Apple Files for Shape Shifting Interface Patent

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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.

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Ok now we’re delving into pure sci-fi realms. If they got this to work it would be amazing to the point of spooky. I’d LOVE to see a prototype.


I came up with this idea 10 years ago (maybe more).  I have a drawing of it I did when I was little and another I did in a “History of Creativity” class where we had to propose an invention.  My idea perhaps wouldn’t work all that well since I’m not a mechanical or electrical engineer.  One variant worked on air bubbles, another worked magnetically.  I don’t think it’s really all that “sci-fi” nor is it even hard to think of.  The goal I had in mind was to give tactile feedback to an LCD keyboard interface. (I wasn’t thinking touch screen, I was thinking to make the keyboard into a touch-screen-like input device.)


I wonder if that qualifies as ‘prior art’. Call Apple. Demand they buy you out (heck at least try to get an iPad out of it) LOL


Apple’s engineers and patent counsel certainly having a working invention.  Otherwise, they would not have filed the patent application, because having a working invention that corresponds to the claims, description, and images of the patent application is one of the requirements of patentability, whereas simply having an idea, which isn’t a working invention, isn’t patentable.

However, there can be and often is a long way from a working invention to a practical, shipping product.  But, if Apple can pull this off, it will revolutionize touchscreen interfaces, which is why Apple’s Shape Shifting Device Interface patent has no doubt caused consternation at Nokia, RIM, Microsoft, Google, et al.

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