updated 10:03 am EDT, Tue March 26, 2013
Reissued patent builds computer into pen
Apple has won a US patent on a multi-touch interface that works even when a display is blank, notes AppleInsider. Titled Playback control using a touch interface, the patent documents using gestures such as a single tap for play/pause and a double-tap to skip tracks, up through more complex gestures such as a triple-tap-and-hold to rewind, and clockwise or counterclockwise motions to change volume. Diagrams depict a sixth-generation iPod nano; Apple comments that using such gestures allow a device to save power, save space on physical buttons, and work even if the screen is facing away from a user.
Significantly, UI elements can still briefly appear onscreen in response to gestures, for instance showing the volume slider when a circular motion is made. The patent was originally submitted in 2009.
Apple has also been reissued a US patent on computer housed in a pen. The patent dates back to 1998, and was originally owned by a firm called British Telecommunications PLC. On a basic level it describes a device with accelerometers to recognize handwriting, plus a built-in display, and a touch strip and buttons for GUI control. The display can be locked in portrait or landscape mode, and a proximity sensor can automatically scale font sizes, or flip images based on what hand the pen is in. Voice recognition could be used to convert speech to text, or vice versa.
The patent was transferred to Apple in 2008, but has now been updated with references to cellular and/or GPS receivers. It's not clear why Apple would update the patent, since it was originally conceived as an alternative to palmtop computers, which have been made obsolete in part by Apple's own iPhone and iPad, and by extension other smartphones and tablets.