toggle

AAPL Stock: 94.72 ( + 0.78 )

Printed from http://www.macnn.com

Apple touchscreen patent to raise bar

updated 10:00 am EST, Thu November 16, 2006

Apple touchscreen patent

The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office today published a revolutionary Apple patent application titled 'mechanical overlay,' which depicts a new touchscreen technology that can serve as a keyboard, audio mixer, iPod clickwheel, and much more. The patent reveals potential plans for Apple to revolutionize its computing and iPod usage experience, replacing traditional keyboards and clickwheels with touchscreens displaying programmable images while accepting touch-sensitive input. The patent describes, among other details, a 'multipoint touch method' that receives multiple touches on the surface of the touchscreen, coupled with tactile as well as audio feedback of touches. Written and researched by Neo.

Patent details

The invention pertains to overlays for touch sensing devices. More particularly, the invention pertains to mechanical overlays that include one or more mechanical actuators that provide touch inputs to the touch sensing devices. By way of example, the mechanical actuators may be buttons, keys, sliders, dials, wheels, switches, joysticks, navigation pads, etc. In one embodiment, the mechanical overlay includes a plurality of mechanical actuators so as to provide a control panel or control console to a host device. In fact, the touch sensing devices may be multi-touch sensing devices that have the ability to sense multiple inputs from multiple mechanical actuators at the same time. In another embodiment, the mechanical overlay includes an identification feature that is capable of being sensed by the touch sensing device. When identified, the touch sensing device may configure itself or the host system based on the identified mechanical overlay.



Input Control Device

Patent FIG. 1 is a diagram of an input control device 10, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The input control device 10 is configured to provide various inputs to a host computing device (not shown). The input control device 10 includes a touch sensing input device 12 having a touch sensitive surface 14, and a removable mechanical overlay 16 that is disposed over at least a portion of the touch sensitive surface 14 of the touch sensing input device 12.

The touch sensing input device 12 is configured to detect touches on the touch sensitive surface 14. The touch sensing device 12 reports the touches to the host computing device and the host computing device interprets the touches in accordance with its programming. For example, the host computing device may initiate a task in accordance with a particular touch. Alternatively, the touches may be processed locally at the touch input device 12 so as to reduce demand on the host computing device. The touch sensing input device 12 may for example correspond to touch pads, touch screens, or touch sensitive housings.

The Mechanical Overlay

The mechanical overlay 16 is configured to interface with the touch input device 12 so as to produce an input mechanism with particular set of fixed mechanical inputs. The touch sensing input device 12 is capable of sensing the mechanical inputs provided by the mechanical overlay 16 and causing the host computing device to respond to those inputs. The inputs of the mechanical overlay 16 may be assignable or they may be configured for a particular application of the host computing device. For example, the mechanical overlay 16 may transform the touch sensing input device 12 into a control console or panel with particular set of fixed mechanical inputs associated with a particular application of the host computing device.

A user can have several different mechanical overlays 16, each one with controls for a specific application. For example, the user may have one mechanical overlay for video editing, another one for sound editing, another one for gaming, another one for data entry, another one for navigation, etc. The user can simply remove and insert a new mechanical overlay depending on their needs. In essence, different overlays can be designed for different applications of the host computing system.

The input control device 10 may be a stand alone device or it may be integrated with the host computing device. In stand alone devices, the touch sensing device 12 includes its own shell and is connected to the host computing device via cables or wireless connections (e.g., touch tablet). By way of example, the touch sensing device may be a tablet sized touch pad. In integrated devices, the touch sensing device 12 is built into the shell of the host computing device. The host computing device may be a special purpose computing device or a general purpose computing device. By way of example, the host computing device may be a computer such as a PC, laptop, or tablet PC, or a handheld electronic device such as a PDA, cell phone, media player, remote control, or GPS receiver. Alternatively, the touch sensing device 12 may be built into other input devices such as keyboards or output devices such as printers.



In some cases, the mechanical actuators 18 are configured to provide tactile feedback and audio feedback similarly to conventional actuators (e.g., clicks). In the case of sliders or dials, mechanical detents may be used. In the case of mechanical buttons and switches click force curves may be used. In other cases, the tactile and audio feedback may be supplied by a haptics system (e.g., speakers, solenoids, motors, piezo actuators, vibrators, etc.) located within the housing that surrounds the touch sensing input device.
As shown in FIG. 2 [above], the touch sensing input device 12 is broken up into different sensing zones 28 associated with particular mechanical actuators 18. By way of example, a slider 18A can be implemented by configuring the driver software to sense movement of a contact point along an axis. A button 18C can be implemented by configuring the driver software to sense contact at a particular point. A dial 18B can be implemented by configuring the driver software to sense movement of a contact point about an axis. The system is typically designed to configure the zones 28 according to the particular mechanical overlay 16.

Multipoint Touch Method

FIG. 10 is a multipoint touch method 400, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The method 400 generally begins at block 402 where multiple touches are received on the surface of the touch sensing input device at the same time. This may, for example, be accomplished by multiple mechanical actuators. Following block 402, the process flow proceeds to block 404 where each of the multiple touches is separately recognized by the touch sensing input device. This may, for example, be accomplished by multipoint capacitance sensors located within the touch sensing device. Following block 404, the process flow proceeds to block 406 where the touch data based on multiple touches is reported. The touch data may, for example, be reported to a host computing device.



Computer System Block Diagram

Patent FIG. 11 is a block diagram of a computer system 500 in accordance with one embodiment of the invention. The computer system 500 may correspond to personal computer systems such as desktops, laptops, tablets or handhelds. By way of example, the computer system 500 may correspond to any Apple or PC based computer system. The computer system may also correspond to public computer systems such as information kiosks, automated teller machines (ATM), point of sale machines (POS), industrial machines, gaming machines, arcade machines, vending machines, airline e-ticket terminals, restaurant reservation terminals, customer service stations, library terminals, learning devices, and the like.



MacBooks to Receive Next-Gen Variable Touchpad

Patent FIG. 12 illustrates an embodiment where the touch sensing input device is a touch pad 600 built into a laptop computer 602. As shown, a mechanical overlay 604 is configured for placement over the touchpad 600, which is located on the base 606 of the laptop computer 602. In some cases, the base 608 of the mechanical overlay 604 is sized to coincide with the touch pad 600 so that the mechanical overlay 604 covers the entire touch pad 600. In other cases, the mechanical overlay 604 is sized to be smaller than the size of the touch pad 600 so that a portion of the touch pad 600 can still be used conventionally. In either case, because the size of the touch pad 600 is typically small, the mechanical overlay 604 typically includes a limited number of mechanical actuators 610.



In one implementation, the mechanical overlay 604A includes one or more buttons 610A that only cover a portion of the touch pad 600. The mechanical overlay 604A can therefore eliminate the need of the conventional buttons that typically accompany the touchpad 600. This also allows the touch pad size to increase as well as gives the user the ability to select the desired button layout (one button, two buttons, etc). As should be appreciated, in conventional laptops, the buttons associated with the touch made are fixed and cannot be configured differently. In another implementation, the mechanical overlay 604B includes a horizontal scroll wheel 610B and one or more buttons 610B'. The scroll wheel 610B allows a user to easily scroll through data by a simple swirling their finger, and the buttons 610B' allow a user to make selections and issue commands. In another implementation, the mechanical overlay 604C includes a joystick 610C and one or more buttons 610C'. This implementation may be well suited for gaming. In yet another implementation, the mechanical overlay 604D may include a numeric key pad 610D. As should be appreciated, most laptop computers do not include a numeric keypad, and thus the mechanical overlay 610D can be used to expand the functionality of the laptop computer 602.

It should be noted that the above mentioned implementations are not a limitation, but rather several embodiments of a mechanical overlay that can be used with a laptop computer. It should also be noted that these embodiments are not limited to laptop computers and can be used with other computing devices. For example, these may work well in handheld computing devices.

Say Bye-Bye to Conventional Notebook Keypads

Patent FIGS. 13A and 13B illustrate embodiments where the touch sensing input device is a touch sensitive housing member 620 located on the top surface of the base 606 of the laptop computer 602. In FIG. 13A, the laptop 602 does not include a conventional fixed keyboard, and instead a substantial portion of the top surface of the base 606 is touch sensitive. In FIG. 13B, the laptop 602 does include the fixed conventional keyboard 622 and only the palm rest portion 624 of the top surface of the base 606 is touch sensitive. In either case, because of the large size of the touch surface, the mechanical overlay 630 can include a vast number of mechanical actuators 632.



In one implementation, the mechanical overlay 630A is designed as a data entry keyboard with a plurality of keys 632A. This works well in the embodiment of FIG. 13A where the mechanical overlay 630 can be applied to the touch sensitive surface either at its conventional location at the upper portion, or somewhere else depending on the users needs. In another implementation, the mechanical overlay 630B is designed as a piano keyboard with a plurality of piano keys 632B. In yet another implementation, the mechanical overlay 630C is designed as a media mixing console having a plurality of sliders, buttons, switches and dials 632C. In some cases, the dials may be a media mixing jog shuttle that includes an outer wheel for providing coarse control and an inner wheel for providing fine control. The outer wheel may be spring biased to an initial position such that when the user stops using it, it snaps back to the initial position. As should be appreciated, both the inner and outer wheels include an element for interfacing with the touch surface, and the system is configured to recognize the motion of the elements as different touch events.

Although only large mechanical overlays are described in the embodiment of FIGS. 13A and 13B, it should be noted that this is not a limitation and that smaller mechanical overlays may be used. For example, the mechanical overlays mentioned in FIG. 12 may be used in the embodiment of FIGS. 13A and 13B. In fact, a plurality of smaller mechanical overlays can be placed on the large touch surface to produce a customized user interface for the user, i.e., the user can select the desired overlays and their arrangement on the touch surface.

Creative Tablet PC Applications

Patent FIG. 14 illustrates an embodiment where a touch sensing input device 640 is positioned in a tablet device 642 such as a stand alone tablet touch input device with a large touch pad or a tablet PC that includes a touch screen display. In either case, a substantial portion of the top surface of the tablet device 642 is touch sensitive, and therefore the mechanical overlays 644 can include a vast number of mechanical actuators 646. Similar to the embodiments described above, the mechanical overlay 644 can be designed as a keyboard, piano or media mixing controls. It should be noted, however, that in the case of touch screen displays, the mechanical overlay 644 typically is configured to cover only a portion of the touch surface or alternatively use a cut out 648 so that a portion of the touch screen display is viewable to the user. For example, the mechanical overlay 644 may only be configured to cover the bottom half of the touch surface. This works particularly well for keyboards.



Touchscreens for Handhelds

Patent FIG. 15 illustrates an embodiment where the touch sensing input device 650 is built into a handheld electronic device 652. The touch sensing device 650 can be a touch pad, touch screen and/or touch sensitive housing. The touch sensing device 650 can be located on the on any side of the handheld electronic device 652 including for example the front, back, top, bottom, right side and/or left side. Furthermore, they can be configured to take up any amount of real estate including large (e.g., an entire side or sides) or small (e.g., a portion of a side). In one embodiment, the touch sensing device 650 is a touch pad that is positioned in the lower front of the handheld electronic device thereby leaving the upper front of the hand held electronic device for a display. In another embodiment, the touch sensing device 650 is a touch screen positioned in front of a full screen display on the front side of the hand held device. In another embodiment, the touch sensing device 650 is a touch sensitive housing of the handheld device 652.



In handheld devices, the mechanical overlay 654 may be configured as a substantially planar overlay 654 that covers the touch surface or it may be configured as a skin 655 that is slipped over a substantial portion of the handheld device 652. The skin 655 may include mechanical actuators 656 on any of its surfaces so as to interface with one or more touch sensing devices located on the many surfaces of the handheld device. For example, the mechanical actuators 656 of the skin can 655 be located on the on any side of the skin 655 including for example the front, back, top, bottom, right side and/or left side. Skins 655 with actuators 656 located on different sides works particularly well with touch sensitive housings that cover a substantial portion of the handheld device. In cases where the handheld device includes a display, the skin 655 may be formed from a transparent material and include a window portion for viewing a display 658. Alternatively, the skin 655 may be formed with an opaque material and include a transparent window or an opening 657 for viewing the display 658.

Cellular phones and media players are examples of hand-held devices that can be operated solely with one hand. In the case of a cell phone, for example, a user may grasp the phone in one hand between the fingers and the palm and use the thumb to make entries using keys, buttons or a joy pad. In two-handed operation, one hand is used to support the device while the other hand performs operations with a user interface during use or alternatively both hands support the device as well as perform operations during use. PDA's and game players are examples of hand-held device that are typically operated with two hands. In the case of the PDA, for example, the user may grasp the device with one hand and make entries using the other hand. In the case of the game player, the user typically grasps the device in both hands and make entries using either or both hands while holding the device.

In one embodiment, the handheld device 652 is a multifunctional hand held device, and each of the various mechanical overlays 654 or skins 655, which are configured for placement over the touch sensing device 650, corresponds to a different functionality of the multifunctional handheld device. The multi-functional hand-held device integrates the hardware and software of at least two devices into a single device. The multi-functional device may, for example, include at least two or more of the following device functionalities: PDA, Cell Phone, Music Player, Video Player, Game Player, Camera, Handtop, Internet terminal, or remote control.

Examples of Mechanical Overlays

Apple's patent provides several examples of mechanical overlays that may be placed on a multi-functional device. The mechanical overlays may be placed over a touch pad, touch screen or touch sensitive housing.



PDA: Patent FIG. 16A is a diagram of a mechanical overlay 654A for PDA operations. As shown, the mechanical overlay 654A includes four application buttons 660 and a navigation pad 662.

Cell Phone: Patent FIG. 16B is a diagram of a mechanical overlay 654B for cell phone operations. As shown, the cell phone overlay 654B includes a keypad 664, a navigation pad 665 and two buttons 668 and 670.

Apple's iPod: Patent FIG. 16C is a diagram of a mechanical overlay 654C for a Music Player operations. As shown, the mechanical overlay 654C includes a horizontal scroll wheel 672 and five buttons, four periphery buttons 674 and one center button 676. The scroll wheel 672 allows a user to scroll through song lists via rotation of the mechanical scroll wheel, the periphery buttons 674 allow user to select previous or next, play/pause or go back to the main menu, and the center button 676 allows a user to make selections.

Game Player: Patent FIG. 16D is a diagram of a mechanical overlay 654D for Game Player operations. As shown, the mechanical overlay 654D is divided into two control regions 680 and 682. In the case of a touch screen display, a window may be placed between the control regions. The left control region 680 includes a directional pad 684, and the right control region 682 includes four command buttons 686 (or vice versa).

Handtop: Patent FIG. 16E is a diagram of a mechanical overlay 654E for handtop operations. As shown, the mechanical overlay 654E includes a miniaturized keyboard 688.

Remote Control: Patent FIG. 16F is a diagram of a mechanical overlay 654F for remote control operations. As shown, the mechanical overlay 654F includes various buttons 690 for controlling remote devices such as a TV, DVD player, A/V amplifier, VHS, CD player, etc.

The sole inventor listed on patent application number 20060256090 is Brian Q. Huppi.




by MacNN Staff

POST TOOLS:

TAGS :

toggle

Comments

  1. GORDYmac

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Completely out the box...

    That's what keeps Apple ahead of the pack in UI design. This is a great idea, and I look forward to Apple's implementation.

  1. jasong

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Cool

    Probably years away, but very interesting. I wonder how the joystick overlay would work though, given the rough, jerky movements it must absorb while not flying off the trackpad. The other options look quite doable though.

  1. bobolicious

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Steve's been watching...

    ...Star Trek again... ;-)

  1. Faceplant

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    My only hope...

    ...Is that it's snappy. I did a search for derivitaves of the word snap and did not find any. Let's hope they add into thier code.

  1. dwishbone

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    brilliant

    gotta say...this is pretty much a brilliant idea. surprised noone has done it sooner.

  1. dynsight

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Awesome

    This is truly wonderful and I cannot wait to play with it. It sort of does remind me of those kids toys (Q&A etc) where you place a different template over an electronic device. Of course, these templates make the device behave differently.

    does this mean that I can use my iPod as a remote for my Mac Mini media center? :)

  1. rbsandka

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Leap Pad

    dynsight beat me to the punch. The more I read through this patent, the more I kept thinking of my sons LeapPad. I think it it is a great idea, but I feel like the fundamental nature of this patent has already been covered (ie a touch sensitive device that accepts different overlay devices). I would be surprised to see this patent awarded. Then again, I don't know anything about patent awards, so...

  1. Beechlady

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Stellar Sightings...

    This reminds me of "Minority Reports'" touch screen interfaces. I hope it's that elegant! Alas (way down the road), it's another thing Bill Gates can degrade and chop into bits for "market share"......

    But in the interim, GO APPLE, GO!

  1. psdenno

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    Wonderful?

    While it's all kind of 'gee whiz' at this point, consider having to carry not only your laptop, but also another bag for all the mechanical accessories like a joy stick, keyboard, or mixer board. The mechanical overlays would certainly suck the "smallness" away from the iPod. The concept is probably better applied to a work center or entertainment center computer where portability wasn't a factor. In that case, power on!

  1. OtisWild

    Joined: Dec 1969

    0

    Not original....

    ... The Sony P800 had this with its detachable keypad, which would merely actuate the underlying digital "buttons" on the phone's touchscreen. I found it a nuisance on mine (I was always afraid that having it attached would leave little divots on the underlying screen) and I removed it shortly after.

    I like the dynamic stuff (k****, sliders, piano keys) but I'm sure they have to reference whatever SonyEricsson did (or what they referenced)..

Login Here

Not a member of the MacNN forums? Register now for free.

toggle

Network Headlines

toggle

Most Popular

MacNN Sponsor

Recent Reviews

Razer Kraken Pro headset

Gaming headphones are a challenge to get right, for a long list of reasons that are unique to the consumer buying them. Some shoppers ...

Patriot Aero Wireless Mobile Drive

Regardless of how large a tablet you buy, you always want more space. There's always one more movie or another album you'd cram on, ...

Patriot Fuel+ 6000 and 9000mAh batteries

Mobile device batteries are better than they used to be, but there's always a scenario where users could use more juice. Upgrade manu ...

toggle

Most Commented