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Microsoft has applied for a patent for what they call a “Dual Display Device”, one side of which would have a regular screen and the other made of e-paper.
The patent notes that the normal screen would be used for rendering visually dynamic user input controls while the e-paper screen would rendering visually static user input controls such as a keyboard for example.
Microsoft also notes:
Although many of the examples described herein relate to textual input by the user, the user controls need not relate to textual input. For example, the visually static user controls may comprise controls for a music / video player and the visually dynamic user controls may show thumbnails of album art (e.g. for the particular song or album or related / similar songs) or related videos. The visually dynamic user controls may in addition or alternatively comprise other, dynamic, controls for the music / video player such as a slider for scrolling through the track (where the visually static controls are the controls for stop, play, pause, skip, etc.). Similarly for gaming, the visually static user input controls may provide the standard user input functionality (e.g. left, right, jump) and the dynamic user input controls may provide user input functionality that is only available at certain points in the game or for which the visual representation changes frequently (e.g. where the control displays the number of lives or bullets that a user has left).
The patent continues that they e-paper screen would be touch sensitive, rigid, removable and act as a cover, seemingly a good description of a Surface Touch Cover.
The patent was filed internationally in September 2016, and it is not clear of the idea is just a flight of fancy or will result in an actual user interface innovation. Hopefully, Apple’s Touch Bar will inspire Microsoft to the latter.
The full patent can be seen here.