays visual information such as text, characters and graphics, may also act like a push or clickable button(s), a sliding toggle button or switch, a rotating dial or knob, a motion controlling device such as a joy stick or navigation pad, and/or the like. The display actuator may be incorporated into any electronic device," Apple wrote in its filing.
Invention combines user input and display output
The entire display actuator includes at least a display device to offer visual information to the user and a detection mechanism to allow for user input or selection. In contrast to touch screens, a display actuator uses physical movement relative to the housing to generate input signals from the user.
In the filing, Apple said such an invention could be used in laptops, PDAs, cell phones, fax machine, media players, fax machines, a GPS module, or other electronic device, noting that current generation devices often have separate areas for user input and user display.
In addition, the filing also said that "the display actuator may be a standalone device that operatively couples to an electronic device through wired or wireless connection," such as a remote control. Such an invention could be used for a LCD remote that used movement of the LCD itself (click or tilt) to generate input or selection of input. In either case, the display actuator can be configured to generate commands, make selections and/or control movements in a display, according to the filing.
In addition, the company said that the display may also have a touch screen that recognizes gestures, allowing a LCD to accept both touch and mechanical inputs.
"Display Actuator" to maximize UI
Specifically, Apple's filing focuses on the reduction of complexity, cost savings, and streamlined interface such display actuators would provide. The company notes that display actuators could reduce the cost of devices as well as their size, while maximizing the area available for visual output.
"Although the user interface arrangements described above work particularly well, improved user interface devices, particularly ones that can reduce the amount of real estate required and/or ones that can reduce or eliminate input devices, are desired," Apple wrote in its filing.
"By reducing or eliminating the input devices, the display of the electronic device can be maximized within the user interface portion of the electronic device, or alternatively the electronic device can be minimized to the size of the display."
Written in part by Neo.