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Apple's pressure-sensitive touchscreen possibly revealed in patent

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday published an Apple patent describing a "button" that is not only touch sensitive, but can detect multiple levels of pressure, allowing for an input method advanced beyond anything available today.

Button
Source: USPTO


Apple broke ground when it unveiled the multitouch-capable iPhone in 2007, offering users a new way to interact with portable electronics. Since then, the company has made a number of advancements, such as software enhancements that allow the iPad and iPad mini to recognize and ignore errant thumb touches, but nothing that would greatly impact how a user interfaces with their device.

The closest thing to a new hardware-based input method is Touch ID, Apple's fingerprint sensor solution deployed in the iPhone 5s. However, that technology deals more with access than interaction.

A recent rumor claims Apple is working on a pressure-sensitive touchscreen that can trigger UI functions based on how hard a user is pressing the glass. Such a system is described in the company's latest granted patent.

With its U.S. Patent No. 8,581,870 for "Touch-sensitive button with two levels," Apple may be on the verge of introducing a new form of input; one that could change the face of iOS.

While a majority of the patent refers to a "button," a notation buried near the end of the document points out that a touch screen operatively coupled to an actuator can be considered a "touch-sensitive depressible button" as described below.

As illustrated in the document, Apple's hybrid touch input invention involves a depressible button with "multiple depression thresholds." The top of this component is touch-sensitive and can generate input signals based on the static location of a finger or gesture events.

Button
Stages of two-level button press with double-dome actuator.


When the first of the two or more thresholds is reached, the touch-sensitive portion of the button can be activated, or taken out of low-power mode, thus enabling touch input. In some embodiments, the touch panel will not generate a signal until this first threshold is reached, meaning the component does not output a signal until it is depressed.

This implementation allows for the component to serve multiple functions depending on where it is pressed. For example, a finger press detected on the right area of a touch-sensitive surface outputs a different signal than a finger press captured on the left area.

In addition, this method also allows for energy savings. When the button is not actuated, the touch sensor can remain in a low-power, non-sensing state. Once the first threshold is reached, however, an input signal can be generated as described above.

As noted, multiple thresholds may be employed to ease usability. For example, moving from a non-sensing state to one that generates input signals can take too much time. In this scenario, a first depression level can be a "hair-trigger," causing the touch sensor to activate at the slightest touch. In some cases, the initial depression threshold is so small as to be imperceptible to the user. Alternatively, the underlying actuator can be self-capacitive, in which case a finger touch would replace the first depression.

The second threshold can be reserved for a form of secondary input. In some embodiments, the position of a user's finger can be logged at the same time this second threshold is passed. As in the initial depression, the positioning can be associated with a certain UI action, like the opening of an app.

Apple's patent therefore describes a system that can initiate touch sensing with a first imperceptible press, track a user's gestures or finger movement, then finally execute a second command in context with a further press of the touch component. The system is almost like a tactile touchscreen mouse, except instead of outputting signals to a computer, the second threshold presses are associated with on-device actions.

Button
Stages of two-level button press with self-capacitive actuator.


The invention has a number of possible implementations. In one example, the input can control system management functions like volume levels, while other embodiments can open apps and move on-screen cursors.

Finally, with support for more than two threshold levels, the patent would be able to control a host of device functions. It can be imagined that a user would be able to turn on a device, locate and open a mail app, navigate to a message, reply and back out to the home screen, all controlled by minute changes in pressure. This "drilling down" into an app is not mentioned in the patent language, but is illustrative of the possibilities afforded by the invention.

It is unclear if and when Apple intends to deploy the pressure-sensitive input technology, though Sunday's rumor suggests the company is already testing out similar solutions.

Apple's multi-level touch-sensitive button patent was first filed for in 2011 and credits Louis W. Bokma, Joseph R. Fisher, Jr. and Saket Vora as its inventors.
post #2 of 22
The competition can't touch that.
I’d rather have a better product than a better price.
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I’d rather have a better product than a better price.
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post #3 of 22
Uhhh...like a camera shutter button?
post #4 of 22
can't wait to see their implementations.
post #5 of 22

I wish ... at least for this device/phone, photos or any dtails wont get leaked.

post #6 of 22
Silly folks, Apple implemented that years ago. It's called the Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse.
post #7 of 22
Samsung is quickly copying and will bring to market before Apple .... And then a new lawsuit will be filed, meanwhile, Samsung will make billions off of it
.
post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by TRRosen View Post

Silly folks, Apple implemented that years ago. It's called the Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse.

You have no idea what you're talking about

“What would I do? I’d shut Apple down and give the money back to the shareholders”

Michael Dell - 1997

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“What would I do? I’d shut Apple down and give the money back to the shareholders”

Michael Dell - 1997

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post #9 of 22
Originally Posted by TRRosen View Post
Silly folks, Apple implemented that years ago. It's called the Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse.

 

In what capacity do either of these devices register pressure?

post #10 of 22
Imagine this same implementation, but applying it to MEMS.

Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

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Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

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post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 

In what capacity do either of these devices register pressure?

 

Well, theoretically speaking (and this has nothing to do with the patent), greater pressure from something like a fingertip would create a larger area on the trackpad surface, because of finger compression/spreading.

 

[Typo edit]

post #12 of 22

One of the Ideas I saw on here a while back, said apple could possibly be developing a screen that used electric friction to create the feeling that the screen had texture. So this could be taken advantage of to make objects feel three dimensional.

post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by PScooter63 View Post
 

Well, theoretically speaking (and this has nothing to do with the patent), greater pressure from something like a fingertip would create a larger area on the trackpad surface, because of finger compression/spreading.

 

And mine (MacBook Pro) clicks if I press it hard rather than just tap. Only the one level but definitely responding to pressure.

OS X and iOS user

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OS X and iOS user

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post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by TRRosen View Post

Silly folks, Apple implemented that years ago. It's called the Magic Trackpad and Magic Mouse.

I don't know if it's using the same technology.  This is for touch screens, Magic Trackpad/Mouse aren't touch screens.  So I think it falls into the category of "It's the same thing, only different".

post #15 of 22

I found a leaked version of this new future feature. Looks awesome. Can't wait to see what this crazy wild future will entail! 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmyVzoyY9Jo

Groupthink is bad, mkay. Think Different is the motto.
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Groupthink is bad, mkay. Think Different is the motto.
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post #16 of 22
Patent never mentions pressure sensitivity. Just a threshold.
post #17 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post

I don't know if it's using the same technology.  This is for touch screens, Magic Trackpad/Mouse aren't touch screens.  So I think it falls into the category of "It's the same thing, only different".

Read the patent, not the wildly speculative title. Touch screens are never mentioned only a touch sensitive button.
post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by TRRosen View Post


Read the patent, not the wildly speculative title. Touch screens are never mentioned only a touch sensitive button.

 

It did mention touch screen in the heading of the article "Apple's pressure-senstive touchscreen possibly revealed in patent".  Actually, re-reading the article suggests this was just not a well written article in the first place.  I go to www.patentlyapple.com for patent related info, they do a pretty good job.    Far less BS comments since it's not as well known of an Apple related rumor site.

 

Didn't Apple file the patents for what they are already using for the Magic Trackpad, Mouse?  Those are old products that have been on the market for quite sometime, I would hope that they would file the patents BEFORE they release the products, not years later.

post #19 of 22
Here's what I think Apple SHOULD implement.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0V2l7oi5ajw
post #20 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post

Here's what I think Apple SHOULD implement.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0V2l7oi5ajw

 

That would work out well as a full size keyboard for a 15 inch iPad Pro 4K display (at iPad Mini Retina resolution) that could even run Mac OS X in a pinch. Although I wouldn't mind a return of the 17 inch MacBook Pro with a 4K display at iPad Air resolution.

 

You need to be able to rest your fingers on the keys and apply some pressure to ultimately replace the mechanical keyboard, where in fact it would be ever so slightly, mechanical.

post #21 of 22
This invention would bring artist's the ability to add expressiveness in a easy and intuitive way.

Music: You can add a vibrato and brighten a note simply applying more pressure to the surface.

Art: Applying more pressure widens your stroke or darkens the color.

Games: You can gage the player's determination by how hard the button is pressed, or how soft/hard you can strike a golfball.

Word Processing: heavy typing bolds or caps your text.

Science: Change a variable by pressing harder on a spreadsheet cell.
post #22 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by photodenk View Post

Uhhh...like a camera shutter button?

More than that its a pressure sensitive touch screen as in the whole screen.

If you looked at the article closer you would have understood that.

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