A recently published Apple patent filing shows Apple is at least considering adding a new dimension to its touch surface devices with self-changing physical interfaces. The patent describes a system where flat surfaces grow buttons and other interface elements based on application, according to Patently Apple.
Apple shows examples of the concept in use, such as an iPod that includes a click wheel when playing music, and a multi-button interface when functioning as a TV remote control. The patent also shows examples that include an iPhone with app buttons that appear as needed, and interfaces that change based on room temperature.
Assuming Apple brings products to market with self-configuring 3D interface elements, the company could potentially add raised keys to the iPad display when users are typing, then convert the display back to a flat surface for watching movies.
Like other patents, there’s no guarantee Apple plans to release products with morphing physical interfaces, but the potential uses are intriguing.