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Apple filing reveals multi-sided iPod with touch screen interface

post #1 of 49
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Apple Inc. is looking to patent a design for a handheld device (or iPod) that displays its output on a small front-side display screen but receives input through a larger touch- and force-sensitive back-side interface, AppleInsider has discovered.

In a January 5th, 2007 filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the iPod maker notes that increasingly popular hand-held electronics devices like the iPod are typically equipped with a liquid crystal display ("LCD"), which is often too small to make effective use of finger based touch input.

"Although a touch-screen interface could be embedded in or overlaid on the display, the use of even a single finger for input may occlude a significant portion of the display or cover more than a single operational control element," Apple wrote in the filing. "While this problem could be mitigated by limiting the touch area to a portion of the display screen (e.g., the display edges where horizontal or vertical motion could emulate slider controls), a single finger could still cover a substantial amount of the useful display area."

In addition, the iPod maker notes that display smudging is a problem as with all finger sensitive touch-screen interfaces. While stylus based touch-screens may be used to partially reduce the occluding problem and eliminate smudging, they require two hands for use suffer a large disadvantage compared to finger based touch-screen systems in that they require the storage and removal of a stylus, the company added.

Apple's proposed design calls for the uses separate device surfaces for input and output. "More specifically, a force-sensitive touch-surface is provided on a first or back-side surface of the device through which a user provides input (e.g., cursor manipulation and control element selection/activation)," the company wrote. "On a second or front-side surface, a display element is used to present one or more control elements and a cursor that is controlled through manipulation of the back-side touch-surface.

According to the filing, when the device is activated or placed into an operational state where it is appropriate, control elements (e.g., soft keys and menus) are displayed on the display element. The soft keys may be opaque or transparent (so as not to occlude prior displayed information such as a video presentation, a picture, a graphic or textual information). The displayed cursor would identify where on the back-side touch-surface the user has their finger.

"When the cursor is positioned over the desired control element/soft key (i.e., spatially overlapping on the display element), the user selects or activates the control element by applying pressure to the force-sensitive touch-surface with their finger," Apple explained. "Accordingly, the invention provides a means to operate a hand-held electronic device with one hand, wherein cursor movement and control element selection/activation may be accomplished without lifting one's finger. "



In one embodiment of the invention, Apple said it could incorporate the functionality of click-wheel on the device's force-sensitive touch-surface via an etched or raised outline. When the user activates the rear-side click-wheel, a navigation menu and click-wheel will be shown on the front side.

"Also displayed is a cursor which shows the position of the user's finger against the back-side touch-surface relative to click-wheel," Apple explained. "In the illustrated embodiment, the navigation menu and click-wheel are rendered transparently (denoted by dashed lines) so that the user may continue to view whatever information was being displayed at the time they activated the back-side control."



In yet another embodiment of the iPod maker's invention, a multi-media hand-held device may provide more than a single control element. In embodiments of this type, each control element (e.g., button, key, slider or click-wheel) may have an etched counterpart on back-side touch-surface 225, with each being displayed as desired (one at a time depending upon where the user's finger is detected, or all at once). In yet another embodiment, control element outlines are not etched or otherwise denoted on back-side touch-surface 225, the company said.

According to Apple's filing, the techniques for touch- and force-sensitive input may be applied to palm or hand-held personal computers, tablet computer systems, mobile telephones, personal digital assistants, portable video players and portable audio players.

The filing, titled "Back-Side Interface for Hand-Held Devices," is credited to company engineer John Elias.
post #2 of 49
A smaller version of the iPhone-a "iPhone Nano", perhaps?
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post #3 of 49
Let's hope this is a "cover your bases" deal, and won't actually happen. It'd be like that stupid new Sprint phone with the phone on one side and the "music player" on the other side...
post #4 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by snoboardguy21 View Post

Let's hope this is a "cover your bases" deal, and won't actually happen. It'd be like that stupid new Sprint phone with the phone on one side and the "music player" on the other side...

OMG, my fiancé just bought on of those. It's the most annoying thing in the world. You have to constantly flip the phone over to do ANYTHING
post #5 of 49
This is probably for the Nano so that it can have a screen covering its entire length.
post #6 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by snoboardguy21 View Post

Let's hope this is a "cover your bases" deal, and won't actually happen. It'd be like that stupid new Sprint phone with the phone on one side and the "music player" on the other side...

No, that's not what it's talking about. You wouldn't have to flip anything over. Imagine holding your iPod (in landscape view) then instead of having the touch sensitive jog wheel on the front, it will be on the back and sensitive to your fingers touch. The display will indicate your actions on the full size display.
post #7 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by mariofreak85 View Post

OMG, my fiancé just bought on of those. It's the most annoying thing in the world. You have to constantly flip the phone over to do ANYTHING

You guys aren't getting it. It's not two devices in one, it's one device viewed from the front but operated from the back.

It is essentially a screen on the front and a graphics tablet on the back.

I generally have a jaundiced eye when it comes to <BigSarcasticAirQuotes>inventions</BigSarcasticAirQuotes> (a lot of them are WAY OBVIOUS, MAN), but this one gets a thumbs up from me.
post #8 of 49
ingenious.

Like others have said, either an "iPhone Nano" or a "cover your bases"

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post #9 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The filing, titled "Ass-backward Interface for Hand-Held Devices," is credited to company engineer John Elias.

THey can't be serious. Was this filed on April 1st?
post #10 of 49
It sounds like a good idea to me. You wouldn't have to flip the device and after a while i think it would become second nature.
post #11 of 49
Not sure how much I would like to use it-- it limits you to holding the device in your hands in a fairly limited number of ways, no case, no setting on a surface. But, it is a novel concept and could make for some very interesting small form-factor devices where limited surface area is available for controls.
post #12 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpinDrift View Post

No, that's not what it's talking about. You wouldn't have to flip anything over. Imagine holding your iPod (in landscape view) then instead of having the touch sensitive jog wheel on the front, it will be on the back and sensitive to your fingers touch. The display will indicate your actions on the full size display.

Problem is it turns it into a rather cumbersome two-handed device. This isn't something I'd expect from Apple.

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post #13 of 49
In "wide mode" you'd need 2 hands to use it. I think the interaction would be pretty intuitive. Might be able to use it in a limited fashion with a single hand in "tall mode" though it would be awkward. Not sure how well the force sensitive use would compared to buttons that you normally have with a mouse pad, more intuitive if it works well but could be annoying if it is finicky.
post #14 of 49
I could see this for a future nano (xmas '08 perhaps), where space is at a premium.

It's a bit odd, though. It seems to raise as many questions as problems it solves.

At first I thought the way to think about this was not *replacing* a touchscreen, but a supplemental means to enhance it. (e.g. If there isn't a room for a physical home button, for example, one handy control could be the ability to "squeeze" the device to return it to the home screen.) But the patent seems to indicate that it's an alternative to the touchscreen, not an addition.
post #15 of 49
Apparently, future Apple keyboards will include two V's and drop the D (where the D should be in the patent's on-screen keyboard image is a V)...

I'm assuming this goes under that cover their butt column. It's basically a laptop trackpad plopped onto the back of a device.

I'm wondering about the cursor aspect. It would be a real pain in the butt to try to type by dragging one's finger all over the place. The natural instinct would be to lift your finger for long movements across the virtual keyboard. Will it act like picking up a mouse and halt the cursor or will it cause the cursor to jump to the approximate location on screen?

I'm not sure how intuititive it would for use with an iPod control. It basically requires the user to reverse all of their standard motions. For example, the counter-clockwise motion to lower the volume actually would end up being clock-wise when applied to the back of such a device.
post #16 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by caliminius View Post

Apparently, future Apple keyboards will include two V's and drop the D (where the D should be in the patent's on-screen keyboard image is a V)...

I'm wondering about the cursor aspect. It would be a real pain in the butt to try to type by dragging one's finger all over the place. The natural instinct would be to lift your finger for long movements across the virtual keyboard. Will it act like picking up a mouse and halt the cursor or will it cause the cursor to jump to the approximate location on screen?

I'm not sure how intuititive it would for use with an iPod control. It basically requires the user to reverse all of their standard motions. For example, the counter-clockwise motion to lower the volume actually would end up being clock-wise when applied to the back of such a device.

First off since when has an iPod had a cursor?

Secondly there's absolutly no reason why any of the motions would be reversed. The rotation is controlled by software, not hardware.
post #17 of 49
It might be awkward to operate a touch panel on the back. But on the sides it could be really useful. Drag a finger on the side edge to change the volume or fast forward. That would be fairly natural.
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post #18 of 49
Apple keep getting reamed by interface and control patents, so they're just covering every possibly thing they can think of to do with mobile interfaces. This one could work though, but not for every task - but tapping the back of the device on the left/right to select back/next seems like an obvious possibility without a need for accuracy.
post #19 of 49
i can't see you being able to use this with any accuracy, tapping from the opposite side of the screen...

unless i'm missing something
post #20 of 49
OK. If there are front (use with my armband) and rear controlers.
If there is no front controlers, I won't buy it.
post #21 of 49
anything that requires you to move your non-thumb fingers (while holding something) is tough...i don't understand how this could work \
post #22 of 49
Hmm. Jury's out on how useful it'd be, although I think that it might be cumbersome to have to turn the thing over. But really, how often do you look at your mouse when you're using the computer? It may really be a good interface if done correctly.

That said, if they don't give it a QWERTY keyboard, I'll pass. Those alphabetic ones drive me apeschmidt.
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post #23 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpinDrift View Post

First off since when has an iPod had a cursor?

Secondly there's absolutly no reason why any of the motions would be reversed. The rotation is controlled by software, not hardware.

The iPod has never had a cursor, but the patent specifically mentions using it for cursor control. Thus my coments about whether it acts like a mouse and stops moving or would jump if the finger was lifted and relocated.

And with an on-screen click wheel, pushing the back of the device to lower the volume by making a counter-clockwise circle of what is on-screen actual involves moving your finger in what on the front side is a clockwise motion. Thus the controls would end being backwards.
post #24 of 49
Its hard to say without trying it of course, but its really just like using a mouse. With a mouse theres a "disconnect" between your actions and the screen, but we all manage to cope with that fine... I'm sure that if we ever see an Apple device based on this patent, it'll work pretty well.
post #25 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by acslater017 View Post

anything that requires you to move your non-thumb fingers (while holding something) is tough...i don't understand how this could work \

EXACTLY! Just grab your iPod for a second. Your one opposable thumb does all the work, the other four fingers just grip the thing. Now hold it the same way, but instead try to articulate your four fingers on the back... I find myself either gripping it with my thumb on the front or balancing the whole thing on my pinky finger. The only action I can do is a horizontal slide across the back, I definitely can't do any sort of click wheel motion.

I feel like this patent might just be blatant disinformation.
post #26 of 49
Smaller flash-based Zune, LOL.
iPhone nano here we come.
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post #27 of 49
If this were done, it would only be good for the top half of the screen. if you're holding it at it's base, you're fingers can't reach the bottom. That, and everything being backwards, and confusion about how on earth to operate the thing... this idea will never see the light of day.

Odds are Apple has thought all of this through, and this patent was filed simply to cover the *general* idea behind it - input by the backside.
post #28 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider

"In one embodiment of the invention, Apple said it could incorporate the functionality of click-wheel on the device's force-sensitive touch-surface via an etched or raised outline. When the user activates the rear-side click-wheel, a navigation menu and click-wheel will be shown on the front side."

The simple ideas are always the best, ingenious, good Job John.
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post #29 of 49
Could be a cover your butt patent so as to make it virtualy impossible for someone to get a decent interface that provides reasonable useful controls.

We may see more of these in the future if these are cover your butt patents, each covering all the possible ways to get a decent interface (they thought or tried it in the lab before they settled on one). This way they can lock everyone else out or they have to pay a license.

They did say they had like 200 patents on the iPhone, this maybe but one, more may be found soon.
post #30 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by macFanDave View Post

You guys aren't getting it. It's not two devices in one, it's one device viewed from the front but operated from the back.

It is essentially a screen on the front and a graphics tablet on the back.

I generally have a jaundiced eye when it comes to <BigSarcasticAirQuotes>inventions</BigSarcasticAirQuotes> (a lot of them are WAY OBVIOUS, MAN), but this one gets a thumbs up from me.

I tried that ... I glued a wacom tablet to the back of my laptop. It did not worked well and I end up with a sticky bun, LOL. Kidding.
post #31 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by maverick18x View Post

EXACTLY! Just grab your iPod for a second. Your one opposable thumb does all the work, the other four fingers just grip the thing. Now hold it the same way, but instead try to articulate your four fingers on the back... I find myself either gripping it with my thumb on the front or balancing the whole thing on my pinky finger. The only action I can do is a horizontal slide across the back, I definitely can't do any sort of click wheel motion.

I feel like this patent might just be blatant disinformation.

Try using the index finger (to rub around) on the back of you iPod, in my case I get a lot of freedom of movement that could have been interpreted as directions to the software on the iPod. Very doa-able IMHO. Up/down and left right is easy with the index finger behind the iPod, circullar movement is a little harder but is fairly smouth to do.
post #32 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by maverick18x View Post

EXACTLY! Just grab your iPod for a second. Your one opposable thumb does all the work, the other four fingers just grip the thing. Now hold it the same way, but instead try to articulate your four fingers on the back... I find myself either gripping it with my thumb on the front or balancing the whole thing on my pinky finger. The only action I can do is a horizontal slide across the back, I definitely can't do any sort of click wheel motion.


Ah, but you're thinking of the "old" way of scrolling your iPod. Look at how you scroll through songs on the new iPhone. You simply flick your index finger up or down...and tap. Very easy to do with one hand. When you turn it in landscape mode, then you use two hands. Possibly using your index finger and thumb of one hand to hold it and the index or middle finger of the other to flick and tap. Try it.

So much for all those smudges everyone was loosing sleep over.
post #33 of 49
I'm just waiting for when somebody makes it so we can use the iPhone as a Wii controller.
post #34 of 49
This is absolutely brilliant!
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post #35 of 49
...And another example of how they are always "Think(ing) Different(ly)".
post #36 of 49
It seems obvious to me that this was a pre-multi touch interface application. Apple has obviously settled on the touch-interface despite blocking and smudging. I can't see why they'd take a step back to this solution - which is hardly ideal from a user perspective.
post #37 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpinDrift View Post

No, that's not what it's talking about. You wouldn't have to flip anything over. Imagine holding your iPod (in landscape view) then instead of having the touch sensitive jog wheel on the front, it will be on the back and sensitive to your fingers touch. The display will indicate your actions on the full size display.

It seems to be that to me as well.
post #38 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by EagerDragon View Post

Try using the index finger (to rub around) on the back of you iPod, in my case I get a lot of freedom of movement that could have been interpreted as directions to the software on the iPod. Very doa-able IMHO. Up/down and left right is easy with the index finger behind the iPod, circullar movement is a little harder but is fairly smouth to do.

That's right. I tried the same thing holding my Treo. My forefinger can give an easy circular motion, and tapping on a specific spot as well.

If a circular motion is used though, it has to be fairly small. No more than about 1.25", or 30mm. After that size, it becomes increasingly difficult.
post #39 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by thadgarrison View Post

It seems obvious to me that this was a pre-multi touch interface application. Apple has obviously settled on the touch-interface despite blocking and smudging. I can't see why they'd take a step back to this solution - which is hardly ideal from a user perspective.

It's still multi-touch, (if you can call it that), just not as complex as the iPhone's multi-touch.

There is quite a limited amount of things you can do with an iPod, but A LOT more things you can do with the iPhone. Therefore, this type of multi-touch (from the back) is well suited to an iPod, mostly scrolling and selecting. But would not be suited for something more complex like the iPhone where you need to type (SMS), dial a number not in your address book, "pinch-zoom"...etc.
post #40 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

If a circular motion is used though, it has to be fairly small. No more than about 1.25", or 30mm. After that size, it becomes increasingly difficult.

Why circular motion? Think iPhone navigation. Flick and tap.
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