What you need to know
- A new Microsoft patent shows off designs for a liquid-powered hinge.
- The hinge is shown working with a flexible OLED.
- Microsoft may use and/or license the technology in the future.
A new patent by Microsoft shows off several hinge designs, including a hinge powered by liquid (via The Verge). The patent was first spotted by WindowsUnited and includes several drawings and details of how a liquid-powered hinge could work in conjunction with a flexible OLED display. As with all filed patents, this design might never see the light of day. Large companies file large numbers of patents that are never used in devices. Nevertheless, the design is interesting and would be unique when compared to other hinges on the market.
The image below shows liquid inside of cavities underneath a flexible display. The hinge is set below a flexible display that appears to be one continues display, rather than two displays working together. The rest of the patent includes details on how the hinge would "prevent foreign materials from entering the hinge assembly / device." This is important as reviewers of early versions of the Samsung Galaxy Fold saw debris work its way under the display.
Almost every Surface device has a moving part of some sort. The Surface Pro has its kickstand, the Surface Studio has its flexible stand, the Surface Hub 2 can rotate, and the Surface Book line has a hinge that also allows the display of the device to separate into a tablet. Microsoft has introduced hinge-related innovations with almost every new Surface product, and a liquid-powered hinge allowing a flexible display would certainly qualify as innovative.
As noted by The Verge, the patent is filed by "Microsoft technology licensing," which might mean that Microsoft will license this design to other manufacturers. Again, this design might never be used by Microsoft or any other manufacturer, but Microsoft has licensed technology out to manufacturers in the past.
If this design ever does make its way into a device, it's difficult to say when it will appear. Microsoft is working on a dual-screen Surface device codenamed "Centaurus." If that device comes out and is revealed in the near future, it's unlikely that Microsoft would also reveal a device with a flexible display at the same time.
Microsoft's Surface event is only a few weeks away, so we don't have to wait long to see details about the future of the Surface line.