Apple Gets Noisy With New Input Patent

Could this new Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) patent outline a command input method that could eventually replace traditional button and touchscreen input methods? Siri, Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant, has already revolutionized the way users interact with their mobile devices, by allowing users to input natural language commands. Now it appears Apple is laying the foundation for another revolutionary interaction method using a basic sound and touch input method.

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Apple’s recently granted patent titled “Electronic device housing as acoustic input device,” outlines a method for a device to detect “sound resulting from an impact with the housing.” According to the patent, the device can be configured to interpret “tapping, scratching, and other interactions with a surface of the housing.”

This acoustic information is translated into a specific action based on “the type of input, nature of the input, the location of the contact on the housing, the amplitude of input, as well as other various other factors. For example, a scratch may be interpreted differently from a tap, and so forth. Additionally, a tap on the housing near an output or input device may actuate the device whereas a tap on another surface of the housing may be interpreted as a keystroke.” For example, tapping your finger near the camera could turn it on or off, whereas a tap on the screen could be interpreted as a keystroke.

The device will also be able to distinguish accidental contact using proximity sensors, and by accessing a “vocabulary” of recognized input patterns. The sound detection system will operate using multiple microphones imbedded throughout the device’s chassis. This system could be implemented on almost any type of device, including smartphones, media players, laptops, and desktop computers.

Whether or not Apple has plans to use this capacitive touch technology in its next generation of devices is unknown. However, this patent does provide an interesting glimpse of a potentially important technology for future human-computer interaction.

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