The US Patent & Trademark Office recently published a patent application from Microsoft that reveals that they're working on portable devices that will use a transparent display. The devices, which include a smartphone and an Ultrabook-like device, will adopt a two display form factor. One of the two displays falls into the category of being "transparent" as noted in our cover graphic. Microsoft has developed specialty applications for these transparent displays that will use advanced "recognition" software. Microsoft's applications will utilize augmented reality, geo-location data and uniquely allow users to view photos and movies in 3D. Whether Microsoft intends to license this technology to their partners or actually manufacture these designs under Microsoft branding is unknown at this time.
Microsoft's Transparent Display Solutions
The problem that Microsoft sees with current tablet notebooks and two display handhelds is that they generally require "complex rotating hinges and hardware components to position the display screen for use while open or closed." This is the problem that Microsoft's invention is trying to solve.
One of Microsoft's latest inventions generally relates to the use of transparent displays in future notebook-tablets (and other devices). The display device includes a display panel system that displays an image, and further includes display surfaces through which the image is viewable. The image may appear as part of an environment that is viewable through the display device, or appear as being projected into the environment behind the display device and viewable through the display surfaces of the display device.
Samsung is a leader in this field and already has a notebook prototype that integrates a next generation 14"AMOLED Transparent Display. One of Microsoft's distinct angles is to the use transparent displays as a means of eliminating the integration of complex hinges in hybrid tablets as we noted earlier.
Microsoft's patent states that "the environment that is viewable through the display device may include text, such as on a sign, a marquee, and/or a building, and a text image of the environment text is displayed magnified."
Transparent Displays and Virtual Keyboard
In Microsoft's patent FIG.1 shown below we see examples of a portable device and various embodiments of transparent display assembly. The portable device includes a display 104 and a handheld base 106 that may include a physical keyboard (shown at 108) or an additional display device 110 as an integrated component of the portable device.
The "additional display device" may be utilized to display text, graphics, images, user interfaces, and/or a virtual keyboard, such as when an implementation of a portable device does not include a physical keyboard. In the examples, the display is movably coupled at 112 to the handheld base of the portable device, such as with a rotating hinge, slide track, flip mechanism, or other coupling device.
As noted in the lower left device example of FIG.1, a displayed image (120 – Bottle) may be viewable through the front and back display surfaces, and as illustrated, the display is transparent. The transparency of a display device may be a percentage of transparency as measured with light detection equipment and/or as visually determined or perceived by a user when viewing an environment as seen through the various display panels and surfaces of the display.
As noted in the lower right device example of FIG 1, an environment 122 behind the display device could be viewable through the front and back display surfaces of the display and a displayed image may appear projected into the environment for an augmented view of reality. For example, a displayed image 124 of the dog may appear projected into the environment that includes trees and a building behind the display device and viewable through the front and back display surfaces of the display.
Alternatively, the environment that is viewable through the display device may be a page of content when the display device is positioned over the page, and the displayed image includes text associated with the content on the page.
In other embodiments, the portable device could receive item information, location information, and/or navigation information from a data source. The environment that is viewable through the display device may include an item, and the displayed image includes the information that pertains to the item. Alternatively or in addition, the displayed image may include the location information that corresponds to a location in the environment, which is viewable through the display device. Alternatively or in addition, the displayed image may include the navigation information that appears to display as part of the environment, which is viewable through the display device.
Display Panel Controller
In Microsoft's top example of FIG. 1, we see that the display includes a display panel controller 134 that is implemented to control display modes of the display device for transparent and non-transparent display. The display panel controller could activate the display to prevent a displayed image from being viewable through either side of the display (patent points #116 for face side of the display and the back display surface #118).
Alternatively, the display panel controller could activate the display device for transparency to permit the displayed image being viewable through the front and back display surfaces. The display panel controller could control and switch on the multi-mode panel 132 of the display device to prevent a displayed image from being viewable through the back display surface, or switch off the multi-mode panel for transparency to permit the displayed image being viewable through the back display surface.
The Devices: Microsoft states the portable device (102) may be configured as any type of client or user device that includes wired and/or wireless devices, and may be implemented as a consumer, computer (e.g., a laptop or tablet device), portable, communication, phone (e.g., a dual-display phone), appliance, gaming, media playback, and hybrid notebook-tablet as earlier noted.
Could Create 3D Photos, Images, Movies
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 2 we see illustrated example 200 wherein an image of a wine bottle and glass are displayed on the display and an image 204 of wine barrels are displayed on the additional transparent display 110 of the device. On the base display we see both the image of a wine bottle and glass. When the additional transparent display cover closes, the depth-of-field creates a visual 3-D effect that could be utilized to enhance a user experience for photos, images, graphics and motion video.
According to Microsoft, this display configuration provides a wide viewing angle and, as an added benefit, a pseudo 3-D display of images doesn't involve special 3-D glasses for viewing, which limits viewer eyestrain because a viewer is looking at two separate displays, rather than one display with two separate images displayed on the one display.
Augmented Reality: Online Shopping Experiences
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 3 shown below we see that an image of a watch is presented on the transparent display. The user could place their hand in the back of the display and "virtually try-on the watch." This may be very handy virtual reality application for Jewelers and fashion accessory companies in the future. The ladies will have a field day with this.
Augmented Reality: Geo-Information Applications
In Patent figure 4 shown above, Microsoft shows us an "environment" scenario where users will be able to view various buildings and streets through the transparent display and receive location information that corresponds to a location that they're in right on the display in the form of augmented reality. The location and/or navigation information could include GPS coordinate data and/or wireless communications coordinate data.
Microsoft states that special "recognition software" may be implemented in the portable device that compares the location and/or navigation information to correlate the reality viewed in an environment with augmented display information.
Intelligent Interaction between a Transparent Display and Text
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 5 we see a device with a transparent display placed over a magazine or newspaper page ad for a movie. Information that is seen through the transparent display associated with the text 504 on the newspaper page. The user will be able to pull up a the user selectable control 508 that will understand the text and the movie you're looking at and allow you to purchase tickets to the movie online. Different user selectable controls will apply to reading about a game in a magazine or even be an answer key to educational questions displayed as text 504 in a text book.
Intelligent Interaction between a Transparent Display and Board Games
In our last example we look to Microsoft's patent FIG. 6 which is illustrating how an intelligent interaction between the device's transparent display and a board game could work.
In this example, a game board (602) is viewable through the transparent display of device (104) when the portable device is positioned over the game board. Images, graphics, and/or text associated with the game could be displayed on the transparent display. A first game piece (604) and second game piece (606) are seen through the transparent display. When the portable device is positioned over the game board, other images, graphics, and/or text associated with the game may be displayed on the transparent display. For example, possible moves and hints at 608 and 610 for game piece 606 are displayed on the display device, and appear projected onto the game board when viewed through the display. Other hidden features or clues for the game may also be displayed for viewing on the display device, and a user is provided a new game experience and/or a new level of game interaction.
Microsoft's patent application was originally filed in Q4 2010 and recently published by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
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