This month the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Samsung that reveals a dramatically reinvented Phablet concept that on paper is one of the most advanced smartphone patent filings that I've seen from the company to date. Either Samsung engineers are dreaming up a storm or Samsung has something very radical in the making. The form factor offers a retractable display that scrolls the display back into the base of device so that it could easily fit a user's pocket or a small purse. The radical design doesn't use a traditional OLED display but rather some kind of display that requires two projectors to present content. In one version of this invention Samsung notes that the display could generate 3D holographic imagery emanating from the screen that doesn't require special glasses. The invention also describes a different kind of 3D touch where the user at times may not actually touch the screen to operate it. If Samsung could bring this interesting device to market sooner rather than later, then they could have the competition scrambling to match it. This is one of the most interesting Samsung patents that I've read to date, even though it sounds like more fantasy than reality.
Samsung notes in their patent background that consumption of streaming content, such as video on demand (VOD), cloud based video games and so forth are increasing. Also, in social network services, the use of images and videos are being gradually increased as compared to text. According to a change in the consumption patterns of content, the size of a smartphone displays have increased to more than 5 inches while phablets have increased to more than 6 inches.
Since the full size of the mobile device having the large size screen is much larger, ease of portability of the mobile device has decreased. To address this problem, a technique of reducing the full size of the mobile device by reducing areas of a bezel and surrounding parts other than a liquid crystal display (LCD) has been developed. However, this technique has a limit in which the full size of the mobile device cannot be reduced less than the size of the LCD.
To address this problem, a flexible LCD that can be folded or wrapped is now in development. A device with a scrollable type of display has some advantage in controlling the thickness of a smartphone in contrast to a foldable design.
In this invention, Samsung reinvents the phablet that they were first to bring to market. This next-gen phablet focuses on a scrollable smartphone design that will have a large screen when users need it but could be dramatically reduced when not in use. The filing states that users will be able to manually or "automatically" collapse the display as noted in the patent figures below.
What the patent didn't confirm or discuss is whether users would be able to keep the display open slightly, such as how it's presented above with the half display position. A half-screen could be conveniently used for quick texting, messaging or replying to an email.
The Scrollable Display & Projector System
In Samsung's patent FIG. 4 noted below we're able to see a cross-sectional view schematically illustrating a reconfigurable mobile device.
Specifically in patent FIG. 4 we're able to see device screen #40 which is disposed on the top surface of the lower portion of the multistage supporter system #30. A first screen winding portion is seen above as #41 and a second screen winding portion at #42. When the device is closed or retracted the majority of the display resides in the first winder. When fully opened the top winder pulls open the display for use.
In Samsung's patent FIG. 14A noted below, the projector #51 may include a projecting portion #501 and a reflective member. The projector #51 is formed to project an image onto the entire area of the screen #40.
The projecting portion #501 may include an image forming portion (not illustrated) to form an image depending on the control of the controller and a light source (not illustrated) to project the image to the outside. The structure of the projecting portion is similar to a projecting module of a pico projector.
Another unique aspect of this new invention is Samsung's version of 3D touch.
In Samsung's patent FIG. 9 noted above we're able to see a plan view illustrating a touch sensing layer of a screen of a reconfigurable mobile device. The touch sensing layer #70 may be formed to enable the 3D touch or the space touch that can control the reconfigurable mobile device without touching the screen #40.
Also, the touch sensing layer may be formed to detect the position and movement of the finger even in the case of two-dimensional touch in which the user's finger is directly in contact with the screen #40 in addition to the 3D touch.
Since the screen is located above the projectors #51 and #52, even when the user performs the two-dimensional touch, the image being projected onto the screen is not covered by the user's hand.
Samsung further notes that "The touch sensing layer may be formed to detect a position of the user's finger even when the user's finger is spaced apart from the screen without direct contact with the surface of the screen. In other words, the touch sensing layer may be formed to detect the position and movement of the finger even when the finger is not in contact with the screen.
The device controller detects the position and movement of the finger using the signal output from the touch sensing layer, and controls the reconfigurable mobile device depending on the position and movement of the finger. In other words, the touch sensing layer of the present disclosure may be formed to enable a three-dimensional (3D) touch or a space touch that can control the reconfigurable mobile device only by a finger close to the screen without touching the screen.
Also, the touch sensing layer of the present disclosure is formed to detect the position and movement of the finger even in the case of a two-dimensional touch in which the user's finger is directly in contact with the screen in addition to the 3D touch.
In order to implement such a 3D touch, the touch sensing layer may use an infrared method, an electric field method, a capacitance oscillation method, etc.
One Last Point of Interest
In this last point, Samsung describes a holographic type of imagery emanating from the display. Specifically, Samsung notes that "When first and second projectors #51 and #52 project the image onto the screen provided with an aerial image AI plate layer, a 3D image floating in the air is formed above the screen so that the user may see the 3D image without wearing stereoscopic glasses."
That's interesting to note as an Apple engineer recently pointed to a new Apple device or part of a device in a patent filing as being a projection system and more specifically "holographic projection system." So it appears that both Samsung and Apple are on the same wavelength here.
Officially Samsung filed their U.S. patent application back in Q3 2016. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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