Apple has filed for a number of patents regarding foldable devices over the years. Another one was recently added to the list, this time describing an ability to fold itself up if it detects that a user has dropped it. This is, according to the patent, a way to minimise damage should such an accident occur.
The Apple patent in question is called Self-Retracting Display Device and Techniques For Protecting Screen Using Drop Detection. And the way it works is exactly as described – a sensor in the device, presumably a phone, detects a sudden increase in vertical acceleration. This tells the phone that it has been dropped, which then activates an “electronically adjustable latching mechanism” to fold up the phone.
The logic behind this is that display damage can be avoided if the phone doesn’t hit the ground screen first. Even if dropped from low height, and therefore not giving the device enough time to completely fold, the Apple patent says this is fine. Even a slight fold will still ensure that the device lands on its frame on the sides rather than the fragile screen itself.
Beyond the self-folding mechanism, the Apple patent also illustrates the possibility of not actually having a single foldable display piece. Instead, the patent depicts the device having two separate screens that join together when unfolded, creating an illusion of one seamless display. That being said, this is only being described in the images of the patent, with the document itself not explaining the way this mechanism will work.
As with all patents, it remains to be seen if any of this will be made into an actual device that consumers can buy. Even if it does happen, it may be awhile yet, since Apple looks to be working on its mixed reality headset, in addition to churning out new iterations of existing products.
(Source: USPTO [PDF])
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