Apple patents screen tech capable of reading fingerprints without dedicated sensor

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2017
An Apple patent grant on Tuesday suggests the company is looking to leverage its LuxVue acquisition to integrate display technology capable of reading a user's fingerprint without a dedicated sensor, a design feature rumored to see release with "iPhone 8."




As published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, Apple's U.S. Patent No. 9,570,002 for an "Interactive display panel with IR diodes" details a touch display that incorporates micro-LED sensing technology instead of the ubiquitous active matrix hardware seen on most mobile devices.

The IP was reassigned to Apple last April from LuxVue, a small company specializing in highly efficient micro-LED displays and associated technology. Apple purchased the firm for an undisclosed sum in 2014.

Among other facets, including the ability to completely replace bulky capacitive sensor components with strategically placed infrared light emitters and sensors, today's patent lays out a design for incorporating touch panels and fingerprint sensors using largely similar hardware. Interestingly, some embodiments jibe with rumors surrounding a rumored "iPhone 8" with full-face display, specifically rumblings about an "invisible" home button and Touch ID sensor.

Apple's current fingerprint sensing technology requires a capacitive drive ring to be in contact with a user's finger during operation. To create a completely clean display surface, as hinted at in multiple iPhone rumors, the company would need to fully integrate, or more likely remove, said drive ring from the fcover glass.

It is possible that Apple is looking to ditch Touch ID altogether as it moves to a new, more advanced system. For example, a touchscreen capable of acting as an input device and fingerprint scanner would save space and grant greater design flexibility. Finding a working technology, however, is difficult, as fingerprint sensor readings need to be highly accurate, much more so than a traditional touchscreen.

LuxVue believes it solved the puzzle, or is at least on its way to doing so. According to the patent, micro-LEDs can be used as a surrogate for standard capacitive touch arrays. Specifically, separate IR emitting and sensing diodes connect to driving and selection circuitry to create a subpixel circuit. Due to their small size, these IR diodes can be embedded into a display substrate alongside RGB LEDs or on a microchip mounted to said substrate.




Dubbed "interactive pixels," the subpixel arrangement could incorporate red, green, blue, IR emitting and IR sensing LEDs (RGBIRSIR), as well as other color arrays, in an extremely high resolution panel. In some embodiments, the system can be calibrated to perform any number of operations based on sensing component input. For example, the circuit might act as a traditional ambient light sensor to brighten or dim displays, or perform proximity detection tasks to shut off touch input during phone calls.

More advanced features like touch detection and determining the surface profile of a target (fingerprint recognition) are also outlined. Germane to rumors of Apple's rumored iPhone, these latter embodiments operate by bouncing IR light off of a user's finger and back to sensing diodes.

During operation, rows, or in some cases dedicated areas, of a display containing interactive pixels scan for a user's finger. When an object comes within sufficient proximity for sensing, a bitmap is generated to inform the system of proximate positioning data.




In some cases, bitmaps can include information about the intensity of incoming light, allowing deeper analysis of the object and its surface. For example, by examining dark and bright spots of the bitmap a sample system can detect corresponding ridges and grooves in a user's fingerprint.

Addressing the issue of security, the patent notes certain areas of the display might include sections that have a higher density of interactive pixels and supporting chips. Additional emitting and sensing circuits means greater pixel densities, which in turn translates into more accurate fingerprint readings.

Alternatively, the proposed screen might contain a sufficient number of interactive pixels to turn the entire surface into a fingerprint reader.

Other embodiments note the use of IR light allows sensing components to remain active even when it appears as though the screen is off, beneficial in saving power and operating the device in low-light environments.




Whether Apple intends to bring the micro-LED technology to iPhone or another future product remains unknown. The company is widely rumored to launch an "iPhone 8" model this year with an edge-to-edge display. Such a design would require the company to move, hide or delete features incorporated into its contemporary handsets, including proximity and ambient light sensors, and the Touch ID fingerprint module.

Apple's micro-LED touchscreen and fingerprint reader patent was first filed for in June 2014 and credits Kapil V. Sakariya and Tore Nauta as its inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 43
    irelandireland Posts: 17,207member
    Something along these lines is enevitable and comprehendible. What I'm more interested in intellectually is how Apple handles the home button UI and the earpiece speaker in such a scenario. I presume the speaker just moves to the top bevel edge. I know pizio speaker or whatever they are called are possibly but am skeptical of their sound quality. But how is the home button UI handled?? If it's not an always-on portion or the display how can the user see it and press it in one go and how will they feel where it is in a dark room? Raise to wake? I like that I can feel the home button. Any alternative I can imagine is in some way a worse experience. Yes design is about trade offs, but this seems like it might be 'cool' replacing totally useable.
    edited February 2017 repressthis
  • Reply 2 of 43
    ireland said:
    Something along these lines is enevitable and comprehendible. What I'm more interested in intellectually is how Apple handles the home button UI and the earpiece speaker in such a scenario. I presume the speaker just moves to the top bevel edge. I know pizio speaker or whatever they are called are possibly but am skeptical of their sound quality. But how is the home button UI handled?? If it's not an always-on portion or the display how can the user see it and press it in one go and how will they feel where it is in a dark room? Raise to wake? I like that I can feel the home button. Any alternative I can imagine is in some way a worse experience. Yes design is about trade offs, but this seems like it might be 'cool' replacing totally useable.
    They could just stop the glass panel for the screen just short of the top and bottom to create a small resonance chamber each end to direct speaker output forward 
    Then no matter which way you pick up the phone and hold one of these edges to your ear it will hear clearly. bonus one forward facing speakers while watching video or facetiming (seeing the facetime camera under screen has patent already issued). Bonus two glass and indeed anything important would be slightly inboard of the metal corners, so less prone to damage hopefully.
  • Reply 3 of 43
    This can be of huge benefit for users as touching TouchID in the middle of the screen would be definitely much much convenient than at the bottom. Real question is as is discussed here, technology of Home button. They may employ force touch somehow, not sure how because I can not think of way that would be convenient.
    edited February 2017
  • Reply 4 of 43
    ireland said:
    Something along these lines is enevitable and comprehendible. What I'm more interested in intellectually is how Apple handles the home button UI and the earpiece speaker in such a scenario. I presume the speaker just moves to the top bevel edge. I know pizio speaker or whatever they are called are possibly but am skeptical of their sound quality. But how is the home button UI handled?? If it's not an always-on portion or the display how can the user see it and press it in one go and how will they feel where it is in a dark room? Raise to wake? I like that I can feel the home button. Any alternative I can imagine is in some way a worse experience. Yes design is about trade offs, but this seems like it might be 'cool' replacing totally useable.
    Apple has several patents that turn the display into a speaker. So it's not far fetched to see this completely eliminating both top and bottom bezels..
    watto_cobraleavingthebiggrepressthis
  • Reply 5 of 43
    frantisek said:
    This can be of huge benefit for users as touching TouchID in the middle of the screen would be definitely much much convenient than at the bottom. Real question is as is discussed here, technology of Home button. They may employ force touch somehow, not sure how because I can not think of way that would be convenient.
    3D Touch for the application switcher has been in place since the 6S, so I'd imagine it would be something similar. Maybe 3D Touch on the bottom portion of the screen would act as the home button. It would be more natural to what users are comfortable with. As for the other comment concerning the earpiece speaker, it's been done before. My cousin had a Sharp somethin-or-other Android phone a couple years ago that had the speaker behind the screen. He said it sounded fine.
  • Reply 6 of 43
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,434member
    Unless embedding touch id under neath screen results in making iphone smaller eliminating top-bottom space than it is good tech providing thin bezel on all sides with whole screen usable.
  • Reply 7 of 43
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,879member
    Real question is whether this fingerprint sensor can be spoofed. Article talks about being able to sense ridges but what about sensing a live body. We've all seen the full hand sensors in movies but do these actually work perfectly? What about wet or too dry hands? Or oily hands? As for a home button I agree with other commenters, it has to be something you can actually feel. For that matter what about the typical volume buttons? Will those go away for a totally waterproof enclosure?
  • Reply 8 of 43
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,378member
    rob53 said:
    Real question is whether this fingerprint sensor can be spoofed. Article talks about being able to sense ridges but what about sensing a live body. We've all seen the full hand sensors in movies but do these actually work perfectly? What about wet or too dry hands? Or oily hands? As for a home button I agree with other commenters, it has to be something you can actually feel. For that matter what about the typical volume buttons? Will those go away for a totally waterproof enclosure?
    I agree that feeling where you touch for ID is important, but feeling could be created (what's the name ...  force feedback or something like that?) rather than being a physical button.
    edited February 2017 stantheman
  • Reply 9 of 43
    irelandireland Posts: 17,207member
    adrayven said:
    ireland said:
    Something along these lines is enevitable and comprehendible. What I'm more interested in intellectually is how Apple handles the home button UI and the earpiece speaker in such a scenario. I presume the speaker just moves to the top bevel edge. I know pizio speaker or whatever they are called are possibly but am skeptical of their sound quality. But how is the home button UI handled?? If it's not an always-on portion or the display how can the user see it and press it in one go and how will they feel where it is in a dark room? Raise to wake? I like that I can feel the home button. Any alternative I can imagine is in some way a worse experience. Yes design is about trade offs, but this seems like it might be 'cool' replacing totally useable.
    Apple has several patents that turn the display into a speaker. So it's not far fetched to see this completely eliminating both top and bottom bezels..
    Display speakers already exist in some form. My doubt is about the current sound quality for such tech.
  • Reply 10 of 43
    irelandireland Posts: 17,207member

    frantisek said:
    This can be of huge benefit for users as touching TouchID in the middle of the screen would be definitely much much convenient than at the bottom. Real question is as is discussed here, technology of Home button. They may employ force touch somehow, not sure how because I can not think of way that would be convenient.
    3D Touch for the application switcher has been in place since the 6S, so I'd imagine it would be something similar. Maybe 3D Touch on the bottom portion of the screen would act as the home button. It would be more natural to what users are comfortable with.
    I disagree. This is certainly a usability step backward purely for looks. Show me the 3-year-old or 80-year-old who picks up an iPhone 8 and can instantly know how to enter an app and get back to Home. If they cannot, the product designers are to blame.
    edited February 2017
  • Reply 11 of 43
    irelandireland Posts: 17,207member

    rob53 said:
    Real question is whether this fingerprint sensor can be spoofed. Article talks about being able to sense ridges but what about sensing a live body. We've all seen the full hand sensors in movies but do these actually work perfectly? What about wet or too dry hands? Or oily hands? As for a home button I agree with other commenters, it has to be something you can actually feel.
    It doesn't necessarily need to be something you can feel if it works for the entire display, re unlocking. My issue is, for example, when you are in an app how do you get Home? Where do you press? Is it intuitive? Does it work every time? Is it only one interaction/press? The idea of 3D-touching the bottom edge to get to Home makes my skin crawl. As a power-user feature, sure, but as the standard way to go Home—yuck! Terrible idea. Leave those kinds of ideas to Microsoft.
    edited February 2017
  • Reply 12 of 43
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,879member
    ireland said:

    rob53 said:
    Real question is whether this fingerprint sensor can be spoofed. Article talks about being able to sense ridges but what about sensing a live body. We've all seen the full hand sensors in movies but do these actually work perfectly? What about wet or too dry hands? Or oily hands? As for a home button I agree with other commenters, it has to be something you can actually feel.
    It doesn't necessarily need to be something you can feel if it works for the entire display re unlocking. My issue is, for example, when you are in an app how do you get Home?
    I use the accessibility setting for a home button on two devices with broken buttons but this gets in the way of other things on the screen. I agree there needs to be something easily found and used as a home button. I'm not a fan of 3D Touch because it is difficult to get the right pressure all the time. 
  • Reply 13 of 43
    irelandireland Posts: 17,207member
    rob53 said:
    ireland said:

    rob53 said:
    Real question is whether this fingerprint sensor can be spoofed. Article talks about being able to sense ridges but what about sensing a live body. We've all seen the full hand sensors in movies but do these actually work perfectly? What about wet or too dry hands? Or oily hands? As for a home button I agree with other commenters, it has to be something you can actually feel.
    It doesn't necessarily need to be something you can feel if it works for the entire display re unlocking. My issue is, for example, when you are in an app how do you get Home?
    I use the accessibility setting for a home button on two devices with broken buttons but this gets in the way of other things on the screen. I agree there needs to be something easily found and used as a home button. I'm not a fan of 3D Touch because it is difficult to get the right pressure all the time. 
    An interesting suggestion would be more something like the Home chin is entirely Force-clickable and has a little tiny circular divot in the glass to show the user where to press—this way you can use the left and right or it to display useful information like a back button and can animate a fingerprint animation and print. But that's just an idea that took me three seconds to think of. Apple's idea should be at least as good as that and so far the suggestions I see people throwing around sound confusing and certainly not well considered.
    edited February 2017
  • Reply 14 of 43
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,735member
    ireland said:

    rob53 said:
    Real question is whether this fingerprint sensor can be spoofed. Article talks about being able to sense ridges but what about sensing a live body. We've all seen the full hand sensors in movies but do these actually work perfectly? What about wet or too dry hands? Or oily hands? As for a home button I agree with other commenters, it has to be something you can actually feel.
    It doesn't necessarily need to be something you can feel if it works for the entire display, re unlocking. My issue is, for example, when you are in an app how do you get Home? Where do you press? Is it intuitive? Does it work every time? Is it only one interaction/press? The idea of 3D-touching the bottom edge to get to Home makes my skin crawl. As a power-user feature, sure, but as the standard way to go Home—yuck! Terrible idea. Leave those kinds of ideas to Microsoft.

    The brilliance of TouchID is that there is very little friction between it and the home button. They are used in conjunction with each other, but it is not completely necessary. A physical home button can be placed on the side of the device. The tech described above has nothing to do with the home button, it's about the fingerprint scanner. This would enable to move the Home button to make more room for the display but still allow a convenient way to scan finger prints.
  • Reply 15 of 43
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,692member
    mjtomlin said:
    ireland said:

    rob53 said:
    Real question is whether this fingerprint sensor can be spoofed. Article talks about being able to sense ridges but what about sensing a live body. We've all seen the full hand sensors in movies but do these actually work perfectly? What about wet or too dry hands? Or oily hands? As for a home button I agree with other commenters, it has to be something you can actually feel.
    It doesn't necessarily need to be something you can feel if it works for the entire display, re unlocking. My issue is, for example, when you are in an app how do you get Home? Where do you press? Is it intuitive? Does it work every time? Is it only one interaction/press? The idea of 3D-touching the bottom edge to get to Home makes my skin crawl. As a power-user feature, sure, but as the standard way to go Home—yuck! Terrible idea. Leave those kinds of ideas to Microsoft.

    The brilliance of TouchID is that there is very little friction between it and the home button. They are used in conjunction with each other, but it is not completely necessary. A physical home button can be placed on the side of the device. The tech described above has nothing to do with the home button, it's about the fingerprint scanner. This would enable to move the Home button to make more room for the display but still allow a convenient way to scan finger prints.
    Why on earth would someone move the home button! There is a reason it's there in the first place.
  • Reply 16 of 43
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,743member
    Am I the only one who likes the home button and what rather keep it? It's what makes a iPhone a iPhone!!! What, so you want it to look like many Android phones? I like the real (Well now kind of fake) button that does a number of things, then taking up screen space for a home button.
  • Reply 17 of 43
    ireland said:
    Something along these lines is enevitable and comprehendible. What I'm more interested in intellectually is how Apple handles the home button UI and the earpiece speaker in such a scenario. I presume the speaker just moves to the top bevel edge. I know pizio speaker or whatever they are called are possibly but am skeptical of their sound quality. But how is the home button UI handled?? If it's not an always-on portion or the display how can the user see it and press it in one go and how will they feel where it is in a dark room? Raise to wake? I like that I can feel the home button. Any alternative I can imagine is in some way a worse experience. Yes design is about trade offs, but this seems like it might be 'cool' replacing totally useable.
    Sure, it is. But in the same way that going from a clickable home button to the current capacitive button. Or going from a physical keyboard to a touchscreen keyboard -- technically less good in that measure, but overall worth it. This could be no different.
  • Reply 18 of 43
    jbdragon said:
    Am I the only one who likes the home button and what rather keep it? It's what makes a iPhone a iPhone!!! What, so you want it to look like many Android phones? I like the real (Well now kind of fake) button that does a number of things, then taking up screen space for a home button.
    A physical button is the only thing that can help one orient the device in the dark or without looking. If the location of the camera lens, power plug, speakers or microphone didn't matter, then the physical home button wouldn't matter.
  • Reply 19 of 43
    tshapitshapi Posts: 278member
    jbdragon said:
    Am I the only one who likes the home button and what rather keep it? It's what makes a iPhone a iPhone!!! What, so you want it to look like many Android phones? I like the real (Well now kind of fake) button that does a number of things, then taking up screen space for a home button.
    A physical button is the only thing that can help one orient the device in the dark or without looking. If the location of the camera lens, power plug, speakers or microphone didn't matter, then the physical home button wouldn't matter.
    You know what else orients the phone direction? 
    The fixed orientation of the home screen and the apps. 
    repressthis
  • Reply 20 of 43
    tshapi said:
    jbdragon said:
    Am I the only one who likes the home button and what rather keep it? It's what makes a iPhone a iPhone!!! What, so you want it to look like many Android phones? I like the real (Well now kind of fake) button that does a number of things, then taking up screen space for a home button.
    A physical button is the only thing that can help one orient the device in the dark or without looking. If the location of the camera lens, power plug, speakers or microphone didn't matter, then the physical home button wouldn't matter.
    You know what else orients the phone direction? 
    The fixed orientation of the home screen and the apps. 
    Are you aware that vision-impaired and blind people also use iOS devices?
    repressthis
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