Apple's invention for touch-sensitive buttons could prevent accidental inputs

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited May 2014
Apple is famous for its pioneering touchscreen devices, but a new patent shows the company has also dabbled behind the scenes in touch-sensitive buttons that would be able to distinguish between accidental activation and an actual finger press.




The concept comes from a patent continuation published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and discovered by AppleInsider. Entitled "Configurable Buttons for Electronic Devices," Apple's invention describes a physical button with an associated touch sensor that could detect when a user's finger is touching it.

By doing this, the button could tell when it is being activated by a finger, and not by brushing up against or into an inanimate object. In this method, Apple's invention would prevent accidental button presses on a portable device.




Such functionality could be particularly beneficial with wearable electronics, such as the company's rumored "iWatch," as highly portable devices can be susceptible to accidental contact when being worn.

The patent itself includes illustrations for what appears to be an unused design for the wearable clip-on iPod shuffle. In one example the buttons on the device are temporarily disabled when the clip on the rear of the device is being squeezed, allowing a user to place the device on their clothing without activating the buttons on the front.




The invention notes that the need to avoid "unintentional operation" of buttons can apply to all portable electronics, including smartphones, tablets, media players, and notebooks. Examples given by Apple include power, sleep, menu, volume, and multipurpose buttons.

Apple already has a touch-sensitive button of sorts on the iPhone 5s, as the smartphone's home button includes the Touch ID fingerprint scanner. Using Touch ID, a user can securely unlock their iPhone after the handset identifies their fingerprint from an actual finger placed atop the button.

But the patent continuation revealed by the USPTO this week suggests that more basic touch sensing capabilities could be used on other buttons in future portable devices from Apple. U.S. Patent No. 8,717,199 is credited to inventors John Benjamin Filson, Stephen Brian Lynch, Emery Sanford, and Pinida Jan Moolsintong.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    sricesrice Posts: 112member
    Glad to see more hardware patents - software patents have proven to be valueless. Not that I want to see Apple use patents in war, but because I want Apple to be able to push back fast copies. Copy, just don't stand on their coat-tails for gods sake.
  • Reply 2 of 12
    itpromikeitpromike Posts: 42member
    So they invented capacitive buttons?
  • Reply 3 of 12
    froodfrood Posts: 771member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by itpromike View Post



    So they invented capacitive buttons?

     

    On a mobile device.

  • Reply 4 of 12
    itpromikeitpromike Posts: 42member
    frood wrote: »
    On a mobile device.

    Ahhh I see so the capacitive buttons currently on phones that exhibit the same benefits don't count as capacitive buttons on a mobile device. Got it
  • Reply 5 of 12
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,507member
    How long until Sammy steals this.
  • Reply 6 of 12
    smiffy31smiffy31 Posts: 158member
    They are not capacitive buttons, they are mechanical but can tell if they were pressed with a finger or the inside of your pocket.
  • Reply 7 of 12
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 28,793member
    jungmark wrote: »
    How long until Sammy steals this.

    3...2...1....
  • Reply 8 of 12
    suddenly newtonsuddenly newton Posts: 13,706member
    This must be why they never blew up the Enterprise-D by cleaning the LCARS terminals.
  • Reply 9 of 12
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 42,836member
    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

    This must be why they never blew up the Enterprise-D by cleaning the LCARS terminals.

  • Reply 10 of 12
    hmmhmm Posts: 3,405member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

     

     


     

     

    Blah silly Windows terminal. They should just ask themselves, what would Batman do?

     

    Edit: pesky forum software doesn't seem to like quotes with mixed content

  • Reply 12 of 12
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by itpromike View Post





    Ahhh I see so the capacitive buttons currently on phones that exhibit the same benefits don't count as capacitive buttons on a mobile device. Got it

     

    They didn't "get it".

     

    Like the iPod clamp disabling buttons (which is awesome), they are coupling capacitive touch with a physical button. That means when you bump a button accidentally -- there is no electrical conduction like you have on your finger and it will not activate. The translate this; no more butt dials.

     

    The other thing they need is to sense pressure, and area of the pressure to distinguish between a cheek and a finger -- and in some regards, the screen on the iPhone has this, so my cheek doesn't activate "mute" by holding it against my head -- unfortunately, my Android phone has nothing like this, and I can't actually hold the phone to my head and listen at the same time. Some might call that a design flaw.

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