Apple granted patent for touch sensitive, transparent bezels

Apple has today been granted a patent for an interactive, touch sensitive bezel that can respond to user actions, and optionally disappear entirely, letting the display take over the maximum amount of horizontal and vertical space available.

When Apple introduced the iPad mini with super-thin bezels on the side, it had to modify iOS so that accidental touches made while holding the device could be ignored. Having a bezel that’s there when needed, but disappears to provide for extra screen real estate is a good solution, and that’s exactly what Apple describes in this patent.

apple bezel patent
62- active screen area, 64 − bezel, 68 – secondary display area, 73 – proximity sensor

The bezel is made of materials that can change their opacity in response to an electronic signal. This material can either be a circular polariser, or a substance employing electrowetting technology. The content on the portion of the display below the bezel can be adjusted by tweaking the opacity of the bezel in response to user input. So the bezel will remain “hidden” until a touch event is triggered.

Apple doesn’t outline specific use cases of the touch sensitive bezel in its patent application, but AppleInsider notes that it could particularly be useful in wearable computing devices like a watch, where display size would typically be small.

The extra screen real estate could potentially give rise to new kinds of interfaces with greater focus on content, and only optionally bring controls to the front. Tell us what you think about the patent in the comments below.

[via USPTO]