Technology

Apple Files Patent For Smart Mirrors Using Mac And iPad Screens

Apple Smart Mirrors Patent
Image source: uspto.gov

Apple is reportedly considering the possibility of making Mac and iPad screens that function as smart mirrors — potentially adding a new way to integrate Apple products into the home.

Apple Smart Mirrors

The devices would employ Mac and iPad screens that could switch to a mirror at will, effectively creating smart mirrors that would offer users utility in multiple ways.

It’s important to note that Apple hasn’t announced anything regarding smart mirrors in development, but the information seems pretty reliable as it comes from a patent application for an “Electronic Device with Adjustable Reflective Display,” that was published on Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Essentially, this patent describes using something similar to Mac and iPad screens in order to create smart mirrors. This mirrors have an extra layer added to the display assembly, and it sits above the pixel array that is used to create the image seen by the user.

This layer may consist of both linear and reflective polarizers, a liquid crystal layer to be used for managing the level of polarization, as well as a switchable polarizer that employs both liquid crystal and dichroic dye molecules. This patent is more like a proof of concept at this point, but if it ends up working correctly the layer would be able to switch between letting the light from the array through to the user and preventing the light while reflecting ambient light at the other extreme.

Apple is considering the possibility of producing devices that have a screen with adjustable reflectiveness, one that could potentially switch between displaying information to the user and acting as a mirror.

The patent filing for the smart mirrors describes the Mac and iPad screens as adjustable to show images and other content like a usual display on one part of the screen while keeping other areas of the mirror reflective— essentially allowing the mirror to play double duty by reflecting and displaying information at the same time.

The mirror will apparently be pretty high tech, and parts of the patent describe how the user would interact with the mirror as a display, such as the use of head-tracking, gaze-tracking, facial recognition, and hand gesture. The mirror may also include a camera and other sensors in order to track these inputs and respond as needed. A user may be able to look at a notification icon for a certain period of time which could then trigger the appropriate information to pop up on the screen.

Potential Applications

We’re not exactly sure how this new technology that leverages Mac and iPad screens will fit into the apple ecosystem, but it’s possible for those applications that the usage could be more aesthetic rather than functional. Having your iPhone or iPad turn into a mirror when not in use rather than switch to a black screen would certainly provide a bit of an upgrade in terms of design.

There’s also a possibility that these mirrors will be used in a way completely separate from the current ecosystem, such as a whole new product line entirely or the addition of this new technology to commercial applications like kiosks or product displays.

Another aspect worthy of note is that Apple applies for patents nearly on a weekly basis, and a large number of these concepts never make it to market. It’s possible that we may never see smart mirrors released into the wild, but it’s certainly a product that many are starting to get excited about.