- Sony’s new patent describes a smartphone with transparent display at both the front and back side.
- The display contains self-illuminating pixels, and each pixel is associated with a light control element.
The see-through display technology has been around for more than a decade, but we haven’t seen it in any popular consumer product yet. Though it’s being incorporated in few televisions and handheld devices by companies like Planar Systems and Samsung since 2012.
In May 2018, Sony Corporation filed a patent — titled “Display device and electronic apparatus” — with World Intellectual Property Office. It builds on 2 patents that have been already approved in the USA and Japan.
Sony has been manufacturing mobiles for decades. It was the first company to provide several unique functions, including Super Slow Motion (now found in almost all smartphones). In 2015, Sony launched the first smartphone (Xperia Z5 Premium) with 4K display. Overall, the history shows that they have all the potential to release the first smartphone with a see-through display.
The patent describes 2 displays in a smartphone:
- Front display that contains light-emitting elements
- Rear display has light controls that use the incoming light’s reflection
The objective is to make the screen transparent. As per the patent, the display contains self-illuminating pixels arranged in a 2D matrix. Every single pixel is associated with a light control element that handles reflection and transmission of incident light.
The light emitting unit radiates light to the front as well as rear display. The optical transparency of individual pixel alters due to the amount of light emission and variation. This results in a see-through display.
Furthermore, the smartphone is equipped with a gyro and/or acceleration sensor that determines which side of the display user is looking at. The front display has some controls: it can be either touch buttons or physical buttons placed at the bottom of the screen.
The patent illustrates a total of 6 display modes. Each side has 3 display modes, ranging from non-transparent and semi-transparent to transparent. Users will have the option to select any one of these modes and switch between them. Several factors like energy saving and ambient light could play a major role here.
Image credit: LetsGoDigital
The patent also covers a foldable smartphone design. In this design, 2 displays are fixed opposite to each other, thus the phone has a total of 4 screens. The display mode can be different in this case, for instance, users can see the transparent content on the left-hand display, while non-transparent content can be displayed on the right-hand display. The camera can be inserted in the left or right display.
It’s possible to develop a foldable mobile with 3 or more displays. A smartphone with 3 displays (opposite to each other) would have 6 screens. Of course, battery life is going to be a big issue in such devices because display like this will consume a lot of energy. The company hasn’t mentioned this issue in their patent, as it only gives a rough idea of a transparent roller-clear display.
Sony has already filed this patent in several countries and it’s clear that they do not want to miss the chance of being the first manufactures of transparent smartphones. Other manufacturers like LG and Samsung have been active in the same area for some time. They may exhibit flexible and transparent TV within 2 years.