Barely a week goes by without an interesting patent discovery from the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) bearing the signature of Apple. The most recent is perhaps one of the most intriguing in recent times and shows a use for a bezel which not only acts as a secondary touch sensitive input, but can also change opacity (switch between being completely transparent, lit up and blacked out).
Patent number No. 8,477,114 for “Electronic device, display and touch-sensitive user interface” specifically mentions a part of the bezel which can hide or reveal the display. It’s particularly useful for smaller devices where screen real estate is limited.
As noted by AppleInsider:
When embedded sensors detect a finger is in close proximity or touching the device, signals from the controller trigger the second portion to illuminate, thereby changing the appearance of the overlaid bezel. The patent outlines a number of bezel state changes, including simple color-changes and light transmission, to more complex embodiments where the bezel itself turns from opaque to transparent.
Although I doubt that this kind of technology would be use in an iPhone, it would make perfect sense in an iWatch. The challenge with making smart connected wearable gadgets is making it comfortable to wear while also making the usable interface large enough to make it worth while having notifications show up on screen. By making the bezel part of the display, Apple could minimize the watch face to its smallest possible size. And if we know one thing about Apple, it’s that’s exactly how the company rolls. Cupertino’s engineers are well known for turning down technologies and innovating others all in the name of making devices thinner and smaller.
As always with any Apple patent, there’s a chance it won’t be used for anything. But let’s hope this one finds use somewhere, it sounds fantastic.