With the Nintendo NX hardware due to be revealed in 2016, the web's going into overdrive looking for clues and pointers to the hardware's form. A recent spot highlighted an intriguing 'supplemental computing device' that would use the Cloud for processing; now we see the return of 'free-form' screen technology in a relatively recent patent.

Way back in late 2014 reports emerged of Nintendo and Sharp apparently negotiating terms for the big N to use free-form screen technology on a product that'd start production in early 2016; as we now know that'll likely be the period when Nintendo's new hardware begins manufacturing. These are LCD screens that can be manipulated and shaped courtesy of a 'bendable bezel', which also allows for shapes and gaps within the screen itself. As a potential material for a portable it has obvious potential.

Now a patent published in October this year has been unearthed which names various Nintendo staff and researchers as the 'inventors'. As you can see below, it's an elliptical screen with two holes through which control sticks are utilised.

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A non-limiting example information processing apparatus comprises a housing, and a first portion of the housing is formed in an elliptical form when viewing from the front. A display panel and a touch panel constitute one main surface of the first portion. Holes are formed in left and right end portions of the display panel and the touch panel, and two operation sticks are provided through the two holes. When viewing the first portion from the front, an area except key tops of the operation sticks becomes a display area.

As you can see in the image below this design has a card slot in the top, which in the patent is described as applicable for "various kinds of card storage media such as a game cartridge, an SD card, a SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card, etc".

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This design is full of tricks; the key concept is around the screen displaying fully across the full real estate, so there'd therefore be visuals around the sticks themselves, clearly a big change from convention with portables. Two shoulder buttons and the sticks are the only obvious physical inputs, with virtual buttons and touch prompts being utilised in various conceptual ways. The patent also states that motion control such as tilting can be utilised, in addition to stereoscopic 3D screen technology - like that of the 3DS and New 3DS - being usable.

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As always patents don't always guarantee something will happen, nor do they always represent the form products can take. The timing of this one, however, is sure to prompt thoughts that this technology and approach could be part of Nintendo's NX hardware. Time will tell on that.

What do you think of this concept? Is it exciting, worrying, or are you unsure what to think? Hit up the comments and let us know.

[source freepatentsonline.com, via neogaf.com]