Evidence of Apple's tablet-like input interface reappears

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
In a new patent application revealed this week, Apple has again disclosed plans for a multi-touch surface that could accommodate two full hands and distinguish between palms and individual fingers for typing, gestures and more.



The application, filed by Morrison and Foerster LLP in Los Angeles in June 2009 on behalf of Apple, expands on information first revealed by AppleInsider in early 2008. The massive document details a hand-based system that would allow "unprecedented integration of typing, resting, pointing, scrolling, 3D manipulation, and handwriting into a versatile, ergonomic computer input device."



The document notes that input with a stylus, mouse, keyboard and voice recognition are all options that work well in specific circumstances, but are not dynamic enough to address the many needs of users. But, it states, many of those needs can be met with touch-sensitive technology that can recognize a number of hand configurations.



"Many attempts have been made to embed pointing devices in a keyboard so the hands do not have to leave typing position to access the pointing device... The limited movement range and resolution of these devices, leads to poorer pointing speed and accuracy than a mouse, and they add mechanical complexity to keyboard construction," the application reads. "Thus there exists a need in the art for pointing methods with higher resolution, larger movement range, and more degrees of freedom yet which are easily accessible from typing hand positions."







The described system in the patent application would individually detect all ten fingers and separate palms on a person's hand, giving the ability to type, write, draw and interact with a device large enough to support multiple hands. Examples of the touchscreen capabilities include resting of hands, measuring when a hand or fingers touches and leaves the surface, interpreting taps from one finger as mouse button clicks, but disregarding a tap from two fingers, and more. Activities done with multiple fingers are referred to as "chords."







Such a system could ergonomically adapt to individual hand sizes, eliminate the need for a stylus and mouse, would require minimal typing force. The application notes that there are other patents for touchscreen devices that negate the need for a keyboard or mouse, but states that Apple's method is unique because it addresses both needs.



Typing is a large part of the lengthy application. The document goes into great detail about how a multi-touch interface could distinguish what keys a set of hands intend to type on the surface. It discusses pressure on the sides or center of individual fingers and palms, and how to interpret those various signals.







Key points of the invention, as described in the application, include:



Integrating and distinguishing different types of input, such as typing, multiple degree-of-freedom manipulation, and handwriting, via different hand configurations that are easy to use and recognize.



Includes an electronic system which minimizes the number of sensing electrodes to allow easier understanding of a variety of hand configurations.



Provide a multi-touch surface that is contoured to be comfortable and ergonomic under extended use.



Provide tactile key or hand position feedback without interfering with a hand resting on the smooth touch-sensitive surface.



Provide images of "flesh proximity" to a variety of sensors that can distinguish hand configuration.



Understand when the user wants cursor motion, and ignore commands when deceleration by the user is detected.



Understand the movement of two or more hands to allow manipulation of two-dimensional electronic documents, like rotation and scaling of photos.





The application is partially credited to Wayne Westerman of Fingerworks, a company absorbed by Apple several years ago as part of its quest to deliver iPhone and a new generation of input devices.



Though long-rumored, Apple has not yet released any details about its anticipated tablet. Sources have told AppleInsider that the device will not appear until early 2010. Since co-founder Steve Jobs returned to the company after a leave due to health reasons, the project has reportedly been the CEO's number one focus.



Apple has been at work on the project for many years, and the hardware has seen numerous internal iterations, only to be reset a number of times. The current device is believed to have a 10-inch screen, 3G connectivity, and sport a custom-made chip from P.A. Semi.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 82
    Can't wait to see this thing.
  • Reply 2 of 82
    zindakozindako Posts: 468member
    I feel sorry for the netbook market already, watch out Microsoft, you're about to find yourself hobbling behind trying to get your very own tablet device once apple drops this baby, and fail horribly at its inception and interface.
  • Reply 3 of 82
    To me, this almost sounds more like a potential new input device for desktops which would replace the keyboard, mouse and pretty much any other type of input device.
  • Reply 4 of 82
    That the tablet is Jobs number on focus actually scares me. I hope this is just a rumor because otherwise it means Apple can't live without Jobs. Releasing the tablet without the help of Jobs would actually have proved that Apple can live without Jobs. Just hoping that Jobs realized that and it's just an egotrip of him.
  • Reply 5 of 82
    jwyattjwyatt Posts: 93member
    Here's hoping that the complexity of this UI reflects the notion that the tablet will run the full Mac OS and not the just iphone OS. While whatever the tablet ends up being I'm sure will be awesome I'm hoping for a device that is capable of running iwork, pages etc. as well as iphone apps. Rumors keeping going back and fourth on this topic...exciting.
  • Reply 6 of 82
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JohnnyKrz View Post


    To me, this almost sounds more like a potential new input device for desktops which would replace the keyboard, mouse and pretty much any other type of input device.



    I don't see those as alternative devices.



    If the 10" tablet exists, it could easily function as a USB monitor and/or input device when connected.
  • Reply 7 of 82
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jwyatt View Post


    Here's hoping that the complexity of this UI reflects the notion that the tablet will run the full Mac OS and not the just iphone OS.



    There is 0 chance that Apple (of all companies) will roll out a device that has no keyboard or mouse, running software that was designed and built for the keyboard and mouse. Desktop UIs barely scale down gracefully to 10" screens to begin with. But trying to use touch to navigate UI elements that expect mouse precision is right out.



    I'm not even convinced that Apple would greenlight an ultra-mobile device running software that wasn't specifically designed for that exact device (With the appropriate priorities on screen, UI, battery usage, available processing power, etc) let alone release something with less horsepower than a macbook of several years ago with the express purpose of running desktop software.
  • Reply 8 of 82
    jwyattjwyatt Posts: 93member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Roc Ingersol View Post


    There is 0 chance that Apple (of all companies) will roll out a device that has no keyboard or mouse, running software that was designed and built for the keyboard and mouse. Desktop UIs barely scale down gracefully to 10" screens to begin with. But trying to use touch to navigate UI elements that expect mouse precision is right out.



    I'm not even convinced that Apple would greenlight an ultra-mobile device running software that wasn't specifically designed for that exact device (With the appropriate priorities on screen, UI, battery usage, available processing power, etc) let alone release something with less horsepower than a macbook of several years ago with the express purpose of running desktop software.



    I'm not sure I entirely agree with that assessment, but I'll leave it at that. Guess we'll see next year.
  • Reply 9 of 82
    gqbgqb Posts: 1,934member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JohnnyKrz View Post


    To me, this almost sounds more like a potential new input device for desktops which would replace the keyboard, mouse and pretty much any other type of input device.



    Hmmm... kinda like a 'touch table', huh?

  • Reply 10 of 82
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,685member
    "Minority Report" here we come!
  • Reply 11 of 82
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,803member
    From what we've seen literally over the decades, tablets are one of the hardest computer forms to do.



    Other than the iPhone/Touch and those that have followed, there have been three waves of tablets. None have been successful. The current MS OS based tablets have been at about 1% of purchases for years, with no indication that sales will pick up.



    If Apple does come out with this, they'll have to overcome a lot of resistance.



    One difference now is that most computer input for consumer use is no longer alpha-numeric, but mouse based.



    Multitouch can work very well for that, and this multitouch "keyboard" would serve well for the little input required for filling out forms etc.



    But a standard keyboard is a bit over 10.5" in length, excluding the numeric pad. A 10.6" diag screen will be too short, so the keyboard would be a bit cramped. They'll have to figure out a way around that.
  • Reply 12 of 82
    shadowshadow Posts: 373member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jwyatt View Post


    Here's hoping that the complexity of this UI reflects the notion that the tablet will run the full Mac OS and not the just iphone OS. While whatever the tablet ends up being I'm sure will be awesome I'm hoping for a device that is capable of running iwork, pages etc. as well as iphone apps. Rumors keeping going back and fourth on this topic...exciting.



    The idea that the tablet should run either iPhone OS or desktop OS is utterly wrong to begin with. iPhone and Mac share the same Foundation with different UI layer - UIKit and AppKit respectively. Each is designed to fit the specifics of the device including screen size, input methods etc. Could you imagine iPhone-style full screen table view on a tablet? Or desktop-sized pop-up menu on a touch device? Both don't make any sense. A tablet might be able to run iPhone app in a separate window, but it should be capable to do more.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Roc Ingersol View Post


    There is 0 chance that Apple (of all companies) will roll out a device that has no keyboard or mouse, running software that was designed and built for the keyboard and mouse. Desktop UIs barely scale down gracefully to 10" screens to begin with. But trying to use touch to navigate UI elements that expect mouse precision is right out.



    I'm not even convinced that Apple would greenlight an ultra-mobile device running software that wasn't specifically designed for that exact device (With the appropriate priorities on screen, UI, battery usage, available processing power, etc) let alone release something with less horsepower than a macbook of several years ago with the express purpose of running desktop software.



    That's more to the point.
  • Reply 13 of 82
    Intriguing!
  • Reply 14 of 82
    shadowshadow Posts: 373member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    But a standard keyboard is a bit over 10.5" in length, excluding the numeric pad. A 10.6" diag screen will be too short, so the keyboard would be a bit cramped. They'll have to figure out a way around that.



    They will do what they did on the iPhone: context sensitive keyboards - for URLs, mail, numeric or general purpose. The last one will have the punctuation away from the base layout.
  • Reply 15 of 82
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,359member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by melgross View Post


    From what we've seen literally over the decades, tablets are one of the hardest computer forms to do.



    Other than the iPhone/Touch and those that have followed, there have been three waves of tablets. None have been successful. The current MS OS based tablets have been at about 1% of purchases for years, with no indication that sales will pick up.



    If Apple does come out with this, they'll have to overcome a lot of resistance.



    One difference now is that most computer input for consumer use is no longer alpha-numeric, but mouse based.



    Multitouch can work very well for that, and this multitouch "keyboard" would serve well for the little input required for filling out forms etc.



    But a standard keyboard is a bit over 10.5" in length, excluding the numeric pad. A 10.6" diag screen will be too short, so the keyboard would be a bit cramped. They'll have to figure out a way around that.



    I am not too worried. Every innovation Apple ever comes out with is met with skepticism however most end up changing the World and leave competitors scrambling trying to copy them. As to over coming resistance, remember they have an almost lunatic following (I am one) and the iTunes ecosystem to feed off.



    I also suspect SJ is going to do with the publishing industry what he did with the music industry and have most popular magazines and newspapers available from iTunes shortly after launch.



    And one thing more ... whatever that is
  • Reply 16 of 82
    This is probably a really dumb question, But I'll ask anyway. Is there any finiteness to the life of a capacitance-based input device. In other words, could, say, a keyboard based on that be expected to last for many, many years?
  • Reply 16 of 82
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,803member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by shadow View Post


    The idea that the tablet should run either iPhone OS or desktop OS is utterly wrong to begin with. iPhone and Mac share the same Foundation with different UI layer - UIKit and AppKit respectively. Each is designed to fit the specifics of the device including screen size, input methods etc. Could you imagine iPhone-style full screen table view on a tablet? Or desktop-sized pop-up menu on a touch device? Both don't make any sense. A tablet might be able to run iPhone app in a separate window, but it should be capable to do more.







    That's more to the point.



    I'n not sure either is correct. I don't see a tablet with a click keyboard. I don't agree that the iPhone OS which IS based on OS X, is the same thing.



    It's running on a different processor, and as you said, it doesn't have the GUI. That makes it different.



    It can't run OS X programs because of this.



    Will iPhone programs run on a big screen? Well, they would have to if Apple is going to base this on the iPhone OS, and expects to have 100 thousand reasons for people buying it ready at launch.



    Apple could have multitasking on this, with multiple programs showing up at once.



    Many programs would likely work well expanded to a larger size, and others wouldn't take too much work to allow it.



    The problem is the processor.
  • Reply 18 of 82
    ~ufo~~ufo~ Posts: 245member
    Now this, to me at least, is really interesting.



    Consider having an iMac like desktop.



    with a touch tablet flat in front of it, kind of like the touch wacoms, but in the form of a portable tablet.



    I, as an iPhone used, have found myself touching my iMac's screen quite a few times in vein to click on something. Now, as nice as it would be to have a 24" multitouch screen on my iMac, we can hopefully all agree that it is not the most ergonomic of input interfaces.



    if you were to have your home desktop iMac type machine, be it touch screen or not, and get rid of the keyboard and mouse altogether replacing it by a 10" touch smart touch screen now that would be a whole new approach to computing.



    After you are done working at home, you just take the tablet with you, which is an autonomous device on it's own, as the apple tablet is proposed to be.



    I can truly see a lot of merit in this.

    It is both the desktop and laptop redefined.



    I would have no problem paying $600-800 for it either.



    Any takers?
  • Reply 19 of 82
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,803member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by shadow View Post


    They will do what they did on the iPhone: context sensitive keyboards - for URLs, mail, numeric or general purpose. The last one will have the punctuation away from the base layout.



    That's fine, but doesn't cover typing out a long letter.



    They'll have to decide what these things are going to do.
  • Reply 20 of 82
    I suspect that we are about to be introduced to the next revolutionary Apple product.



    It seems likely to me that once more, this is going to be a device beyond what anybody anticipated. Gaming; telephone; magazine, book and newspaper reader; internet; email; iphone and/or OSX-like applications; GPS/mapping device; two handed input have all been mentioned. If this is as much a pet project of SJ's as has been reported, I don't pretend to see how any or all of the above may come together, but I'm thinkin' we may see a jaw dropper.



    I just keep thinking back to all of the predictions about the iphone, and how very short they fell from what was actually released.
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