By Dana Wollman
Don’t you hate it when the guy next to you on the subway is looking over your shoulder, watching you screw up in Fruit Ninja? Well, Apple could have predicted your discomfort — back in November 2009, before the iPad was anything more than a unicorn, the company applied for a patent on an LCD display with adjustable viewing angles, explicitly designed to “shield the display away from unintended viewers.” According to the filing, the display would include steering modules made of liquid crystal material, which aim the so-called scattering modules that sit on top of them. The top layer then redirects the light, making it possible to narrow down and alter the viewing angle. The patent specifically calls out cellphones and laptops, paving the way for discreet displays on MacBooks and iPhones, though the broad phrase “other portable electronic devices” leaves plenty of room for iPads and iPod Touches. No word, of course, on when or if Apple will secure this patent and if so, what devices might incorporate such screens. We may just be seeing this concept go public now, but it seems consumers could use this even more today than they did back in the fall of ’09, when all they had to worry about was a stranger squinting at their 3GS’ 3.5-inch screen.