updated 12:07 pm EST, Tue December 24, 2013
Hover system would mimic Samsung devices
The US Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple two new patents. The first, Touch and hover signal drift compensation, documents a display panel which can register both touch inputs and someone "hovering" a finger or stylus over a part of the screen. Different versions of the same concept are already in shipping products; the best known example may be Samsung's S Pen, which will do things like trigger a preview image when hovering over a video timeline.
Like competing ideas, Apple's technology would detect electrical fields beyond the surface of the touch panel. It also addresses potential problems, for instance by implementing a system to ignore accidental inputs, and regularly resetting the baseline capacitance of the panel to cope with environmental and mechanical changes. Palm detection is already in iOS, having been added last year for the introduction of the first-generation iPad mini.
The second patent is titled Seamlessly embedded heart rate monitor. By taking EKG ratings, Apple suggests that it should be possible to authenticate a device user or gauge their mood. The monitor would use sensors embedded into metallic conductive sections of a device's housing, possibly in the bezels. While Apple has so far chosen fingerprints for biometric security, the company will likely implement some sort of heart rate monitor in the iWatch.