Apple aims to patent ergonomic, full-hand multi-touch input

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
Three patent filings set into motion by Apple just a month after the iPhone's US debut open the door to curved multi-touch surfaces that can recognize more than just fingertips.



Pieced together through US-based patents for a sensor layout as well as those for mobile sensors and compliant conductors, the collective technology uses improved touch input nodes that are accurate enough to create a sensor image of different parts of the hand while not being bound to any particular size, shape, or resolution.



This will let a given multi-touch device not just recognize more complicated gestures, such as grabbing or swiping motions with one or more fingers, but also selectively disable input depending on the immediate context. Typists could leave their palms on a touch-sensitive device without activating controls while gaining the palm rest area back for other functions when necessary, or cease moving a cursor when a finger comes to a complete stop.



A version of the technology with pressure sensitivity could also exploit this ability to recognize rolling, tilting, or twisting motions for manipulating content in 3D, Apple explains in the patents.



But because the touch controls would not have to be flat, the combination of these advancements could lead to particularly unique designs. One concept explained in the filings would have a curved surface designed to be ergonomic over long periods, such as with a keyboard. It could also detect when a user is drawing with a stylus through both the inner fingers and the movement of the palm.







The patents are not connected to any existing product design from the Cupertino, California-based firm, whose iPhone and iPod touch, or any future handhelds, are unlikely to benefit from the advancement. Instead, the notion of a hand-sensitive, curved controller is intended primarily as a "computer input device" that may eventually replace both a keyboard and mouse.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    Once this is a real product, traditional keyboards and mice will look archaic, and Windows PCs will still use them. The Mac will, once again, lead the pack for how human-computer interaction should be.



    Ah, the dreams of Star Trek continue to make their way into real life.
  • Reply 2 of 35
    g3prog3pro Posts: 669member
    We have here the patent for the Mac Touch, an 8.5" x 11" input device/screen/computer, essentially the iPod Touch/iPhone for work. The true tablet computer without a rotating screen or clanky keyboard. Fully functional computer with stylus input included for handwriting. Debuting in Macworld January 2008.



    Thread over.
  • Reply 3 of 35
    kolchakkolchak Posts: 1,398member
    Nothing more than an upgraded version of the Fingerworks Touchstream LP, still going for up to $1000 on eBay.



    The "dreams of Star Trek"? More rubbish. When did Trek ever use MultiTouch? All they ever had were fake single-point touchscreens, no gestural or pressure input. At most, they used three fingers to simulate the original transporter sliders. Take Trek off that pedestal where it doesn't belong and come back to the real world.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by g3pro View Post


    We have here the patent for the Mac Touch, an 8.5" x 11" input device/screen/computer, essentially the iPod Touch/iPhone for work. The true tablet computer without a rotating screen or clanky keyboard. Fully functional computer with stylus input included for handwriting. Debuting in Macworld January 2008.



    Thread over.



    I think not. Where does the article say anything about a tablet computer or even a touchscreen? This is a replacement for keyboard and mouse, as the last sentence said.
  • Reply 4 of 35
    Strange, but last week I heard a rumour that Apple were working on iPhone2 and it used a flexible design to allow it to bend when you sit down - I dismissed it as rubbish, but you never know...
  • Reply 5 of 35
    aplnubaplnub Posts: 2,591member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post


    Nothing more than an upgraded version of the Fingerworks Touchstream LP, still going for up to $1000 on eBay.



    The "dreams of Star Trek"? More rubbish. When did Trek ever use MultiTouch? All they ever had were fake single-point touchscreens, no gestural or pressure input.



    I just want to state that they could totally reconfigure their stations to better suite their needs. Also, you have to define multi-touch because I am pretty sure they had some of this technology on a few shows and a movie.



    But I think the point was not that it was a rip-off of Trek, but rather Futuristic like Trek.
  • Reply 6 of 35
    I have read the whole application through and what it is mainly about (apart from the arrangement of sensors plus conducting surface and the software algorithms for distinguishing different handshapes and gestures) is a single input device that combines keyboard and multi-touch input functions on a single surface. The device they talk about has an arched, curved surface for a more ergonomic typing position and also to avoid unintended crossing of the two hands (and to make it clear to the system that this is intentional hand crossing by the user). This input device is supposed to have a slight grooved surface for home row fingers and the thumbs plus small conductive raised dots for the other fingers to facilitate touch typing. The key characters would be preprinted on the top surface. The single groove and small dots are intended to keep the overall surface as smooth as possible for advanced multi-touch input to replace the need for a primitive pointer system such as a mouse (and the need for things such as scroll bars).



    The application also mentions in passing other possible devices, such as a curvable surface that could be placed on the forearm or an armrest, and a larger surface including a display, but without tactile feedback, where the sensor system would display typing key positions appropriate to the size of the hand detected on the surface. The first might be a possible future wearable version of an iPod or iPhone; the second might point to an all-in-one display plus input device. They seem to be making sure to say that there are various ways the technology can be realised in future devices but the main emphasis is clearly on an ergonomic, soft surface touchpad combining keyboard and multi-touch interfaces in the same unit, with output to a separate display screen.



    If anyone is interested, I can post the relevant parts of the application that refer to the actual physical device(s) (as opposed to the algorithms and technical details of the sensors).
  • Reply 7 of 35
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,762member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post


    The "dreams of Star Trek"? More rubbish. When did Trek ever use MultiTouch? All they ever had were fake single-point touchscreens, no gestural or pressure input. At most, they used three fingers to simulate the original transporter sliders. Take Trek off that pedestal where it doesn't belong and come back to the real world.



    Major Buzzkill, dude.

    Sure they didn't need MultiTouch tech in Star Trek because, by then, Steve Jobs the 13th had developed a streamlined, simple, clean OneFinger interface. But we are a long way from there now with our primitive, pre-warp drive technology...



    .. STAR TREK

    . ----------

    . ---------

    ... \\\\\\|||///

    .... \\\\|||//

    ..... |||||||

    ..... |||||||

    ..... |||||||

    .... //|||\\\\

    .. ======
  • Reply 8 of 35
    Let's hope they make it so.
  • Reply 9 of 35
    I can almost bet (guarantee) we will see this come to fruition in the next 5 years... bye bye old keyboard!
  • Reply 10 of 35
    kolchakkolchak Posts: 1,398member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aplnub View Post


    I just want to state that they could totally reconfigure their stations to better suite their needs. Also, you have to define multi-touch because I am pretty sure they had some of this technology on a few shows and a movie.



    But I think the point was not that it was a rip-off of Trek, but rather Futuristic like Trek.



    Nope. They never had it. All they ever had were virtual buttons that they would tap with single fingertips, never any rolling, twisting, grabbing, tilting motions or anything involving more than one finger (with the exception of the aforementioned transporter sliders). Besides, nothing in the article says anything about reconfigurability. These aren't touchscreens but rather a more advanced version of FingerWorks products.



    I'm just sick and tired of Trek being brought up as something prophetic every time a vaguely similar design appears, like Leonard Nimoy claiming that clamshell cell phones were an offshoot of the original communicator. Sure, Leonard, maybe if you held the old communicator against your ear! Would you like to claim Uhura's earpiece as the genesis for Bluetooth headsets, too? It was fantasy, just some production designer saying, "Hey, it'd look neat if it did this" for no real reason. Not even hard science fiction (now real science) like Arthur C. Clarke's geosyncronous satellite, which actually needed some knowledge of science to be conceived.
  • Reply 11 of 35
    aplnubaplnub Posts: 2,591member
    Very bold to say it never happened. I'll take your word for it until I prove otherwise. Of course, I may be thinking of the latest Star Wars movies where they used holograms in 3d to do computer stuff. Not that it is a big deal. I don't know why it can't be as simple as Superman's computer system. Just shove a crystal in the thing!!
  • Reply 12 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by earthy View Post


    I have read the whole application through and what it is mainly about (apart from the arrangement of sensors plus conducting surface and the software algorithms for distinguishing different handshapes and gestures) is a single input device that combines keyboard and multi-touch input functions on a single surface. The device they talk about has an arched, curved surface for a more ergonomic typing position and also to avoid unintended crossing of the two hands (and to make it clear to the system that this is intentional hand crossing by the user). This input device is supposed to have a slight grooved surface for home row fingers and the thumbs plus small conductive raised dots for the other fingers to facilitate touch typing. The key characters would be preprinted on the top surface. The single groove and small dots are intended to keep the overall surface as smooth as possible for advanced multi-touch input to replace the need for a primitive pointer system such as a mouse (and the need for things such as scroll bars).



    The application also mentions in passing other possible devices, such as a curvable surface that could be placed on the forearm or an armrest, and a larger surface including a display, but without tactile feedback, where the sensor system would display typing key positions appropriate to the size of the hand detected on the surface. The first might be a possible future wearable version of an iPod or iPhone; the second might point to an all-in-one display plus input device. They seem to be making sure to say that there are various ways the technology can be realised in future devices but the main emphasis is clearly on an ergonomic, soft surface touchpad combining keyboard and multi-touch interfaces in the same unit, with output to a separate display screen.



    If anyone is interested, I can post the relevant parts of the application that refer to the actual physical device(s) (as opposed to the algorithms and technical details of the sensors).



    Sounds like future Mac users will all dress like this...

  • Reply 13 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post


    Sounds like future Mac users will all dress like this...





    Those looks were hard to find back when the world's majority wasn't obese.



    Best of luck in finding a ship full of Linda Carters.
  • Reply 14 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    ...curved multi-touch surfaces that can recognize more than just fingertips....



    Umm... Am I the only one that thought of pr0n applications straight away when I read that????
  • Reply 15 of 35
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,949member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post


    Nope. They never had it. All they ever had were virtual buttons that they would tap with single fingertips, never any rolling, twisting, grabbing, tilting motions or anything involving more than one finger (with the exception of the aforementioned transporter sliders). Besides, nothing in the article says anything about reconfigurability. These aren't touchscreens but rather a more advanced version of FingerWorks products.



    I could have sworn that the "map room" in Generations had some stuff like that.



    Has Apple implemented rolling, twisting or tilting yet?



    Quote:

    I'm just sick and tired of Trek being brought up as something prophetic every time a vaguely similar design appears, like Leonard Nimoy claiming that clamshell cell phones were an offshoot of the original communicator. Sure, Leonard, maybe if you held the old communicator against your ear!



    You're leaving out the two-way mode. Not that I like that feature.
  • Reply 16 of 35
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,368member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post




    I'm just sick and tired of Trek being brought up



    They did this just to annoy you I think



    "Enterprise, the first Space Shuttle Orbiter, was originally to be named Constitution (in honor of the U.S. Constitution's Bicentennial). However, viewers of the popular TV Science Fiction show Star Trek started a write-in campaign urging the White House to select the name Enterprise."
  • Reply 17 of 35
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,368member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post




    Has Apple implemented rolling, twisting or tilting yet?



    Tilt and games over
  • Reply 18 of 35
    onlookeronlooker Posts: 5,252member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post


    Nothing more than an upgraded version of the Fingerworks Touchstream LP, still going for up to $1000 on eBay.



    ..........................



    Immediately what I thought also. This will probably NOT be a on screen typing system, but an improvement to the fingerworks iGesture pad (wacom-ish) who's patents Apple owns through an acquisition. Something of an onscreen menu will probably let you choose how you wish to navigate. It was a fantastic idea before Apple got a hold of it. I would think of it in terms of the PARC-GUI vs. (1984) what Apple did with it.
  • Reply 19 of 35
    I wonder when we will see Apple releasing a product using this patent
  • Reply 20 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post


    Nope. They never had it. All they ever had were virtual buttons that they would tap with single fingertips, never any rolling, twisting, grabbing, tilting motions or anything involving more than one finger (with the exception of the aforementioned transporter sliders). Besides, nothing in the article says anything about reconfigurability. These aren't touchscreens but rather a more advanced version of FingerWorks products.



    Agreed.



    But I may respectfully point out that the multi-touch screen idea has precedents out there. One example has been shown by Jeff Han (see the February 2006 TED talk). Notice how he handles pictures on his virtual platform. This is no Star Trek, but a enabled application that shows both utility and novelty. Curiously this presentation was given almost a year prior to Steve's iPhone announcement at MacWorld 2007. Hopefully we're not gonna experience a Xerox-Lisa-Mac syndrome all over again.
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