Apple new touchscreen tech would use IR light to discern hard presses from soft

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2014
Using a combination of capacitive touch and infrared light sensing, Apple's newly revealed touchscreen technology concept allows users to accurately convey force applied to a touch surface without bulky physical hardware, opening new dimensions in GUI navigation and interaction.




Apple's proposed invention, as described by a patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, uses frustrated total internal reflection in conjunction with other touch sensing technology to determine how hard a user is pressing on a device screen.

Perhaps the most well known implementation of FTIR is Microsoft's Perceptive Pixel touch displays made popular by television news networks and other public applications. Apple's solution builds on existing systems by affording granular data as to the amount of force being applied by the user.


Source: USPTO


In one embodiment, Apple's system deploys one or more IR transmitters beneath the bezels of a touchscreen to emit IR light into the cover glass at a specific angle. These angles may be selected so that 100 percent of emitted light is reflected between the top and bottom surfaces of a cover glass and ambient air or a finger.

After traveling within the cover glass, the emitted IR light hits a receiver that calculates amount of total internal reflection. Depending on whether the light interfaced with ambient air or a user's finger substantially touching the cover glass, the readings will be different.




Unlike other systems, Apple's invention does not require an exact transmission limit as long as a difference in internal reflection can be distinguished. Further, no particular requirement of internal reflection exists as long as the touch interface can distinguish the presence of a user's finger.

Importantly, measurement of attenuated reflection are used to determine whether infrared light reflected from a surface of a cover glass is absorbed by a finger or reflected by a glass-ambient air interface. In this way, the system is able to measure temporal touches that are then used to infer force.

Other embodiments include IR transmission that moves through vias or passageways beneath the top glass. Alternatively, instead of IR transmitters, Apple proposes the use of OLED layers that can output a "fourth color" in an infrared wavelength. Alternative embodiments include FTIR measurement via ultrasonic and other acoustic signals.




Capacitive touch input components, such as those seen in current iOS devices, can help determine positioning of multiple fingers. This aids the FTIR system by discovering "shadowing" of two or more fingers that could result in erroneous attenuation readings.

Finally, data from both the FTIR and capacitive touchscreen are combined to give an accurate reading of force applied to a device screen. Force values from attenuated reflection are compared against a baseline reading to determine how hard a user is pressing on the display. In addition to force, the system can also help the touch I/O device determine smudges or inadvertent wetting.

It is unclear if Apple intends to use the above FTIR technology in a future iOS device, but the addition of a force-sensing element would open new levels of interaction beyond existing static gestures like "tap" and "hold."

Apple's force-sensing patent application was first filed for in 2012 and credits Martin P. Grunthaner, Peter W. Richards, Romain A. Teil and Steven P. Hotelling as its inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    applesauce007applesauce007 Posts: 1,677member
    ... and just like that, another big one in the repertoire.
    Keep an eye on Samsung.
  • Reply 2 of 23
    "In this way, the system is able to measure"... Is this a fill in the blank moment? ???? Heading over to Patently Apple to get more information.
  • Reply 3 of 23
    d4njvrzfd4njvrzf Posts: 797member

    Maybe an expert can clarify this, but how does one reconcile the following two statements in the patent application?



    "Perceptive Pixel, owned by Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, Wash., markets a multi-touch sensing device that uses FTIR, and which is said to use a force-sensitive technique."

     

    "Each of these examples, as well as other possible considerations, can cause one or more difficulties for the touch device, at least in that inability to determine an amount of force applied by the user when contacting the touch device might cause a GUI or an application program to be unable to provide functions that would be advantageous."

  • Reply 4 of 23
    chandra69chandra69 Posts: 638member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleSauce007 View Post



    ... and just like that, another big one in the repertoire.

    Keep an eye on Samsung.

    They may mention something similar to Design Crisis : Ideas Crisis. :)

  • Reply 5 of 23
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,331member
    "In this way, the system is able to measure"... Is this a fill in the blank moment? ???? Heading over to Patently Apple to get more information.

    From the description it is really making a time-resolved measurement of contact location and area, from which it will infer relative contact force. Nothing in that technique would permit absolute force measurements.
  • Reply 6 of 23
    ceek74ceek74 Posts: 324member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleSauce007 View Post



    ... and just like that, another big one in the repertoire.

    Keep an eye on Samsung.

    Ahh, yes, the next next big thing.  At this point, Apple may want to "patent" a sensor that detects how forceful a middle finger is projected at them by Samsung.

  • Reply 7 of 23
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by d4NjvRzf View Post

     

    Maybe an expert can clarify this, but how does one reconcile the following two statements in the patent application?



    "Perceptive Pixel, owned by Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, Wash., markets a multi-touch sensing device that uses FTIR, and which is said to use a force-sensitive technique."

     

    "Each of these examples, as well as other possible considerations, can cause one or more difficulties for the touch device, at least in that inability to determine an amount of force applied by the user when contacting the touch device might cause a GUI or an application program to be unable to provide functions that would be advantageous."




    Perhaps Microsoft's solution can measure that a force is present but not the magnitude of the force

  • Reply 8 of 23
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,001member

    Perhaps Microsoft's solution can measure that a force is present but not the magnitude of the force

    I would assume that the harder you press the more skin of your fingertip comes in contact with the screen. It might take a little learning like it does for Touch ID but once you've set the parameters the device will know when it's a light press or a hard one.
  • Reply 9 of 23
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    Any improvements in this area would be welcome, especially for improving the accuracy of subtle pressure and after-touch information for musical instrument simulation.
  • Reply 10 of 23
    The device in the patent drawings looks suspiciously like.... The new iPhone 6! It looks wider than the iPhone 5s. Somebody do some measurements and write an exposé.
  • Reply 11 of 23
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,001member
    The device in the patent drawings looks suspiciously like.... The new iPhone 6! It looks wider than the iPhone 5s. Somebody do some measurements and write an exposé.

    Good eye. I was too busy looking at the detection lines, and windows to notice the device.
  • Reply 12 of 23
    emesemes Posts: 239member

    Force-sensitive? Gettin' a bit sci-fi here, aren't we

  • Reply 13 of 23
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,566member
    Where would this be useful other than music and drawing?
  • Reply 14 of 23
    chipsychipsy Posts: 287member

    Force-sensing for touchscreens is of course not necessarily something new, Motorola f.e. has force-sensing touch technology (which uses a transparent force-sensing layer) but it is always nice to see companies develop new/alternative methods. :)

  • Reply 15 of 23
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,932member

    btw: Sapphire is much more transparent to IR than is glass. ;)

  • Reply 16 of 23
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,932member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by WonkoTheSane View Post



    Where would this be useful other than music and drawing?

    It might be generally useful for filtering out false touches (touches that are inadvertent).

  • Reply 17 of 23
    emesemes Posts: 239member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by WonkoTheSane View Post



    Where would this be useful other than music and drawing?



    Music? I hope you don't mean piano.

  • Reply 18 of 23
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,566member
    cpsro wrote: »
    It might be generally useful for filtering out false touches (touches that are inadvertent).


    Ok. Thanks.
    emes wrote: »

    Music? I hope you don't mean piano.


    Uhm, I think there are a few people around that use their iPhone/iPad as instrument, including keyboard I suppose. So velocity sensitivity might be welcome
  • Reply 19 of 23
    emesemes Posts: 239member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by WonkoTheSane View Post



    Uhm, I think there are a few people around that use their iPhone/iPad as instrument, including keyboard I suppose. So velocity sensitivity might be welcome

    Not me. It might be good for taking notes or a synthesizer, but try playing the Moonlight Sonata on an iPad and you'll see what I mean

  • Reply 20 of 23
    wonkothesanewonkothesane Posts: 1,566member
    emes wrote: »
    Not me. It might be good for taking notes or a synthesizer, but try playing the Moonlight Sonata on an iPad and you'll see what I mean

    I hear you :)
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