Will Apple Make the Classic Mouse and Trackpad Obsolete?

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A new patent application from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) describes a potential future replacement for traditional input devices like mice, trackballs, and trackpads, reports Apple Insider. In a patent titled “Hybrid Inertial and Touch Sensing Input Device,” Apple outlines a method and apparatus for combining the various advantages found in different conventional input devices into one hybrid device.

In the patent, Apple notes that computer mice “typically employ optical sensors, track wheels or track balls to control the motion of a cursor.” Other types of input devices use inertial sensors and “accelerometers for sensing acceleration forces exerted on the input device as it is moved by a user.” Apple notes that these types of input devices are best used for tracking “large ranges of motion,” but are less adequate for “fine ranges of motions.”

Touchpads like those found on Apple’s MacBooks tend to have the opposite problem. Touch-sensitive panels work well for fine ranges of motion, but “may require a user to swipe his or her finger across a touch pad multiple times” for longer ranges of motion.

Apple’s submitted device seeks to combine the best of both of these approaches. Apple proposes using a motion sensor for the larger motions while retaining the trackpad, or touchpad, for smaller precision motions.

Rather than operating as two separate input devices, the motion sensor and trackpad will work jointly to create a seamless experience for the user. Once a small trackpad motion exceeds a certain threshold, the hybrid input device will automatically process the input using the motion sensors. This method allows the input device to dynamically adjust its sensing process based on what type of motion the user makes.

Though it is unknown if Apple intends to implement this new type of input device in any upcoming products, this unique hybrid input method could potentially give the Cupertino-based company a technological edge over its competitors.

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