Our favorite non-existent Surface is getting another round of patents recently, with this latest one offering a detailed look at the internal hinge mechanisms, as well as some hints as to how Microsoft plans to make the folding form factor more intuitive.
The new patent shows off how users will be able to "lock" the device into a folded position, either with the displays on the outside or on the inside. It also notes how the user interface will detect how the device is being used, and orient visual elements to accommodate. For example, if you only "pop up" the display, it will slide the notifications to the edge of the device, so you can have a glance without fully unfolding into tablet mode.
The pop-up feature can allow the user to easily manually open the display further if desired, and/or the user can view some or all of the displays at this point. For instance, in this example a graphical user interface (GUI) shows that the user has a new text message on display that says, "Meet you at 5:00 P.M." The user can easily view the text without further manipulation of the device portions. If the user wants to text back or perform other actions, the user can easily open the device further with one hand.
In this case, assume the user is done, and can close the device simply by pressing down with his/her thumb until the device is closed, and the user-controllable lock 204 re-engages as shown in FIG. 2D. Note that in this implementation, the device sensed that only a portion of the displays were visible in the pop-up orientation of FIG. 2C, and so the device customized the GUI for this orientation. A different GUI may be generated if the user opens the device to a different orientation.
Although it doesn't say it explicitly, the patent seems to hint that the locking mechanism could be biometric somehow, noting that users will be able to "unlock" the device either using the sensor on the outer case, or potentially, on the sides of the device as well.
The latest rumors around 'Andromeda' seem to hint that Microsoft is planning to release a larger, more tablet-like device first, codenamed Centaurus. Whether or not any of these products make it out of the lab remains to be seen, but it feels like it'd be a massive engineering waste to not at least try to launch them to the public at this point. Hopefully, we'll learn more in 2019.
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