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Apple is researching how to create privacy filters so that no one but the user can see what's happening on their curved screen — but Apple has never made a curved screen.
You can read a lot about Apple's thousands of patent applications, but it's unlikely that the company will explore the technology without intending to use it. The six inventors of the new patent application did not prepare it during their lunch break.
This is especially unlikely since the new app is called “Privacy Films for Curved Displays” — and a version of it has already been issued by the US Patent Office in 2023. So Apple is not only exploring the idea of curved screens, but also replicating the idea.
Except that the patent application does not concern the creation of a curved screen, but a specific thing related to their use for personal purposes. Apple suggests applying a coating layer to the display.
It's like polarizing film: light can only come out in one direction. So, as long as the user sits in the desired position in front of the screen, they see full Retina quality and full display brightness.
But anyone who tries to look even a little to the left or right will see nothing at all, but rather a blurry image. This won't stop anyone from standing directly behind the user and peeking over their head, and in fact it can be a serious problem if someone's seat across from the office is positioned that way.
“The security film may have a light blocking layer that is disposed between the first and second transparent substrates,” the patent application states. “The opaque portions may be shaped to ensure that light from the display is directed only toward the primary viewer of the display.”
However, Apple's proposal is more complex than adding an additional coating or layer to the display, since the company wants this privacy to be controllable.
“Changes in the operating mode of [the] display to implement viewing angle limitations… may be made based on user input or may be made automatically by a control circuit,” the patent application continues. . “The control circuitry may, for example, use information such as content sensitivity information to determine whether content that is being displayed [edited] on [the] display should be displayed in normal mode or privacy mode.”
“If, for example, a user is watching a movie, the movie can be displayed normally,” Apple says. “If a private message, such as an incoming text message, is detected, [the] display can be set to privacy mode, thereby ensuring that the contents of the text message are not inadvertently disclosed to unauthorized persons.”
The patent application focuses on the complexities of adding such an additional adjustable privacy filter to a curved display in particular, but it also includes regular flat panel monitors.
So if this offering ever makes it to market, it's at least possible that it will affect flat-panel displays like those found on the iMac and MacBook.
It's interesting that Apple continues to look for ways to change the way information is displayed on screens, as it has recently been looking at replacing screens instead. Or rather, make the screen appear, well, completely blank, unless you own and wear an Apple Vision Pro.