The iPhone could one day come with buttons and controls that blend right into the background, effectively making them invisible.
Granted to Apple on Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a patent dubbed "Disappearing button or slider" describes how various controls on the iPhone and other devices would normally stay hidden and fully appear only when needed.
A button would be made of the same material as the housing of the phone, so it would blend in seamlessly. But it could be selectively backlit through small holes to pinpoint its location, or the backlight itself might be activated when you tap the button. The button could also be activated if it senses the motion of your finger or detects heat or sound.
A slider control would operate under the same principles, remaining invisible most of the time and popping up only when activated.
The patent also describes other types of devices that could sport these invisible controls, including a laptop and a game console. On a laptop, a certain touch-screen control could become visible when a DVD is placed into the drive or a camera is inserted into a USB port. Such controls would allow you to operate the DVD or camera and then disappear when no longer needed.
(Via Patently Apple)