Andromeda concept
Patent by Harry

The rumours claim that Microsoft is working on a foldable or dual-screen device. While there’s still no confirmation from the company itself, a patent published last week shows that Microsoft’s inventors are exploring a way to implement haptic-based buttons (power or volume) on the body of the dual-screen device.

The patent is titled “HAPTICS TO IDENTIFY BUTTON REGIONS” and it was published by WIPO on November 22. The patent was filed by Microsoft in April 2018. The patent is aimed at electronic devices that include memory associating a control action with a defined region on an external surface of the electronic device.

The figures in patent application appear to detail a foldable device that has piezoelectric actuators embedded in an edge region and a hinge region to provide haptic feedback responsive to touch detection.

Foldable phone patent

Microsoft has explained the patented method below:

“An electronic device includes memory associating a control action with a defined region on an external surface of the electronic device. A localized haptic feedback response is provided responsive to detection of initial touch input within the defined region, and the control action is executed responsive to detection of a touch direction performed in association with the defined region following the detection of the touch input,” Microsoft explains.

The touch-based volume rocker, power or any other buttons (eg camera) could be implemented on the back of the device and the sides boundary.

“In other implementations, the UI button regions 104 and 106 are included on a non-display surface of the electronic device, such as an edge region (as shown) or on a back side of the electronic device 100,” patent description reads.

Foldable phone patent design

According to the patent application, the users will still be able to feel the haptic-based buttons with help of vibrations. A user may drag a finger along the external surface and feel haptic feedback (e.g., a vibration).

“In one implementation, the haptic feedback IC 110 provides localized haptic feedback in regions that may be felt within or close to the UI button regions 104 and 106 but not felt in other areas along the external surface 108. For example, a user may slide a finger along the external surface 108 and feel a vibration or other sensation when the finger crosses a boundary of one of the UI button regions 104 and 106,” the patent explains.

In November, a bunch of Microsoft’s foldable phone-related patents were published online. For example, a dual-screen patent with the ability to display 3D representation was published earlier this month. Another patent for a foldable device with the advanced audio system was detailed this month.

The patents are exciting and they do seem to detail the design of future devices. However, a patent application does not guarantee that Microsoft will turn this into a working product. Microsoft and other tech giants have filed multiple patents in the past which never turned into a consumer product.