Apple patent details display only visible to users directly in front of a device

Thu, May 26, 2011


From the bowels of Apple’s obscure patent filings comes this beauty – a privacy mechanism wherein the display on an iOS device, for example, would only be visible to those standing directly in front of the device. The end result? No more looking over your co-workers shoulder to check out what he/she is looking at.

Patently Apple discovered the patent while 9to5Mac breaks down how it all works:

The new privacy option mode only allows those directly in front of the display to view its content. Anyone on the periphery would simply see a blank display. A number of professions may find this feature very appealing. The patent also vaguely points to this technology being used in association with a future pico-like projection system and/or 3D holographic display.

The trick for locking out peripheral viewing is a simple one, Apple argues. Picture elements comprising the display could be controlled by directing a light beam towards a liquid crystal material and steering it via microscopic mirror-like structures that apply a variable electrical control signal to the liquid crystal material. As a result, viewing can be restricted only to the person directly in front of the display. The privacy mode could be entered by touching a dedicated corner that would invoke a software setting for changing viewing angles, Apple wrote. The invention applies to a wide scope of devices, from handheld music players to smartphones to tablets and desktop computers.

The patent is titled “Systems and Methods for Electronically Controlling the Viewing Angle of a Display” and is credited to Apple engineer David Gere.


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