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Apple patenting multi-touch for whole hand?

updated 12:30 pm EST, Thu November 22, 2007

Apple Multi-Touch

Apple may extend the multi-touch technology found in its iPhone and iPod touch to larger displays by implementing new inventions which allow users to use different parts of their hand as well as use different presses to trigger certain actions, according to three patent filings published today. Comprising a patent for a sensor arrangement that addresses different parts of the hand as well as accompanying patents for conductors and sensors, the development relies on an array of improved capacitive sensors that can not only detect the proximity of hand contact but also determine which part of the hand is in use by the surface area. The system is also sensitive to pressure across multiple areas, Apple says.

These advances would allow a computer or other device to perform extra actions beyond the simple taps and dragging motions used today, the patents note. The sensors can recognize when users' palms are on the surface, suggesting that users are ready to type or alternately resting their hands. Sliding motions with fingers are more accurate under the new system, and combining multiple pressure points lets the interface recognize whether the user is making a tilting or rolling gesture.

Moreover, the control method is explicitly tailored to allow curved and otherwise more ergonomic surfaces: a keyboard could feature a gentle slope and integrate a palm rest that can still function as an active surface when necessary. It can even recognize abstract gestures from the inside of a finger for holding physical control props, such as a stylus.

Apple is not compelled to use the patents in future products, which were first filed a month after the iPhone's debut this year. However, the company notes that the inventions do not have to be used with displays and can alternately be used for keyboards, trackpads, and other opaque control surfaces.

by MacNN Staff



  1. JohnnyFive

    Joined: Dec 1969



    is this kind of like microsoft's surface?

  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: surface

    Is it? Isn't surface just a big touch screen? Isn't this more about the gestures.

    Regardless, I'll be the first to say it: it's more like Minority Report.

  1. boomer0127

    Joined: Dec 1969


    time to invest in...

    ...screen cleaner stock

  1. danviento

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Just think of

    the movie Click. I've had this idea to make a large touchscreen meant for finger tactile use every since seeing the scene where Sandler is the aged architect talking to his son and ignoring his father. A system like that would make every architect's design and drafting life a whole lot more intuitive.

    It used to be just a laser response grid embeded in the bezel that detected when something broke the grid, but multitouch could do so much more. Yes, it may be years in the future before we see a more organic, large-scale touch screen, but this is the kind of interface that could change the interface as much as when Apple introduced and popularized the mouse way back when.

    For now, one can only dream.

    Interestingly enough, I know of flight simulators that our military uses that integrate 30" Apple displays with the laser grid for the touchscreen heads-down display. As much as those cost, I imagine the first builds of a multitouch screen of such dimensions are going to be ridiculous. Just remember, there is definitely a market out there for this stuff. What do you see the possible mass production start of such products being? 5 years? 10?

    If MacNN wants to do an analysis on rumors, this is one I'd be interested in.

  1. Faceplant

    Joined: Dec 1969


    In case you are wondering

    The future of laptops will look like this: Take a normal laptop. Remove the screen. Remove the disc drive and hard drive. Remove all ports. Remove the keyboard. So far, so good? OK, now add a touch sensitive screen like the iPhone and a keyboard will pop up only when needed, otherwise all things will be done with a touch sensitive interface. The insides will be totally motion free, using flash memory. The ports will all be wireless and the power cord will be similar to now, just sealed. Now, you have something like an iPhone, bigger like a laptop and able to be used outdoors and even in the rain, not just in a sterile office. This touch sensitive keyboard can be sized like things can be on an iPhone, and it can be rotated so it can be used in the wide format as well as tall. Have you ever wished you had a screen on your laptop that was tall enough to accomodate a whole web page without scrolling up and down? There is always wasted room on the sides, but not now! This is a cool idea, and I think in some ways, Apple is inching toward this. I think someday, sooner rather than later, we are going to laugh at our current laptops.

  1. Terrin

    Joined: Dec 1969



    faceplant, you may be right, but I hope you are wrong. Typing on a touch screen is not very productive. Touch typists need the physical keys to find their way around.

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