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Apple patent reveals touch improvements

Apple patent reveals touch improvements

The patent application from Apple reveals some interesting new technologies for touch devices.

A newly published patent from Apple reveals some interesting developments that will be making their way to the company's MacBook, iPhone, and still-unconfirmed tablet in the near future.

As spotted by Apple-watcher Patently Apple, the patent - published by the United States Patents & Trademarks Office yesterday and originally applied for in Q3 2008 - introduces some novel new technologies that may change the way touch devices work in the future.

First up is what the company describes as "Dual-Function Capacitive Elements." While traditional touchscreens have elements which function as the display and separate elements which function as touch sensors, Apple's latest patent suggest a method of integrating both display and sensor into single elements - potentially reducing the weight and power draw of a device based around the technology.

The second new feature is designed to introduce touch capabilities to the edges of the screen, rather than just directly on the display. By surrounding the display - and in the case of the MacBook, the touchpad as well - with metal strips, Apple plans to extend the touch area outside the main surface. How usable such a system would be is questionable, but the idea is certainly sound - a way of scrolling through a webpage or list without covering the content with your fingers is the next-best thing to transparent fingertips for touchscreen use.

Finally, the patent reveals plans to use in-plane switching - developed by Hitachi in 1996 to improve the viewing angle and colour reproduction of twisted nematic displays - with low-temperature polycrystalline silicon, with the promise that it could improve TFT mobility by up to a hundred times compared to traditional amorphous silicon-based displays.

While there is no official news from Apple on when - or even if - the technologies described in the patent will find their way into the company's products, the fact that the patent has been hanging around since 2008 would indicate that the company has had plenty of time to develop and test its inventions.

Could Apple be on to a winner with its extension of the touchscreen to include the bezel, or is it a gimmick that will never catch on? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

18 Comments

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Wossack 8th January 2010, 10:36 Quote
if they build it, they will buy it :)
eddtox 8th January 2010, 10:44 Quote
Sounds like a good idea, especially for laptop/tablet form factors. I have a Portege M200 and that has some similar pen buttons on the side of the screen making it easier to access ctrl shift etc when in slate mode. As for the "Dual-Function Capacitive Elements", that should be even more interesting. Only downside is that this is apple which means we probably won't see these technologies in other manufacturer's devices :(
Digi 8th January 2010, 10:53 Quote
How can you actually grip the device if all of the sides are functionary touch-sensitive areas then? Or am I missing the point? :)
shanky887614 8th January 2010, 11:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Digi
How can you actually grip the device if all of the sides are functionary touch-sensitive areas then? Or am I missing the point? :)

if you look at the right of your screen there is allways a border of material usually a plastic
this is the part that they will stick it not the actual side that would be pointless
Xir 8th January 2010, 11:45 Quote
...touch sensitive side...
Didn't some phones (landline) have that to "scroll" through the names on the display about ten years ago? A touch-sensitive area right next to the display?
I'm prety sure to have seen and used that in a friends housse in the late nineties
leveller 8th January 2010, 12:35 Quote
There not inventing it with this patent as they are already using the idea in their new mouse with an invisible scroll wheel. What they're doing is suggesting combining the techs together.

The combined screen/touch surface sounds like the best bit due to the power save. Anything that extends battery life is a win in my book.
Cupboard 8th January 2010, 12:55 Quote
Sounds like something that one of the SE Cybershot phones has around the screen...
Matticus 8th January 2010, 13:18 Quote
Anything that would improve battery life is always a bonus in my eyes, so long as it doesn't cost the earth, in both senses of the word.
Quote:
Originally Posted by leveller
There not inventing it with this patent as they are already using the idea in their new mouse with an invisible scroll wheel. What they're doing is suggesting combining the techs together.

The combined screen/touch surface sounds like the best bit due to the power save. Anything that extends battery life is a win in my book.

Do you mean the magic mouse? That is just multitouch all over? While I admire the idea behind it, I am sure it is not only me who has "fiddly fingers" on their mouse, I am tapping away on the buttons, but not actually the buttons, and slipping and sliding all over the place. That mouse would be hilarious for me.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cupboard
Sounds like something that one of the SE Cybershot phones has around the screen...

I had one of those, thought it was marvellous for a while. Then it stopped working :(
leveller 8th January 2010, 13:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matticus
Do you mean the magic mouse? That is just multitouch all over? While I admire the idea behind it, I am sure it is not only me who has "fiddly fingers" on their mouse, I am tapping away on the buttons, but not actually the buttons, and slipping and sliding all over the place. That mouse would be hilarious for me.

Yes, admired from a far for it's design over practicality, and certainly not a mouse for me. Correct me if I'm wrong but Apple invented mice (?) - remember the puck shaped one? Ugh. They really need to bring their research and development into mice that comfortably fit the hand in a natural fit ... like the rest of the mice manufacturers have been doing for years!!
Gareth Halfacree 8th January 2010, 14:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by leveller
Correct me if I'm wrong but Apple invented mice (?)
The mouse was invented before Apple was even *founded* - Douglas Engelbart at the Stanford Research Institute invented the first mouse prototype in 1963, according to PikiWedia. Hell, they weren't even the first to market with a *commercial* version - that was Xerox, from which Apple stole^w got the inspiration for a mouse-driven GUI,.
leveller 8th January 2010, 14:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
The mouse was invented before Apple was even *founded* - Douglas Engelbart at the Stanford Research Institute invented the first mouse prototype in 1963, according to PikiWedia. Hell, they weren't even the first to market with a *commercial* version - that was Xerox, from which Apple stole^w got the inspiration for a mouse-driven GUI,.

Thieving *******s!

I stand corrected! :)
Nexxo 8th January 2010, 16:25 Quote
They and Microsoft. Thing is, Xerox wasn't taking their good ideas any futher --so someone else was bound to.
LucusLoC 8th January 2010, 21:32 Quote
i hate touch screens, but then i have oily hands (tmi i know! but it is relevant info). i am constantly leaving fingerprints that have to be wiped off to see the screen clearly. it is annoying to no end. i prefer the good old bb trackball, or a similar device. plus i think they are more precise, as you can see where the click actually is, instead of it being behind your finger. useful for tightly compressed links and small buttons. and while i know there are a bunch of neat things that are easier to do with a touch screen over a trackball (nifty zoom for instance) i find the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.
eddtox 8th January 2010, 22:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by LucusLoC
i hate touch screens, but then i have oily hands (tmi i know! but it is relevant info). i am constantly leaving fingerprints that have to be wiped off to see the screen clearly. it is annoying to no end. i prefer the good old bb trackball, or a similar device. plus i think they are more precise, as you can see where the click actually is, instead of it being behind your finger. useful for tightly compressed links and small buttons. and while i know there are a bunch of neat things that are easier to do with a touch screen over a trackball (nifty zoom for instance) i find the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.

Hear hear.. that's why I'll take a digitizer+pen over touch alone any day.
LucusLoC 9th January 2010, 00:17 Quote
the only thing i didn't like about pens was my propensity to lose them. . . .
Jenny_Y8S 9th January 2010, 05:19 Quote
My OQO e2 had capacitive scroll bars on the screed edge, they were the most annoying things in the world so I had to run with them disabled. They worked by even the slightest "brush" by a hand so you were scrolling even when you didn't need to. But if Apple can be clever with the software I can see them working, especially for "hot" controls etc.
Darkedge 9th January 2010, 14:24 Quote
The combination of display and touchscreen detection elements is a cool idea.
However from all the comments the scroll bars/touch outside the edges of the screen has been done by many other people (like so much that Apple 'invents' and tries to patent). hopefully that'll be rejected due to the blatant prior art out there.
WestHej 10th January 2010, 12:07 Quote
Palm Pre touch area below the screen?
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