Ever since Apple overtook the Walkman with the iPod, Sony has been looking for ways to introduce another wow-product that could put Sony back into the game. Sony has been trying to get their ebook readers to be a hit but keep getting out-maneuvered by Amazon's Kindle. Sony's latest eBook readers couldn't even make CNET's top five eBook readers for Christmas list last year and came in last on PC Magazine's list. To put Sony on top of everyone's eBook list will take one thing: Real innovation. Perhaps the kind of innovation that their latest patent on this subject is illustrating. Sony has designed a next generation e-Book that uses bendable displays in a unique 2-page styled ebook design that I think you'll find to be very cool.
Sony's Future eBook Could Kick Things up a Notch
Sony's invention spells out some pretty radical ideas that if successful could advance the look, feel and functionality of an electronic book or ebook. It begins with employing a thin and flexible display. This kind of display would make it possible to realize various kinds of user interfaces such as those in which a sensor configured to detect bending by a user and the like is incorporated to switch display content in response to such a user operation.
Sony's patent FIG. 11 noted above illustrates this unique bending sensor. The bending sensor when in synch with the other components in this system will allow a page of an ebook to flip back or forth when a user bends a corner of the ebook as noted in patent figures 12a and 12b. If a user happens to be using the device to view webpages, then the same bending actions will work to scroll a page up or down. A third feature illustrated is in 12c where a user could scroll a webpage by keeping their finger stationary and just pulling down or up will move the page. Meaning you won't need to continually swipe. It would appear that pulling the page harder would accelerate the scrolling though Sony doesn't confirm the scroll speed feature.
Other features that are unique to Sony's future ebook styled device include a flexible display that's partly bendable in given configurations while retaining its rigidity in the center of the display in order to keep the e-book's original shape intact. Sony doesn't explain the reasoning for the varied flexible areas but it's likely tied to the type of application that you're using at any given point in time.
The second related feature that is worth noting is that the display's cover material is likewise flexible as illustrated in patent figure 12c above where the user will be able to slightly pull the display cover up or down to scroll a page. Sony also notes that certain areas of the display could be thinner than others to support its bending feature.
The display components are configured with a flexible material, according to Sony who goes on to state that "The display section is a display panel that displays an image based on an image signal, and for example, has a structure in which an organic electro luminescence device, a liquid crystal display device, an electrophoretic device, or the like is sandwiched by a resin film of a plastic or the like. Further, Sony states that "the protection sheet s bonded to the supporting substrate so as to cover the whole surface thereof, and is configured of a flexible resin film having transparency for display light."
Sony later adds that their flexible display features could also apply to future smartphones, tablets, notebooks, PCs and other electronic devices such as keyboards and a bracelet which double as a smart watch or the like as noted below.
Various other Components of Sony's e-Book
About Sony's Patent Figures: FIGS. 1A and 1B are perspective views each schematically showing a model configuration of a display (electronic book) illustrated in an opened and closed state (folded state), respectively; FIG. 5 is a front view of the display illustrated in FIGS. 1A and 1B; FIG. 7 is a view showing an exemplary configuration (articulated coupling mechanism) of a hinge section illustrated in FIGS. 1A and 1B.
Sony's patent application was originally filed under serial number 608028 in Q3 2012 in the US and a year earlier in Japan.
At the end of the day it comes down to market timing. If Sony could take this hot design concept from patent to product in the next 18-24 months, I think they could have a Killer product on their hands for this category. But if their engineers tinker it to death and delay this unique design, the benefits won't really matter because their competition is moving at market speed. To get a leap on their competition, Sony has to get this level of innovation out the door as soon as possible. Only time will tell if Sony still has it in them.
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