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Wednesday, August 16, 2006, 01:00 pm PT (04:00 pm ET)

Apple toying with display actuators for electronics devices

Apple Computer has been experimenting with display actuators for electronics devices that would serve to both display visual information and act as a mechanical input, therefore reducing the space needed to implement both components on devices such as media players.

In a series of patent requests filed overseas and published on Wednesday, the iPod maker said such a device could display visual information like text, characters and graphics, but also act as a clickable button, sliding toggle, rotating dial or a motion controlling device such as a joystick.

"The display actuator may be incorporated into any electronic device to control various aspects of the electronic device," Apple engineers wrote in the filing. "Alternatively, the display actuator may be a stand alone device that operatively couples to an electronic device through wired or wireless connections."

In either case, the engineers said the display actuator can be configured to generate commands, make selections and/or control movements in a display.

One example provided in the filings describes an electronics device that is constrained within a housing, where physically moving the display apparatus within the housing generates an input action.

Apple engineers go on to state that the display component could be based on LCD, OLED, Plasma or rear-projection technology. "The display may [...] be made movable through a combination of joints such as a pivot/sliding joint, pivot/flexure joint, sliding/flexure joint [or] pivot/pivor joint in order to increase the range of motion," they said.

According to the filing, the motion detection mechanism could be placed underneath or on the sides of the display. In some instances the resulting display actuator can completely replace all other inputs and outputs on an electronic device.

Display Actuators


"One of the advantages of the display actuator is that because the display provides user inputs, conventional user input means on electronic devices having displays can be substantially eliminated," Apple engineers wrote. "Furthermore, the size of the display can be maximized since the real estate is no longer needed for the conventional input means."

By way of the same example, the engineers said electronics devices could alternatively be shrunk to the size of the display. "In either case, the display is allowed to utilize a greater amount of the real estate of the electronic device," they added.

Earlier today, AppleInsider also covered an Apple patent filing for a content synchronization system that pertains to digital media players that include built-in wireless technology or have access to a docking station that includes such capabilities.