US RE40821 E1
A portable or other electronic device has two or more display devices or screens that can be used to display different subsets of image signals. The effect is that the device simulates the display capabilities of devices having much larger screens. The device has an open or active configuration, in which the multiple screens are available for displaying image signals, and a closed or inactive configuration, in which some or all of the multiple screens are folded together or otherwise stowed away to reduce the size of the device for storage and/or carrying. By simulating large-display operations, electronic devices according to the present invention are capable of presenting more useable information to the user than is otherwise possible using prior art devices having a single small screen.
1. An electronic device comprising:
(a) an image generator adapted to generate image signals;
(b) one or more display drivers, connected to the image generator and adapted to receive the image signals from the image generator; and
(c) at least three distinct display devices, connected to the one or more display drivers, wherein the electronic device has (1) an open configuration in which first and second and third display devices are deployed for displaying different subsets of the image signals and (2) a closed configuration in which a third first display device is deployed for displaying image signals and the first and second and third display devices are stowed away and unavailable for displaying image signals, wherein the first and third second display devices are mounted back-to-back with a single backlighting device located between the first and third display devices behind the third display device to illuminate (a) the third first display device when the electronic device is in the closed configuration and (b) the first third display device when the electronic device is in the open configuration.
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10. An electronic device comprising first, second, and third displays, wherein the first and third second displays are mounted back-to-back, such that:
when the device is in a closed configuration, the third first display is visible to a user and the first and second and third displaysare hidden from view; and
when the device is in an open configuration, the first and second and third displays are visible to the user and display different subsets of image signals; and further comprising a backlighting device located behind the first third display to illuminate the first third display when the device is in the open configuration, such that, when the device is in the closed configuration, the backlighting means illuminates the third first display.
11. The invention of
when the device is in the open configuration, the device is adapted to operate as a personal digital assistant; and
when the device is in the closed configuration, the device is adapted to operate as a portable telephone.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to portable and other electronic devices having displays, such as monitors or screens, for the display of text, graphics, and/or video images.
2. Description of the Related Art
One of the drawbacks to portable electronic devices, such as personal digital assistants, cellular telephones, internet access devices, palmtop computers, and even some laptop computers, is that the displays are of limited size. These small displays limit the type of applications that can be run effectively on such devices and/or detract from the quality of the images displayed by such applications. For example, it may be impractical to run software that relies on a graphical user interface (GUI) on a portable device, because the elements of the GUI on the small screen of the portable device will be too small to be adequately visible.
The present invention is directed to a portable or other electronic device having two or more display devices or screens that can be used to display different subsets of image signals. The effect is that the device simulates the display capabilities of devices having much larger screens. The device has (1) an open or active configuration in which each display device is deployed for displaying a different subset of the image signals and (2) a closed or inactive configuration in which one or more of the display devices are stowed away and unavailable for displaying image signals. Stowing the display devices away, which reduces the size, e.g., footprint, of the device for storage and/or carrying, means folding them together or otherwise making one or more of them unavailable to display image signals for viewing by the user. By simulating large-display operations, electronic devices according to the present invention are capable of presenting more useable information to the user than is otherwise possible using prior art devices having a single small screen.
FIGS. 1(a) and 1(b) show perspective views of a portable electronic device that functions as a combined cellular phone/personal digital assistant, according to one embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 1(c) shows a perspective view of a portable electronic device in the open configuration, according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention;
The present invention is directed to portable and other electronic devices that have two or more display devices, e.g., screens, where each display device is adapted to display different subsets of image signals generated by an image generator and distributed to the display devices by one or more display drivers. The electronic devices have a closed configuration in which one or more of the displays are, for example, stowed away, e.g., folded together, to facilitate the portability and/or storage of the electronic device.
A display driver is a component that provides an interface between an image generator and a display device, whereby the display driver receives image signals or image generation commands from the image generator and, if necessary, processes those signals/commands to generate the signals for display by the display device. This processing may include such image processing functions as color format transformations and image scaling. A display driver may be implemented in any suitable combination of hardware and software.
FIGS. 1(a) and 1(b) show perspective views of a portable electronic device 100 that functions as a combined cellular phone/personal digital assistant, according to one embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 1(a) shows device 100 in its closed configuration, while FIG. 1(b) shows device 100 in a partially open configuration.
Device 100 has three distinct displays 102, 104, and 106. Display 102 displays images when device 100 is in its closed configuration in which device 100 operates as a cellular phone. In this configuration, display 102 is able to display conventional text and/or graphical images associated with sending and receiving telephone calls using a cellular phone.
Displays 104 and 106 display images when device 100 is in its open configuration in which device 100 operates as a personal digital assistant (PDA). According to one embodiment of the present invention, each of displays 104 and 106 displays part, e.g., half, of each PDA image. In the open configuration, displays 104 and 106 are positioned next to each other and display drivers in device 100 divide images for display on the two displays. The image thus displayed overflows from one display to the other, giving the appearance of a single large display displaying the full image. The multiple small displays combine to simulate the operations of a single large display. As such, device 100 is able to present concurrently more useable information to the user than would otherwise be available to a user of a conventional PDA that had a single small display.
Displays 104 and 106 may be any suitable type of display device, including liquid crystal display (LCDs). In device 100, a hinge or other similar mechanism may be used to keep the displays together when used in the open, e.g., active, configuration or the closed, e.g., inactive, configuration. A locking mechanism can be used to keep the combined structure rigid when the screens are unfolded. As shown in FIG. 1(b), the different displays need not be co-planar in order for the device to be used in the active configuration.
Device 100 has two flat-panel displays 104 and 106 which may be less than 5 mm thick without a backlight. When the device is in its inactive configuration, the two sides are folded together. For example, if a 5″×5″ display area is implemented using two 5″×2.5″ displays, the two displays are stored flat against each other. The inactive area is therefore only half of the active area, resulting in a more compact configuration for carrying and/or storing the device.
FIG. 1(c) shows a perspective view of a portable electronic device in the open configuration, according to an alternative embodiment of the present invention. According to this embodiment, display 102 of FIG. 1(a) and display 104′ of FIG. 1(c) are positioned back-to-back within the top half of the device. In one implementation of this embodiment, the device has backlighting means located behind display 106′, and displays 106′ and 104′ are transparent. For such an implementation, the backlighting means behind display 106′ will illuminate display 102 when the device is in the closed configuration as shown in FIG. 1(a). In this ways, a thinner device with backlighting can be achieved. Furthermore, in certain embodiments, display 102 of FIG. 1(a) and display 104′ of FIG. 1(c) may be implemented as a single display device that is adapted to generate images for both the open and closed configurations and possibly at the same time.
In particular, image generator 206 generates image signals for display on display devices 210. The image signals may comprise any conventional type of image signals, including text, video, graphics, or any combination thereof. Display driver 208 receives the image signals from image generator 206 and distributes appropriate subsets of image signals to the various display devices 210 for display. Each display device 210 operates as a distinct image display device. The effect however of all of the display devices 210 operating together under the control of display driver 208 is the simulation of a larger display device displaying all of the image signals generated by image generator 206. Image generator 206 and display driver 208 may be implemented on a single processor, either in hardware, in software, or in a combination of both hardware and software.
Electronic device 200 also has optical local input device 202 and optional remote input device 204. Local input device 202 may be any suitable device that enables a user to enter information into device 200, such as a keyboard, a keypad, a stylus for a touch screen, a thumb wheel for scrolling, or a track pad. This information is received by image generator 206 for appropriate updating of the image signals to be displayed. Remote input device 204 may be an antenna, network, or cable port, or other suitable type of interface for receiving information from a remote source. This information is also received by image generator 206 for the update of the images to be displayed. In particular implementations, one or more of the display devices may be touch sensitive to operate as additional input devices of device 200 for the input of user-selected information to be fed back to image generator 206.
Depending on the implementation, the function of dividing image signals into subsets for display on the various display devices may be performed by either the image generator or the one or more display drivers. Even in device 300 of
In some embodiments of the present invention, the electronic devices support an alternative mode of operation in which two or more of the multiple displays can operate as distinct displays that display different images rather than different parts of the same images.
Although the present invention is particularly suitable for portable electronic devices, such as personal digital assistants, cellular telephones, internet access devices, palmtop computers, and laptop computers, those skilled in the art will understand that the present invention may be applied to other types of electronic devices as well, including stationary computer terminals.
It will be further understood that various changes in the details, materials, and arrangements of the parts which have been described and illustrated in order to explain the nature of this invention may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the principle and scope of the invention as expressed in the following claims.