On February 21, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a powerful series of Touch screen related patent applications from Apple Inc. respectfully titled Touch Sensing Architecture, Typing with a Touch Sensor, Writing using a Touch Sensor, Touch Sensing through Hand Dissection and Contact Tracking and Identification Module for Touch Sensing. Although all five applications share a common patent abstract and summary, the patents do in fact present their unique distinctive presentations in the second half of each of these patents. All five applications share a common set of 55 patent figures with one that clearly illustrates a full computer touch screen based keyboard in the works.
Apparatus and methods are disclosed for simultaneously tracking multiple finger and palm contacts as hands approach, touch, and slide across a proximity-sensing, multi-touch surface. Identification and classification of intuitive hand configurations and motions enables unprecedented integration of typing, resting, pointing, scrolling, 3D manipulation, and handwriting into a versatile, ergonomic computer input device.
Apple’s patent FIG. 1 is a system block diagram of the entire, integrated manual input apparatus. Sensor embedded in the multi-touch surface 2 detect proximity of entire flattened hands 4, fingertips thumbs, palms, and other conductive touch devices to the surface 2. In a preferred embodiment, the surface is large enough to comfortably accommodate both hands 4 and is arched to reduce forearm pronation.
In alternative embodiments the multi-touch surface 2 may be large enough to accommodate motion of one hand, but may be flexible so it can be fitted to an armrest or clothing.
Apple’s patent figure also clearly presents us with proof that Apple is working on a full touch sensitive keyboard for sometime in the future. The patent supports this by stating that “The typing recognition process described above thus allows the multi-touch surface to ergonomically emulate both the typing and hand resting capabilities of a standard mechanical keyboard.” You can’t get any clearer than that folks.
Apple’s Patent Summary
It is a primary object of the present invention to provide a system and method for integrating different types of manual input such as typing, multiple degree-of-freedom manipulation, and handwriting on a multi-touch surface.
It is also an object of the present invention to provide a system and method for distinguishing different types of manual input such as typing, multiple degree-of-freedom manipulation, and handwriting on a multi-touch surface, via different hand configurations which are easy for the user to learn and easy for the system to recognize.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide an improved capacitance-transducing apparatus that is cheaply implemented near each electrode so that two-dimensional sensor arrays of arbitrary size and resolution can be built without degradation in signal to noise.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide an electronic system which minimizes the number of sensing electrodes necessary to obtain proximity images with such resolution that a variety of hand configurations can be distinguished.
Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a multi-touch surface apparatus which is compliant and contoured to be comfortable and ergonomic under extended use.
Yet another object of the present invention is to provide tactile key or hand position feedback without impeding hand resting on the surface or smooth, accurate sliding across the surface.
It is a further object of the present invention to provide an electronic system which can provide images of flesh proximity to an array of sensors with such resolution that a variety of hand configurations can be distinguished.
It is another object of the present invention to provide an improved method for invoking cursor motion continuation only when the user wants it by not invoking it when significant deceleration is detected.
Another object of the present invention is to identify different hand parts as they contact the surface so that a variety of hand configurations can be recognized and used to distinguish different kinds of input activity.
Yet another object of the present invention is to reliably extract rotation and scaling as well as translation degrees of freedom from the motion of two or more hand contacts to aid in navigation and manipulation of two-dimensional electronic documents.
It is a further object of the present invention to reliably extract tilt and roll degrees of freedom from hand pressure differences to aid in navigation and manipulation of three-dimensional environments.
Additional objects and advantages of the invention will be set forth in part in the description which follows, and in part will be obvious from the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention. The objects and advantages of the invention will be realized and attained by means of the elements and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims.
To achieve the objects and in accordance with the purpose of the invention, as embodied and broadly described herein, the invention comprises a sensing device that is sensitive to changes in self-capacitance brought about by changes in proximity of a touch device to the sensing device, the sensing device comprising: two electrical switching means connected together in series having a common node, an input node, and an output node; a dielectric-covered sensing electrode connected to the common node between the two switching means; a power supply providing an approximately constant voltage connected to the input node of the series-connected switching means; an integrating capacitor to accumulate charge transferred during multiple consecutive switchings of the series connected switching means; another switching means connected in parallel across the integrating capacitor to deplete its residual charge; and a voltage-to-voltage translation device connected to the output node of the series-connected switching means which produces a voltage representing the magnitude of the self-capacitance of the sensing device. Alternatively, the sensing device comprises: two electrical switching means connected together in series having a common node, an input node, and an output node; a dielectric-covered sensing electrode connected to the common node between the two switching means; a power supply providing an approximately constant voltage connected to the input node of the series-connected switching means; and an integrating current-to-voltage translation device connected to the output node of the series connected switching means, the current-to-voltage translation device producing a voltage representing the magnitude of the self-capacitance of the sensing device.
To further achieve the objects, the present invention comprises a multi-touch surface apparatus for detecting a spatial arrangement of multiple touch devices on or near the surface of the multi-touch apparatus, comprising: one of a rigid or flexible surface; a plurality of two-dimensional arrays of one of the sensing devices (recited in the previous paragraph) arranged on the surface in groups wherein the sensing devices within a group have their output nodes connected together and share the same integrating capacitor, charge depletion switch, and voltage-to-voltage translation circuitry; control circuitry for enabling a single sensor device from each two-dimensional array; means for selecting the sensor voltage data from each two-dimensional array; voltage measurement circuitry to convert sensor voltage data to a digital code; and circuitry for communicating the digital code to another electronic device. The sensor voltage data selecting means comprises one of a multiplexing circuitry and a plurality of voltage measurement circuits.
To still further achieve the objects, the present invention comprises a multi-touch surface apparatus for sensing diverse configurations and activities of touch devices and generating integrated manual input to one of an electronic or electromechanical device, the apparatus comprising: an array of one of the proximity sensing devices described above; a dielectric cover having symbols printed thereon that represent action-to-be-taken when engaged by the touch devices; scanning means for forming digital proximity images from the array of sensing devices; calibrating means for removing background offsets from the proximity images; recognition means for interpreting the configurations and activities of the touch devices that make up the proximity images; processing means for generating input signals in response to particular touch device configurations and motions; and communication means for sending the input signals to the electronic or electromechanical device.
To even further achieve the objects, the present invention comprises a multi-touch surface apparatus for sensing diverse configurations and activities of fingers and palms of one or more hands near the surface and generating integrated manual input to one of an electronic or electromechanical device, the apparatus comprising: an array of proximity sensing means embedded in the surface; scanning means for forming digital proximity images from the proximities measured by the sensing means; image segmentation means for collecting into groups those proximity image pixels intensified by contact of the same distinguishable part of a hand; contact tracking means for parameterizing hand contact features and trajectories as the contacts move across successive proximity images, contact identification means for determining which hand and which part of the hand is causing each surface contact; synchronization detection means for identifying subsets of identified contacts which touchdown or liftoff the surface at approximately the same time, and for generating command signals in response to synchronous taps of multiple fingers on the surface; typing recognition means for generating intended key symbols from asynchronous finger taps; motion component extraction means for compressing multiple degrees of freedom of multiple fingers into degrees of freedom common in two and three dimensional graphical manipulation; chord motion recognition means for generating one of command and cursor manipulation signals in response to motion in one or more extracted degrees of freedom by a selected combination of fingers; pen grip detection means for recognizing contact arrangements which resemble the configuration of the hand when gripping a pen, generating inking signals from motions of the inner fingers, and generating cursor manipulation signals from motions of the palms while the inner fingers are lifted; and communication means for sending the sensed configurations and activities of finger and palms to one of the electronic and electromechanical device.
To further achieve the objects, the present invention comprises a method for tracking and identifying hand contacts in a sequence of proximity images in order to support interpretation of hand configurations and activities related to typing, multiple degree-of-freedom manipulation via chords, and handwriting, the method comprising the steps of: segmenting each proximity image into groups of electrodes which indicate significant proximity, each group representing proximity of a distinguishable hand part or other touch device; extracting total proximity, position, shape, size, and orientation parameters from each group of electrodes; tracking group paths through successive proximity images including detection of path endpoints at contact touchdown and liftoff; computing velocity and filtered position vectors along each path; assigning a hand and finger identity to each contact path by incorporating relative path positions and velocities, individual contact features, and previous estimates of hand and finger positions; and maintaining estimates of hand and finger positions from trajectories of paths currently assigned to the fingers, wherein the estimates provide high level feedback to bias segmentations and identifications in future images.
To still further achieve the objects, the present invention comprises a method for integrally extracting multiple degrees of freedom of hand motion from sliding motions of two or more fingers of a hand across a multi-touch surface, one of the fingers preferably being the opposable thumb, the method comprising the steps of: tracking across successive scans of the proximity sensor array the trajectories of individual hand parts on the surface; finding an innermost and an outermost finger contact from contacts identified as fingers on the given hand; computing a scaling velocity component from a change in a distance between the innermost and outermost finger contacts; computing a rotational velocity component from a change in a vector angle between the innermost and outermost finger contacts; computing a translation weighting for each contacting finger; computing translational velocity components in two dimensions from a translation weighted average of the finger velocities tangential to surface; suppressively filtering components whose speeds are consistently lower than the fastest components; transmitting the filtered velocity components as control signals to an electronic or electromechanical device.
To even further achieve the objects, the present invention comprises a manual input integration method for supporting diverse hand input activities such as resting the hands, typing, multiple degree-of-freedom manipulation, command gesturing and handwriting on a multi-touch surface, the method enabling users to instantaneously switch between the input activities by placing their hands in different configurations comprising distinguishable combinations of relative hand contact timing, proximity, shape, size, position, motion and/or identity across a succession of surface proximity images, the method comprising the steps of: tracking each touching hand part across successive proximity images; measuring the times when each hand part touches down and lifts off the surface; detecting when hand parts touch down or lift off simultaneously; producing discrete key symbols when the user asynchronously taps, holds, or slides a finger on key regions defined on the surface; producing discrete mouse button click commands, key commands, or no signals when the user synchronously taps two or more fingers from the same hand on the surface; producing gesture commands or multiple degree-of-freedom manipulation signals when the user slides two or more fingers across the surface; and sending the produced symbols, commands and manipulation signals as input to an electronic or an electro-mechanical device.
To still even further achieve the objects, the present invention comprises a method for choosing what kinds of input signals will be generated and sent to an electronic or electromechanical device in response to tapping or sliding of fingers on a multi-touch surface, the method comprising the following steps: identifying each contact on the surface as either a thumb, fingertip or palm; measuring the times when each hand part touches down and lifts off the surface; forming a set of those fingers which touch down from the all finger floating state before any one of the fingers lifts back off the surface; choosing the kinds of input signals to be generated by further distinctive motion of the fingers from the combination of finger identities in the set; generating input signals of this kind when further distinctive motions of the fingers occur; forming a subset any two or more fingers which touch down synchronously after at least one finger has lifted back off the surface; choosing a new kinds of input signals to be generated by further distinctive motion of the fingers from the combination of finger identities in the subset; generating input signals of this new kind when further distinctive motions of the fingers occur; and continuing to form new subsets, choose and generate new kinds of input signals in response to liftoff and synchronous touchdowns until all fingers lift off the surface.
To further achieve the objects, the present invention comprises a method for continuing generation of cursor movement or scrolling signals from a tangential motion of a touch device over a touch-sensitive input device surface after touch device liftoff from the surface if the touch device operator indicates that cursor movement continuation is desired by accelerating or failing to decelerate the tangential motion of the touch device before the touch device is lifted, the method comprising the following steps: measuring, storing and transmitting to a computing device two or more representative tangential velocities during touch device manipulation; computing and storing a liftoff velocity from touch device positions immediately prior to the touch device liftoff; comparing the liftoff velocity with the representative tangential velocities, and entering a mode for continuously moving the cursor if a tangential liftoff direction approximately equals the representative tangential directions and a tangential liftoff speed is greater than a predetermined fractional multiple of representative tangential speeds; continuously transmitting cursor movement signals after liftoff to a computing device such that the cursor movement velocity corresponds to one of the representative tangential velocities; and ceasing transmission of the cursor movement signals when the touch device engages the surface again, if comparing means detects significant deceleration before liftoff, or if the computing device replies that the cursor can move no farther or a window can scroll no farther.
Apple lists Wayne Westerman (Wellington, MO) and John G. Elias (Townsend, DE) as the inventors of all five touch screen patents listed here: Touch Sensing Architecture, Typing with a Touch Sensor, Writing using a Touch Sensor, Touch Sensing through Hand Dissection and Contact Tracking and Identification Module for Touch Sensing.
NOTICE: MacNN presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application and/or grant is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent applications and/or grants should be read in its entirety for further details.
Written and researched by Neo.
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