Microsoft watcher h0x0d unearthed the patent this morning, which shows a center-folding configuration, not unlike the ill-fated Microsoft Courier device of yesteryear.
As usual, be aware that patents don't always equal products. Companies frequently file prototypes and even ideas that will never emerge from the drafting table as a protectionary measure. However, given the raft of previous patents Microsoft has filed on this particular configuration, I'd say it's safe to say that the company is at least exploring a foldable cellular PC design for an upcoming handset or tablet.
The patent was originally filed in 2015 and was made public just yesterday. Unlike the previous folding phone patents which largely focus on hinges, this one provides a solution for reducing the visual impact from a screen that is comprised of several separate displays.
The patent discusses not just folding mobile devices, but also larger, tiled displays, made up of multiple screens.
Essentially, Microsoft is proposing a multi-layered screen where the segmented panels feature a curvature towards the edges, beneath a single upper layer. The lower curve is designed to create an optical trick that will draw light away from the gaps between the tiled display, making the screen appear as a continuous image on the outer display.
In display devices such as tiled displays or hinged displays, where multiple display panels may be included and separated by one another via the support structure, the visibility of the support structure may hinder a user's perception of displayed objects.
In order to reduce and/or obscure the visibility of a support structure for a display panel, the present disclosure provides example display devices including curved or otherwise bent regions for directing light to a user's eye when the user's gaze is directed to a support structure at an edge of the display panel. In this way, when a user is viewing a region occupied by the support panel, the user may instead see light from the display panel showing the displayed objects.
This methodology, presumably, would create folding phone displays that feature multiple active screens, but appear as a single, continuous image. The concept harkens back to various bendy devices seen in Microsoft's future visions video.
If Microsoft can pull this off, it would give any future mobile PC a truly unique, almost sci-fi form factor a device like the Surface Phone would need to shrug off comparisons to the iPhones and Samsung Galaxies out there.
Whether this patent idea leads to a physical, real-world product or not remains unknown, but it offers a tantalizing glimpse at the futuristic things Microsoft's innovative hardware design labs are doing behind the scenes. Hopefully, we won't have to wait long to find out if this is a real thing.
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