This time we can report that the American computer manufacturer IBM is patenting an electronic device with a flexible display. It is a very special device with a multi-fold display. This allows you to use the device as a smartphone and as a tablet, but also as a smartwatch – so you have the right screen size for every occasion.
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Flexible screen sections unfoldable from smartwatch to smartphone, to tablet
The patent entitled ‘Variable display size for an electronic display device’ was applied for in 2016 by International Business Machines Corporation. It took until 11 June 2019 for the patent to be approved and published in the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) database.
To get a better idea of the patented product, LetsGoDigital has had a series of 3D renders designed. These are for illustrative purposes only and are designed on the basis of the information described in the following patent.
In its most compact form, the user has an apparently normal watch on his wrist, although the watch case is slightly thicker than normal. The smart watch has a rectangular design display, no frame border is visible.
The special feature of this design is that seven auxiliary screen parts are stored under the main screen. These displays can be taken out of the housing independently of each other. The watch case offers space for four compartments, each of which contains a maximum of two display parts.
Is the screen size of your smartwatch insufficient? Then you can easily slide an extra screen part out of the housing. When using four screen parts, the device will automatically switch from the smartwatch mode to the smartphone mode.
The user is then presented with a different interface, which should contribute to additional ease of use. This way more icons and larger images can be displayed. The other display parts remain stored stacked in the housing.
Do you need an even bigger screen, for example to watch a video or visit a web page? Then you can slide another four screen parts out of the housing, these are placed next to the first four parts, giving you an extra wide display.
When all 8 display parts have been extended, the phone switches to tablet mode, requiring operation with two hands. The display seams are minimal, so that the content can be displayed continuously.
Unfortunately, it is not clear from the patent description whether the extension is done manually, semi-automatically or fully automatically. However, it seems the most obvious that this should happen automatically, this will also benefit sustainability.
It is striking that dimensions are also mentioned in the patent description. Each display part has a size of 2 × 3-inch, or 5 × 7.5 cm (WxH). This is also the size of the smartwatch screen. If you use the device as a smartphone, then you have a 4 × 6-inch image format at your disposal, which is considerably wider than a regular telephone screen.
The mobile device will also be equipped with one or more speakers. In addition, it must be possible to connect peripheral devices, such as a keyboard and mouse.
Although IBM is particularly known to the general public for its personal computers, the company is certainly not entirely unknown in the world of smartwatches. In 2000, the company presented a prototype smartwatch that ran on the Linux OS. This was three years before the market for smartwatches gained momentum and even four years before the Android Wear OS was released.
The smart watch from IBM was equipped with 8 MB of memory, an accelerometer and a vibration mechanism. The Linux Watch was later renamed IBM WatchPad and received a touch display, calendar software and Bluetooth support. Even a fingerprint sensor was not missing on this model.
It is therefore not entirely impossible that IBM wants to make another attempt in the young market of flexible display devices. Finally, computer technology is an important part of these electronic devices.
Whether the company actually intends to launch a smart watch with a flexible display remains to be seen. The company may prefer to resell the patent technology to other interested parties.