Four years ago Apple filed for a patent that would allow a device display to go into "privacy mode" wherein only the user directly in front of the display could actually read content on the screen, with everyone else on an angle being unable to view the same content. While Apple's invention has yet to come to market, we found a patent application from Microsoft on this very same invention idea this past week. Microsoft says that there are times when a user is in an airplane cabin, a library or a café and would like to ensure that the content that they're viewing remains private from those sitting close to them or those looking over their shoulder.
According to Microsoft's patent filing their invention generally relates to operating a display in private and non-private modes via a backlight system configured to selectively emit light having two or more angular intensity profiles.
For example, one disclosed embodiment provides a method comprising illuminating the display with light having a first angular intensity profile, and while illuminating the display with light having the first angular intensity profile, outputting an image. The method further comprises, after outputting the image, illuminating the display with light having a second angular intensity profile different than the first angular intensity profile, and while illuminating the display with light having the second angular intensity profile, outputting an inverse image of the image.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 1 noted below shows aspects of an example environment in which visual content presented by a display may be privately viewed. The invention relates to notebooks, smartphones and tablets through to the desktop.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 6 shows a flowchart illustrating an embodiment of a method of operating a display device in privacy mode.
To allow for rapid switching between non-private and private viewing modes, Microsoft notes that "a display device may include a backlight that emits light having different intensity profiles, such that backlighting with a narrow angular band may be used for private viewing while backlighting with a wider angular band may be used for shared viewing.
In order to ensure privacy mode, Microsoft has invented a method wherein displaying an image and an inverse image in a time multiplexed manner at intensities selected to produce a combined image viewable from within a first range of angles and not viewable in a second range of angles.
Microsoft filed their patent application back in Q4 2013. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time. For more details, see patent application 20150138059.
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