A newly published Apple patent application shows the company’s interest in flexible displays, and the related inventions that could be enabled by that technology.
In the patent application, Apple details various iPhone form factors with concave and convex displays, and while such concepts have seen relatively significant work by a host of companies, Apple takes things a step further by using substantial flexibility in its proposed display to integrate features such as a tactile keyboard and microphones and speakers embedded under the display.
For example, if you place an array of piezoelectric actuators below the display, and activate them on demand for tactile feedback, you can have a smooth surface for browsing the web, or playing a game. If you call up the keyboard, the actuators will pop up, and you can feel the letters beneath your fingers as you type.
The flexible display can also be used to get rid of the traditional microphones and speakers in a device. The flexible display could react to sound vibrations, so a laser microphone could be placed behind the screen to capture those vibrations when you speak, and a transducer could be placed behind it to transform electric current into vibrations, thus generating sound waves.
As always, the inventions addressed in the patent applications may never see the light of day, but they do provide an interesting peek into Apple’s areas of interest, and any possible product improvements that may be coming down the pike.