In the previous post we have established all the desired traits of the ideal screen layout, and how it’s impossible to meet them all simultaneously. The only solution is to design a mechanism allowing us to convert between two different configurations, each designed to provide the traits desirable for its corresponding condition.
- Closed: the travel configuration.
- Compact: We want to be able to lug this around without too much worry of catching on things, so the screen should align with the rest of the case (vertical or portrait orientation.)
- Protected: To protect the screen, it should be facing inward so the glass surface is less vulnerable to damage.
- Open: the computing configuration
- Landscape: Unlike phones and tablets, desktop computer applications are not designed for the possibility of vertical/portrait orientation, so the screen needs to be in horizontal/landscape orientation.
- Ergonomic: Unlike laptop screens that sit at table height, we can turn our extra heft into an advantage as support to hold the screen up to eye height. Ergonomically superior to the tabletop height of laptop screens.
To transition between these two states, we need movement along at least two axis:
- Flip: The screen needs to move from facing inward (protected) to facing outward (visible)
- Rotate: The screen needs to move from vertical/portrait orientation to horizontal/landscape orientation.
My ideal was to devise a mechanism that can execute both of these movements in parallel, so the user sees a single continuous movement from one configuration to another. After quite some thought and experimentation without success, I decided to postpone this ideal for later. For now, I’ll implement a hinge that has two separate degrees of freedom so the two desired axis of movement can be accommodated.
Originally the open configuration would have the screen up and centered relative to the rest of the body, and I had a few overly complex mechanical linkages attempting to make this happen. But then I realized it isn’t really necessary: the body has enough heft to hold up the screen even if it is not centered left-right. If we accept that the screen can be offset to the left, the rotation axis becomes a very simple hinge, leaving plenty of room to implement the flip axis.
This “ah-ha!” moment of realization, letting the screen be offset, greatly simplified the design. With the side bonus of reliability as simpler designs tend to be more reliable.
In the back of my mind, I will continue to dream of a continuous single degree-of-freedom unambiguous movement between open and closed. Maybe I’ll have another “Ah-ha!” moment to make it happen. I’m happy with this as the first draft.