Apple exploring pressure-sensitive touchscreens, touchpads

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Seeking to improve its portable devices, Apple has applied for a patent that could lead to touch-sensitive Macs or handhelds which react to the level of force, rather than just contact.



Originally submitted in March of last year but only published on Thursday, the patent for a "Force Imaging Input and Device System" describes today's touchscreens and touchpads as limited by their relatively simple input, which tracks just the location of the finger or stylus on the surface. A method of detecting the strength of the user's input would add a new element of control, according to Apple.



"One drawback to using touch pads as input devices is that they do not generally provide pressure or force information," the company writes. "Force information may be used as another input dimension for purposes of providing command and control signals to an associated electronic device."



To solve the problem, the patent's inventors Brian Huppi and Steven Hotelling have suggested lining touchpads with a set of traces joined together by a sandwich-like spring membrane layer underneath the surface. Touching the pad would deform the traces and create a capacitive image in circuitry, indicating where contact has been made.



But unlike traditional capacitive or resistive touch surfaces, the membrane would help create a second image that recognizes just how much pressure has been applied at a given point; the harder the user pushes, the closer the membrane reaches conductive elements inside the layer and the more force would be registered with each press.







Though Apple's patent application primarily describes a touchpad like those used for the company's MacBook lines, one variant mentioned in the document would also allow for an LCD touchscreen with the same features, raising the possibility of an iPhone or other touch-sensitive computer with the new control scheme. Computers, phones, PDAs, and control panels are listed as candidates for the technique, although Apple is not obliged to manufacture any products using its invention.



Importantly, however, the company notes that the system would recognize more than one source of input at the same time, allowing the firm's existing multi-touch system to work with the pressure-sensitive feature intact. Apple goes so far as to reference an older patent for a "Multipoint Touch Screen," one of the cornerstones of its iPhone technology, as supporting evidence for its new control method.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,125member
    I can imagine screens across America looking like jelly has been smeared across them at the end of the work day. Blech!
  • Reply 2 of 21
    irelandireland Posts: 17,588member
    "Screens' for some reason or other implies 'vertical', these are handhelds.
  • Reply 3 of 21
    suhailsuhail Posts: 192member
    they should develop a keyboard with such technology. One that would change the icons on your keys everytime you switch fonts or switch applications. This will be awesome for an ultra-thin notebook's keyboard.
  • Reply 4 of 21
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by suhail View Post


    they should develop a keyboard with such technology. One that would change the icons on your keys everytime you switch fonts or switch applications. This will be awesome for an ultra-thin notebook's keyboard.



    I think the Optimus keyboard could do that. It's of dubious value though. Using a touch screen for a keyboard makes sense in the iPhone and iTouch because the idea was to maximize screen size and still be compact and durable. That trades tactile feel for more screen. A notebook really doesn't need to do that so much, at that point it's probably trading away too much to expect the screen to double as a keyboard, or to get a second screen that works as a keyboard (and play e-Battleship!?).
  • Reply 5 of 21
    icfireballicfireball Posts: 2,594member
    Essentially, this patent allows people to use the iPhone or iPod Touch with gloves on.
  • Reply 6 of 21
    games like bowling or pool etc could use this technology the best....even tetris
  • Reply 7 of 21
    rot'napplerot'napple Posts: 1,839member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    "One drawback to using touch pads as input devices is that they do not generally provide pressure or force information," the company writes. "Force information may be used as another input dimension for purposes of providing command and control signals to an associated electronic device.





    To accept "press lightly"



    To cancel "press harder"



    To 'Force Quit' "bash screen'



    I don't think I like the idea of having to know just how hard to press for the correct action to be taken or command delivered, etc. Seems like Apple's getting too artsy, fartsy with some their ideas.



    Could you imagine the touch pad controls as seen on Star Trek Next Gen or other space sci-fi shows and as the crew members are at their control panels bleeping along that they also have to be sure of using the correct pressure to ensure the proper commands were correctly pressure sensitvely issued to do any of the following... "raise shields", "fire photon torpedo", "eject overheating fusion reactor core", etc. Any one of those sequences of touch commands lacking the correct amount of pressure input from the finger could spell doom and gloom!
  • Reply 8 of 21
    buddhabuddha Posts: 386member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post


    To accept "press lightly"



    To cancel "press harder"



    To 'Force Quit' "bash screen'



    I don't think I like the idea of having to know just how hard to press for the correct action to be taken or command delivered, etc. Seems like Apple's getting too artsy, fartsy with some their ideas.



    Could you imagine the touch pad controls as seen on Star Trek Next Gen or other space sci-fi shows and as the crew members are at their control panels bleeping along that they also have to be sure of using the correct pressure to ensure the proper commands were correctly pressure sensitvely issued to do any of the following... "raise shields", "fire photon torpedo", "eject overheating fusion reactor core", etc. Any one of those sequences of touch commands lacking the correct amount of pressure input from the finger could spell doom and gloom!



    it wouldn't be used for commands very often obviously, this is more for artistic value etc.
  • Reply 9 of 21
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post


    To accept "press lightly"



    To cancel "press harder"



    To 'Force Quit' "bash screen'



    I don't think I like the idea of having to know just how hard to press for the correct action to be taken or command delivered, etc. Seems like Apple's getting too artsy, fartsy with some their ideas.

    :



    I imagine they'd use this technology for a useful purpose, not a stupid one. Say if you're pressing an arrow of a scroll bar to navigate through these threads (or itunes libraries) and the harder you pressed, the faster it scrolled - up to a limit of course. And what about for different movie fast forward speeds on a touch remote/ipod/iphone



    Thats just the first idea that came to me but I'm sure there'd be plenty of even better ones (especially for games)
  • Reply 10 of 21
    The touch technology could easily be incorporated into the macs... mmm would love something like this, no mouse or keyboard needed



  • Reply 11 of 21
    irelandireland Posts: 17,588member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gizmo2k2k






    You're gonna need some glasses son.
  • Reply 12 of 21
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gizmo2k2k View Post


    The touch technology could easily be incorporated into the macs... mmm would love something like this, no mouse or keyboard needed



    I can't work out if that's nice or not! Intriguing design issues there though.
  • Reply 13 of 21
    If the patent was submitted March 2006 and published yesterday, would that give it enough time for a new MacBook (Pro) interface to be implemented so as to be ready for lease together or close to the release of Leopard?



    Check this out...



    http://crunchgear.com/2007/08/18/pat...-new-firewire/
  • Reply 14 of 21
    irelandireland Posts: 17,588member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mind_Fast View Post


    If the patent was submitted March 2006 and published yesterday, would that give it enough time for a new MacBook (Pro) interface to be implemented so as to be ready for lease together or close to the release of Leopard?



    Check this out...



    http://crunchgear.com/2007/08/18/pat...-new-firewire/



    That article is a load of crap. I can see it now, bar setting; "Open Calculator." "Open Dictionary". "Open...". "Hey dude, would you shut up, people are trying to enjoy their beers." "Oh sorry, I forgot myself, modern technology and all that."



    Give me a multi-touch tablet over voice recognition (even if it worked well) any day. I for one, definitely don't want to talk to all my computers or appliances. They'll eventually be thinner (one piece), with no moving parts, and they'll be as fast as laptops. What in the heck that has to to with ports on the back of your computer is anyones guess. The whole analogy is an ugly one.



    Lights on, start car, open door, yeah, I could live with that, cause it's only one thing you have to say. People do some many different things on a computer at one sitting, and for such a long time (sometimes in public places) having to keep talking would get old very fast. It's nothing more than a gimmick, or a help for disabled.



    To compare multi-touch to Firewire is hideous. They shouldn't have published that article.



    It's a personal dream of mine to have an Apple multi-touch desktop keyboard around the size of their bluetooth model, would be a perfect size. It could display anything, and could change it's buttons depending on what app is selected. It would be Apple first keyboard they could ship one version of worldwide. And.. it would also replace your mouse. Moving our finger across the keyboard's display could move the cursor. The possibilities are endless, and the power is in the software.



    Firewire was 'much faster' than USB1 at the time, big woopdy doo. This would be a completely revolution, and would change the whole computer industry forever. Technology always gets faster, this is a totally different way of interacting with your computer. It would be something completely new to the general user.



    I think the future for desktops is even bigger displays with ultra-light, ultra-portable, multi-touch keyboards. And the future for portable computers is 3" - 15" Multi-touch tablets (and handhelds), and 15"+ more notebook-like computers for professionals. And yes, hardware keyboards would still exist.
  • Reply 15 of 21
    icfireballicfireball Posts: 2,594member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gizmo2k2k View Post


    The touch technology could easily be incorporated into the macs... mmm would love something like this, no mouse or keyboard needed







    Ergonomics hell. Plus, no tacticle response.
  • Reply 16 of 21
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by icfireball View Post


    Irgonomics hell. Plus, no tacticle response.



    I'm perfectly happy with typing on a surface that doesn't provide tactile response.
  • Reply 17 of 21
    kolchakkolchak Posts: 1,398member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


    Firewire was double the speed (thereabouts) of USB1 at the time, big woopdy doo.



    Uh, what? Even FireWire 400 was tons faster than USB 1.0. 400Mbps vs. 12Mbps isn't a factor of 2. It's a factor of 35. Even assuming neither interface could attain their theoretical limits, I doubt the speed difference dropped all the way down to only double.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by icfireball View Post


    Ergonomics hell. Plus, no tacticle response.



    Yup. The way that bends the wrists back, you're begging for carpal tunnel syndrome with any amount of typing. In fact, onscreen MultiTouch on a near-vertical screen has the same danger.
  • Reply 18 of 21
    irelandireland Posts: 17,588member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kolchak


    Uh, what? Even FireWire 400 was tons faster than USB 1.0. 400Mbps vs. 12Mbps isn't a factor of 2. It's a factor of 35. Even assuming neither interface could attain their theoretical limits, I doubt the speed difference dropped all the way down to only double.



    Yeah, sorry about that. Didn't bother researching it, just made a guess. Woops I was waaaaay off. (I'll edit that out for posterity)
  • Reply 19 of 21
    This is GREAT news for both Apple and the porn industry.
  • Reply 20 of 21
    glossgloss Posts: 506member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gizmo2k2k View Post


    The touch technology could easily be incorporated into the macs... mmm would love something like this, no mouse or keyboard needed







    Dude, your iMac is melting.
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