Microsoft has now filed a patent, under U.S. Patent Number US 10,015,442 B1, that outlines a new method for improving three-way video on devices with multiple screens. To illustrate that, the software giant imagines a handset or "mobile computing device" that ships with two screens folding on a hinge. A camera resides just above each of the screens. To begin with, an algorithm is utilized to determine whether conditions are met to implement the method – whether or not compatible hardware is being used. Then, incoming feeds from users participating in the video call are split between the two screens. For example, in a situation where three individuals are in the video conference, the user on the multi-screen device will see the second participant on the first screen and the third on the second screen. Based on the patent images, that will create a degree of separation between participants while still allowing users with a laptop, webcam, or single-screen and camera configuration to take part.
The design also allows for two users to engage in the video call on a single device. That's thanks to the inclusion of the two forward-facing cameras. Presumably, the method also allows for folding or hinged smartphones with a single camera but those with multiple front sensors in the above-mentioned configuration would obviously benefit the most. For those devices, the method uses both of the shooters and then effectively pushes each out on its own outgoing stream. In short, that means the first user is streamed using the first camera, while user two is relayed by the second sensor. The patent also shows the rear camera being used at the same time, allowing the user's surroundings to be shown alongside their face in a real-time video chat. For conference calls, that would enable multiple participants to get involved with just one small form factor portable device and for remote documenting or viewing of progress from a job site.
Of course, the patent doesn't appear to be intended to cover the device itself at all. However, it isn't unreasonable to expect that the company might have hardware in the works to take advantage of the method. In the meantime, Microsoft may intend for the patent to be used in its own video conferencing software – namely, Skype. That would make sense since the mobile and web applications are among those commonly used in enterprise environments for conducting business communications. Simultaneously, this type of feature may be useful for any user on Android since multi-screen and folding devices have begun to take priority for so many manufacturers.