updated 07:35 pm EDT, Thu October 1, 2009
Tech utilizes positions and movement of full hand
Amid the growing rumors surrounding an Apple tablet, a patent has surfaced that involves hand gestures on a touchscreen much larger than the iPhone display. The technology, labeled as "Contact Tracking and Identification Module for Touch Sensing," appears to be an extension of the current Multi-Touch system, but integrates elements from two hands instead of several fingers.
Along with the typing, pointing and scrolling functions, the patent also describes methods for 3D manipulation and handwriting. The authors go into great detail pointing out the limitations of current input systems.
"Common graphical user interface operations such as finding and manipulating a scroll bar or slider control are much less efficient than specialized finger motions which cause scrolling directly, without the step of repositioning the cursor over an on-screen control," the filing reads. "Preferably the graphical manipulation channels should be distributed amongst many finger and hand motion combinations to spread the workload."
The patent outlines methods for detecting dimensions of individual hands, serving to distinguish a particular user from another. Sensors would detect the proximity of an entire flattened hand, recognizing all four fingers, the thumb, palms, and any other conductive surfaces. "In a preferred embodiment, the surface is large enough to comfortably accommodate both hands," the description reads.
A finger synchronization detector could also determine if the hand is gripping a pen, while the typing recognizer module responds to quick presses and releases of each finger. The inventors also mention a system for providing tactile key or hand position feedback without interfering with movement across the smooth surface. Users would be able to rest their hand on a keyboard for a few seconds without initiating any key entry, while going back to typing motion resumes input.
A previous filing described several more elements potentially useful in a tablet device. A "virtual knob" would work as a scrollwheel or volume control, while a clicking sound and haptic vibration could provide feedback for each increment. Another description relates to basic control elements from Mac OS X.
A wide range of rumors claim that Apple will be launching a tablet sometime next year. The device is said to be the focus of Steve Jobs' attention following his return from a liver transplant. The company also rehired Michael Tchao, a key developer of the Newton tablet that never came to fruition. [via AppleInsider]