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Apple may be considering a future product that can act both as a display and a mirror, a new patent application suggests.
The patent, 20180164882, describes an electronic device display that could essentially “switch” between showing content and reflecting the surrounding environment. But the patent also details some pretty cool ways of controlling said device.
Basically, the patent describes the use of an extra layer that could be controllable by an outside source. The layer would comprise various polarizers, as well as a liquid crystal film to manage reflectiveness.
This layer could sit above the standard pixel array — and based on the settings, certain portions of the layer could display images while other positions could act like a traditional mirror or reflective surface.
While a “smart mirror” is pretty cool on its own, the patent application also delves into how a user would interact with the device.
These UI systems could include facial recognition, hand gesture recognition, or head- and gaze-tracking. Some of these could rely on a built-in camera or other sensors (such as a TrueDepth Camera for facial recognition).
The gaze-detection is especially interesting. The patent offers an example of the gaze-detecting software. Namely, the device could notice when you’re staring at a notification for a predetermined period of time and automatically open the corresponding app or content.
Of course, the patent seems like it’s describing a smart mirror. We’ve covered various homemade smart mirrors and concept devices in the past — but the product segment hasn’t really seen mainstream adoption.
It could have other uses, however. If applied to an iPhone or an iPad, the patent’s technology could allow for those devices to have a reflective surface instead of a black screen. That could be a boon to aesthetics or practicality, depending on how you look at it.
The gaze-tracking and hand gestures described, of course, could bring a ton of functionality to Apple’s various devices. A Mac that can open up Messages when you “look” at a notification for a certain amount of time.
And while the existence of an actual standalone Apple TV with a display is still up in the air, both technologies could easily be applied to that format. A wall-mounted TV that doubles as a mirror and can track a user’s gaze is pretty much the definition of future television tech.
As always, since this is just a patent application, it doesn’t necessarily reveal anything about Apple’s future product lineups. Even if it does, we have no idea when such a product could hit store shelves.
The patent application was published on Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Apple is credited as the applicant, while various individuals from the Bay Area are listed as its inventors.