The company is envisioning a device that uses a “shape memory polymer” instead of glass, which may be able to reshape itself and return to the original composition by applying heat to a scratched area.
The phone in question would generate the heat by itself, and enter a low-power mode to begin the process — which, Motorola envisions, could be manually kickstarted by the user via a built-in app.
The technology would allow the device to analyse the display’s structure, spot anomalies, and slowly use heat to modify the scraped area by remolding it in a way as close as possible to the original.
The process could be lengthy, so the patent mentions that it could be done overnight while the phone is cradled inside a specially-designed dock. That would give the phone the necessary power for its heat-creating components to keep working without risking that the phone runs out of juice.
This doesn’t mean that such a device would be able to self-repair a broken screen, but rather iron out small scratches and minor cuts that may occur when your phone is inside your pocket alongside a pair of keys, for instance.
Motorola already offers shatterproof displays with its Moto Z Force lineup of phones, which offer a much increased durability over regular front panels.
LG, too, made a foray into self-healing smartphones back in 2013, when it launched the LG G Flex in Korea. That device had a plastic coating on the back that worked very similarly to Motorola’s device, although its screen was made out of traditional glass.