Apple Patents Touchscreens With Pressure-Detection Capabilities

USPTO.govWill Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) next-generation of mobile devices include a pressure-sensitive interface? A recently published Apple patent outlines a new type of touchscreen that can “detect a force signal corresponding to an object exerting a force on the surface.” The patent titled “Gesture and Touch Input Detection Through Force Sensing” was first uncovered by Apple Insider.

In the patent background, Apple noted that touchscreens have become an increasingly popular user interface for computing devices due to “their ease and versatility of operation.” Most of these interfaces operate by detecting touch events via rows and columns of sensors embedded in the device’s display. Some devices can also detect multi-touch events such as “pinch-to-zoom” or double taps.

However, as noted by Apple, “if a user begins a gesture just outside of the touch screen sensing region, such as towards an edge of the device, the gesture may be difficult to detect because only a portion of the gesture may be detected by the touch screen.” For example, a user may have intended to make a pinch-to-zoom gesture, but because one of their fingers started the gesture outside of the touchscreen’s detection area, so the device misinterprets their intended input.

Apple proposes overcoming this problem by incorporating three or more force sensors in and around the touchscreen. By including the pressure-detecting sensors in and around the touchscreen, the device will be able to better detect a user’s intended input. As noted by Apple, the force “values” from each of the sensors will help the device “determine a location of a center of the force or force centroid location.” This additional input data will allow the device to “determine if a touch input is part of a force gesture that began off of the touch screen sensitive area.” This will allow the device to correctly interpret a user’s intended input.

The force sensors can also be used to screen accidental touch inputs. For example, the force centroid location could be used to determine that a user is unintentionally touching the touchscreen with their fingers while they are holding the device in their hand. Finally, Apple also noted that the force sensors can be used simply to provide an additional form of user input. For example, “user inputs which may be correlated to virtual buttons or commands outside of the touch sensitive or active touch region.”

Besides outlining a new type of user interface for computing devices, Apple’s patent also bolsters an iPhone rumor previously reported by Bloomberg. According to “a person familiar with the plans,” Apple’s next-generation iPhones may include enhanced display sensors that will detect the pressure of a user’s touch. Bloomberg’s source also predicted that Apple’s next iPhone iterations will feature larger screens with displays that curve down over the edge of the devices.

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