Consumers are used to poking and swiping to interact with touch screen devices, such as Apple’s iPhone and iPad. But a new patent could turn your entire future iDevice into a control surface – even for small gadgets such as the much-rumored iWatch.
Apple was granted a patent Tuesday on squeezable technology of sorts that might enable iPhone use while wearing gloves, permit screen bezels to shrink and theoretically enable the company to sell devices with much smaller screens…
According to Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,390,481 – filed in 2009 and just approved by the Unites States Patent and Trademark Office – this new technology would permit Apple to build devices with pressure-sensitive cases, eliminating the need for all user interaction to take place within a touch-sensitive screen.
By measuring the electrical characteristics of the housing, such as the housing’s capacitance, both before and during user interaction, the user’s interaction can be sensed in a manner that is independent of the user’s electrical characteristics and/or in a manner that may allow a pressure applied to the housing by the user to be quantified.
The most obvious practical application would be getting rid of the Home and the sleep/wake buttons, as well as the volume toggle now found on iPhones and iPads. Instead, persons could depress the bezel to power down or pump up the volume.
Another potential use could solve one of the more annoying drawbacks to the more-accurate capacitive touchscreen input. If you were in the frigid outdoors, you had to remove your gloves to press an on-screen button with your finger.
The pressure-sensitive housing would make that unnecessary. The capacitive screen – while usually very accurate – can also go astray if your screen has a build up of dust or you wrest your palm on the screen while also touching an area.
@stevekovach But if the industry is going squeezable, twistable and stretchable… the future is plastics!
— Tero Kuittinen (@teroterotero) March 5, 2013
But imagine if Apple created a watch, where the screen was just a few inches wide – the real estate would be valuable. Perhaps pressing above the iWatch dial would set the time while near the wrist would pull up your contacts.
Additionally, if you tossed a small device with only a touch sensitive screen into your pocket or backpack, who knows what might happen.
As TechCrunch notes, such a secondary input could remove the fear of your iPhone or iWatch dialing North Korea or erasing a week’s worth of appointments.
The iSqueeze technology is just one of more than three dozen patents Apple was awarded today. Others included patents for the magnetic iPad cover, as well audio and touchscreen manipulation via gestures.
All told, Apple on Tuesday was granted 39 patents related to the iPad’s Smart Cover, pinch zoom and other inventions describing everything from automatic audio adjustments to integrated noise reduction technology.