Earlier this month the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Samsung that revealed another invention relating to future smartphones built with a transparent display. The twist to this invention is that Samsung has designed the "adjustable" transparent display. The display will basically remain transparent until a user's finger or body is at a certain distance when it will begin to display a graphical user interface be it for a smartphone, a store window a fridge door, a vehicle windshield, a plane's or household window and far beyond.
Samsung's Patent Background
As electronic technologies develop, various kinds of display apparatuses are used. In recent years, there is more research and discussion on next generation display apparatuses such as a transparent display apparatus.
A display apparatus which provides a transparent display screen refers to an apparatus which has transparency and thus allows a background view i.e., allows views behind the apparatus to be seen. Conventionally, a display panel is manufactured using an opaque semiconductor compound such as silicon (Si) or gallium arsenide (GaAs). However, as various application fields that an existing display panel cannot deal with have been developed, an effort to develop an electronic element of a new type has been made. One of those that have been developed under such an effort is a transparent display apparatus.
The transparent display apparatus is realized in the form of including a transparent oxide semiconductor film and thus provides transparency. If such a transparent display apparatus is used, a user can see necessary information through a screen of the transparent display apparatus, while seeing a background view provided behind the apparatus. Therefore, the transparent display apparatus can remove constraints of space and time that conventional display apparatuses have.
The transparent display apparatus may be conveniently used in various environments for various purposes. For instance, if a show window of a store is realized by a transparent display apparatus, the show window displays advertising copy when a customer is passing by the store and arouses the customer's interest. We covered Samsung's invention regarding this aspect of transparent displays back in October in our report titled "Samsung Seeks Patent for Smart Transparent Displays."
Samsung also notes that if a window of a veranda in a house is provided with a transparent display apparatus, a user can view various multimedia contents through the window of the veranda which has a large size, so that user's satisfaction can be improved.
Currently, transparent displays have disadvantages due their fixed transparency. Therefore, there is a demand for a technology for using a transparent display apparatus more effectively and diversely.
Samsung Invents Displays with Variable Transparency
Samsung's invention generally relates to a display apparatus and a method thereof. The display apparatus includes a display with variable transparency, a sensor which senses a location of at least one of a person and an object, and a controller which determines proximity of the at least one of the person and the object to the display based on a result of the sensing by the sensor, and adjusts the transparency of the display differently according to a result of the determining. Accordingly, a user can easily recognize content displayed on the display screen having high transparency in the display apparatus.
In Samsung's patent FIG. 3 shown below we're able to see an exemplary view illustrating a detailed structure of a projection type display according to an exemplary embodiment.
For the convenience of explanation, reference numeral 120-2 is used for the projection type display. The projection type display 120-2 includes a transparent screen 121-2, an optical apparatus 122-2, and a light source apparatus 123-2.
The light source apparatus 123-2 emits light for displaying information using various types of light sources such as a vacuum fluorescent display (VFD), a cathode ray tube (CRT), an LCD, and an LED.
The optical apparatus 122-2 transmits the light emitted from the light source apparatus 123-2 to the transparent screen 121-2 and projects the light onto the transparent screen 121-2. The optical apparatus 122-2 may be realized by a light guide plate which includes at least one lens and a minor.
The light source apparatus 123-2 and the optical apparatus 122-2 may be realized by a single display module. Accordingly, the display module is disposed at upper, lower, left, and right borders of the transparent screen 121-2 to project light onto the transparent screen 121-2 and display information on the transparent screen 121-2 according to an exemplary embodiment.
Samsung notes that alternatively, a holography method, which uses laser as a light source, may be used. In this case, information is directly depicted on the transparent screen 121-1 using a laser.
Smart Transparent Displays beyond Smartphones
Samsung notes that the transparent screen 121-2 may be made of general glass. Beyond the use of smart transparent displays in smartphones, Samsung notes that the invention of patent FIG. 3 may be employed if the display apparatus is applied to a window of a movable object such as a vehicle, a ship, and an airplane, a window of a house, and a viewing window of a store.
A Sensor Controls the Level of Transparency
Samsung further notes that if a location of at least one of a person and an object is sensed by the apparatus sensor, the controller calculates a distance measurement value by measuring a distance between the sensed location and the display. After that, the controller compares the calculated distance measurement value and a threshold value pre-stored in the storage and controls the adjustment of the transparency of the display.
In Samsung's patent FIG. 6 we're able to see an exemplary view illustrating a method of adjusting transparency of the display screen in the display apparatus. As shown, if a user does not approach, the display apparatus maintains a pre-set transparency of the display screen.
Accordingly, the display screen has the transparency to the extent that one side of the display apparatus is transparent such that objects outside the display apparatus can be seen through the display screen and can be displayed. On the display screen having the pre-set transparency, as described in an exemplary embodiment above, a plurality of icons may be displayed. Definition of the plurality of icons displayed on the display screen is maintained to the extent that the icons placed on their respective areas are visible.
In an exemplary embodiment, the display apparatus may determine that the user's hand (#60 above) is in contact with the display apparatus by comparing a distance measurement value for a distance between the user's hand in contact with the display apparatus and the display apparatus and a pre-stored threshold value. Once determined, the display apparatus displays a border area of the display screen in a pre-set color (#400).
For example, if it is determined that the user's hand is in contact with the display apparatus, the border area of the display screen may be displayed in blue. Simultaneously, the display apparatus adjusts the transparency of the display screen to be lower than the pre-set transparency allowing the icons to better seen on the display.
Adjusting the Transparency of the Display in Phases
To further explain adjusting transparency of future displays, Samsung provides us with an exemplary example of how the display apparatus may adjust the transparency of the display screen in phases.
Samsung illustrates in patent FIG. 8A below that if a user doesn't approach the display apparatus, the display apparatus maintains pre-set transparency of the display screen. Accordingly, the display screen allows an object such as a tree (#10 below) located outside of the display apparatus to be seen through the display apparatus.
As the user moves their finger to within 30 cm of the display, the transparency begins to fade and the smartphone's icons begin to come into focus. At 10 cm, the background transparency fades further and the icons begin to sharpen to assist the user in navigating the display.
Samsung's patent FIG. 2 shown below is an exemplary view illustrating a detailed structure of a transparent organic electro luminescence display (OLED) type display.
Adjustable Transparent Displays beyond Smartphones
Application – Fridge: The same principles behind the adjustable transparent display for future smartphones may have applications beyond handheld computers. Samsung envisions that smart adjustable transparent displays could eventually be applied to the kitchen fridge and future billboards as illustrated in the patent figures below.
As a user approaches their fridge, the display would begin to illustrate the contents therein. How many times do we open the fridge just to see what snack we could grab or what food we could pick at? All the while the fridge door is open. So this idea has an interesting twist. Then again, maybe we don't want any of our friends or family seeing what's in the fridge. Unless it's a retail fridge application, I'm not sure if the majority of consumers would find this feature very appealing.
Application – Billboard: As shown in FIG. 12 below, the display apparatus may be a notice board or a billboard which is installed in a place where many users frequently pass e.g., a busy highway. If the display apparatus is a billboard on a road, and a vehicle does not approach the display apparatus, the display apparatus maintains pre-set transparency of the display screen. Accordingly, an object located outside of the display apparatus, such as a tree in the case below, will be easily seen behind the display. In the country, it won't interfere with your view of the scenery.
As the car approaches the billboard using an adjustable transparent display, the actual advertisement will come into view only at a particular distance and then fade away as you pass it. The same visual effect will apply to store windows in a mall where sales signs will only be visible at a certain distance.
Samsung's patent application that was publically published earlier this month by the US Patent and Trademark Office was originally filed in the US back in Q3 2013. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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