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Apple investigating hover gestures as multi-touch alternative

post #1 of 28
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A newly granted patent from Apple refers to "hover sensitive devices" in addition to touch devices, possibly indicating that the company is looking beyond multi-touch in order to process input made while hovering over a device.

The patent, which was published Tuesday, describes a method for detecting and interpreting real-world gestures on "touch and hover sensitive devices."

Examples of real-world gestures include "OK gestures," "grasp everything gestures," "stamp of approval gestures," "X to delete gestures," and even "hitchhiker directional gestures." The patent also includes a description of a security feature where users are asked to draw personalized gestures to gain access to a device.

Gestures for hover sensitive devices would include gestures that multi-touch only devices would be unable to detect. The "OK gesture," for example, is not flat, so a multi-touch sensor panel would be unable to register it as touch input.

According to the application, capacitive touch sensors can already detect nearby hovering as a "weak" touch. The addition of proximity sensors would improve the range and resolution of hover detection.

"Although capacitive touch sensor panels can detect objects hovering within the near-field of the panel, and appear to be weak touches, in some embodiments proximity sensor panels can be co-located with touch sensor panels to provide hover detection capabilities outside the near-field hover detection capabilities of capacitive touch sensor panels," the application read. "These proximity sensor panels can be arranged as an array of proximity sensors that can be scanned in a manner similar to the scanning of a touch sensor panel to generate an image of hover."



Wayne Carl Westerman and Myra Mary Haggerty are credited as the inventors of the patent, which was filed on Jun. 13, 2007.

The application refers to several multi-touch related patents that were filed as a batch just prior to the unveiling of the original iPhone in 2007. One particular patent mentioned, entitled "Proximity and multi-touch sensor detection and demodulation," describes the combined use of proximity and multi-touch sensors in order to detect both "multi-touch events and hover events."

When Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, he touted over a hundred patents that went into the handset and multi-touch technology. The iPhone maker has since been granted numerous multi-touch-related patents. Apple is currently engaged in defending these patents, while also defending itself against infringement claims from competing companies.

Multi-touch Keyboard

Another patent published earlier this month revealed that Apple is also interested in augmenting standard mechanical keyboards to detect motion input.

The application, entitled "Image Processing for Camera Based Motion Tracking," describes the addition of "orthogonally-oriented cameras to sense hand/finger motion over the surface of the keys." Specific key commands could be mapped to activate motion input in order to differentiate between intentional and unintentional gestures.



According to the filing, conventional keyboards are "generally accepted as the preferred means to provide textual input." Numerous attempts over the last forty years to alter the design and layout of the standard keyboard have all failed to "replace or duplicate the commercial success" of the mechanical QWERTY keyboard.

A camera-based motion tracking system could also potentially allow for the aforementioned hover gestures, since, presumably, physical contact with the keyboard would not be required.

Though only a small fraction of Apple's patents actually see the light of day, the motion tracking keyboard could reduce reliance on other input devices, such as the trackpad and mouse.

John Greer Elias is credited with the invention. The application was filed on Jul. 8, 2009.

Tactile gloves

Apple was also granted a patent Tuesday for a "glove system" with a conductive inner liner that would allow users to utilize capacitive touch screens without removing their gloves.

The invention depicts a glove with elastic rings on the fingertips that would allow the inner lining to protrude for use with capacitive touchscreens.



The patent may appear superfluous to some, but it does address one criticism of the capacitive touchscreens on Apple's mobile devices: having to remove one's gloves in order to operate the device. iPhone compatible gloves already exist on the market, though Apple's recently patented design does appear to be unique.
post #2 of 28
I'm sick and tired of swinging my arm between keyboard and Might Mouse. It only takes a second, but doing it hundreds of times a day really adds up to a lot of wasted time and motion. Even on my MacBook, moving from keyboard to trackpad and back again takes up time and energy.

A pure full-size glass keyboard with zero tactile feedback isn't the way to go. Apple would have already done that on the MacBook Air if it worked well. That would have eliminated 3 or 4 mm at the minimum.

But hovering over a physical keyboard and gesturing could enable ultra-fast transitions between typing and gesturing. And it would also allow for two-handed multi-touch gestures. Interesting.

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post #3 of 28
How many people remember the Knowledge Navigator video (that came out of Apple during the years that Steve was not there) ?

Hover gestures reminds me of the hand motions that the actor was performing when talking to the AI agent.
post #4 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by c-ray View Post

How many people remember the Knowledge Navigator video (that came out of Apple during the years that Steve was not there) ?

Hover gestures reminds me of the hand motions that the actor was performing when talking to the AI agent.

For those that aren’t aware here is the Wikipedia write up and a poor quality concept video.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_Navigator
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRH8eimU_20
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post #5 of 28
As far as I know, all capacitive screens won't work through gloves, not just Apple's.
post #6 of 28
Great potential but seems like a lot of work still needs to be done if it going to be done right.
post #7 of 28
Okay!
post #8 of 28
If anyone can do it right, it will be Apple. I really think the hover idea has great potential, especially as Apple's UI is adapted by them for use on new devices. Imagine it... kiosks, ATMs, car console controllers, baby monitors, advertising screens, security devices, and on and on....!

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post #9 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Whozown View Post

Great potential but seems like a lot of work still needs to be done if it going to be done right.

If anyone can do it, Apple can. If nothing else, they're the best in the business for polishing something and not releasing it until it's ready for primetime. Probably will be implemented, if at all, on iPhones and iPads first.

This could also be useful for notebooks - gestures providing some level of interactivity without the ergonomic nightmare that Jobs alluded to during the Lion presentation...
post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

If anyone can do it right, it will be Apple. I really think the hover idea has great potential, especially as Apple's UI is adapted by them for use on new devices. Imagine it... kiosks, ATMs, car console controllers, baby monitors, advertising screens, security devices, and on and on....!

This will be interesting as it represents an entirely new type of business for Apple as a tech licensor rather than as a CE company using its own technologies.
post #11 of 28
Apple have no intention of building these things - that isn't why modern tech companies file patents.

The only reason why Apple have patented this is so that they have a little bit more leverage against other companies in future legal battles over IP.

Patents are bankable currency in today's world. The more you have, the safer you are and the more weight you can throw around. Without a large patent portfolio you don't have a prayer of bringing a tech product to market because any and every device that is manufactured violates half a dozen obscure patents than nobody has ever heard of, and the companies that own those patents are just waiting in the wings to pounce if your product hits the big time.

The only way Apple can protect themselves is having enough useful IP in the form of patents to buy, bargain or countersue their way out of trouble when it arrives.

You won't see any patent filings for the stuff that Apple's really working on because they don't want to give the game away before they're ready to ship it. Do you remember seeing any Apple patents for "ultra-thin computer without optical drive" or "touchscreen smartphone without keyboard"? No.
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post #12 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Socrates View Post

Apple have no intention of building these things

Source?
post #13 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoopaDrive View Post

Source?

My comment was speculation. Maybe Apple is planning on building this, but if you check the last dozen times where AppleInsider posted a story of the form

Apple files patent for [quirky new way of interacting with hardware and/or crazy-looking futuristic peripheral]

It never amounted to anything.
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post #14 of 28
Having little cameras above the keyboard is the coolest idea I have seen in a while. Finally you can use a pointing device without having to move your hands away from the keyboard. You just raise your hand slightly above the keys and it becomes a "mouse." This is great.
post #15 of 28
As if people don't already look and act dorky enough...
post #16 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

Having little cameras above the keyboard is the coolest idea I have seen in a while. Finally you can use a pointing device without having to move your hands away from the keyboard. You just raise your hand slightly above the keys and it becomes a "mouse." This is great.

Im seeing this being implemented, not as replacement for the mouse, but as a supplement for the mouse and keyboard. A fast and natural way to move between apps and menus.

If we assume that fullscreen apps are going to catch on for the desktop and we look at the new mutl-touch app switching in iOS 4.3 I see the first use is to do simple side-to-side flicks with your hand or fingers to switch apps without having to move a hand over to the mouse/trackpad area. You could still achieve the same goal with Command+Tab but it requires 2 keys and your fingers stretched. I think this would be a great addition just for that usage.
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post #17 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

If we assume that fullscreen apps are going to catch on for the desktop and we look at the new mutl-touch app switching in iOS 4.3 I see the first use is to do simple side-to-side flicks with your hand or fingers to switch apps without having to move a hand over to the mouse/trackpad area. You could still achieve the same goal with Command+Tab but it requires 2 keys and your fingers stretched. I think this would be a great addition just for that usage.

I would like it if they could replace the whole mouse but I guess a few select gestures is more likely.
post #18 of 28
Maybe focus on fixing basic glitches in OS X like the font spacing issue in the Help Menu instead...
post #19 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

Having little cameras above the keyboard is the coolest idea I have seen in a while. Finally you can use a pointing device without having to move your hands away from the keyboard. You just raise your hand slightly above the keys and it becomes a "mouse." This is great.

The idea is a "flipped over" version of Microsoft's Surface. Remember, they use cameras below the touch surface .

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post #20 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Socrates View Post

My comment was speculation. Maybe Apple is planning on building this, but if you check the last dozen times where AppleInsider posted a story of the form

Apple files patent for [quirky new way of interacting with hardware and/or crazy-looking futuristic peripheral]

It never amounted to anything.

I think if you give Apple a while some of these "quirky new ways" of interacting will become real. Remember, a patent is filed to protect an invention - but not necessarily at the time it is shipped. (I won't get into whether or not patents are good or bad or about poor current laws.) Sometimes an invention is not marketable until another technology, possibly much later than the invention's, makes it viable. Give some of these things a chance - excellence does not happen over night. Look at how long it took to get the iPad where it is and Steve said they threw away the project at least twice before restarting.
post #21 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

The idea is a "flipped over" version of Microsoft's Surface. Remember, they use cameras below the touch surface .

Yep. Or a smaller scale version of Kinect.
post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

As far as I know, all capacitive screens won't work through gloves, not just Apple's.

How's the snow in NY? There are a couple of iPhone gloves that apparently work with Apple touch screens just fine. I wouldn't know in Socal, nice 75 degrees. ahhhh.

http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=iphone+gloves

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post #23 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Socrates View Post

Apple have no intention of building these things - that isn't why modern tech companies file patents.

The only reason why Apple have patented this is so that they have a little bit more leverage against other companies in future legal battles over IP.

Patents are bankable currency in today's world. The more you have, the safer you are and the more weight you can throw around. Without a large patent portfolio you don't have a prayer of bringing a tech product to market because any and every device that is manufactured violates half a dozen obscure patents than nobody has ever heard of, and the companies that own those patents are just waiting in the wings to pounce if your product hits the big time.

The only way Apple can protect themselves is having enough useful IP in the form of patents to buy, bargain or countersue their way out of trouble when it arrives.

You won't see any patent filings for the stuff that Apple's really working on because they don't want to give the game away before they're ready to ship it. Do you remember seeing any Apple patents for "ultra-thin computer without optical drive" or "touchscreen smartphone without keyboard"? No.

Of course they patent things they're working on. They can't patent a thinner computer. Why patent an entire phone, when you can patent the technologies it uses? That would also limit where the patent applies.
post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

The idea is a "flipped over" version of Microsoft's Surface. Remember, they use cameras below the touch surface .

Not any more.
post #25 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstone View Post

How's the snow in NY? There are a couple of iPhone gloves that apparently work with Apple touch screens just fine. I wouldn't know in Socal, nice 75 degrees. ahhhh.

http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=iphone+gloves

Snow? Is that what you call that stuff? We had over a foot. But drifting on our side of the block was at about two feet. That adds to the five inches the other day. Good thing we don't get much snow in NYC.\
post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

Not any more.

I hadn't heard... What do they use now?

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post #27 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

I hadn't heard... What do they use now?

They call it Pixel Sense. It's really a big advance. The kind of thing Apple should have had out. This is serious stuff. The first gen. was interesting, but not very practical, but this is. It's expensive, $7,000+, but that's 50% cheaper than the old, bulky system. It will get cheaper over time, and we have to remember that this is a pretty big device!

I think they'll sell a lot of these.

http://indepthwithtech.com/2011/01/0...-at-ces-video/
post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

They call it Pixel Sense. It's really a big advance. The kind of thing Apple should have had out. This is serious stuff. The first gen. was interesting, but not very practical, but this is. It's expensive, $7,000+, but that's 50% cheaper than the old, bulky system. It will get cheaper over time, and we have to remember that this is a pretty big device!

I think they'll sell a lot of these.

http://indepthwithtech.com/2011/01/0...-at-ces-video/

It looks like it has been improved, but I still see very limited use for this. Because of it's lack of portability, unlike the iPad, it restricts the number of instances it could be used. They may yet find a niche market for it, but I see that being very small going forward. Portable is the new paradigm and iPhone and iPad will continue to be the trendsetters. If I saw real potential, I'd say so.

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