The biggest challenge we face every day with smartphones and tablets is the fact that we grew up with buttons, and not with a piece of glass that shows you one. If typing on a glass display provided you with a better experience, keyboards would be dead, and that same example can be used for video game controllers. We’ve seen Microsoft Research look for ways to solve this problem through haptic feedback, but Apple might have found a smarter way to do it.
Apple’s new patent focuses on creating a flexible display that can bend in order to create physical buttons whenever needed. A couple of examples would be that Apple could create an all-display iPhone or iPad, and the home button will be part of the display, or in other cases, this glass would adapt to mimic a keyboard, or mimic the negation buttons. Even though this is hard to believe, there’s actually an iPad keyboard that can already do this created by Tactus. Other features possible make use of the diaphragms integrated into the display. These can be used either with a speaker to output sound, or to detect sound input by picking up vibrations in the flexible screen material.
Yes, such technology is hard to believe, but Apple is proving that it is possible. Just keep in mind that this won’t be the first time that Apple patents something it doesn’t release, or won’t until years later.