Apple's 'Display Actuator'
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.