Apple was awarded a new patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this morning, for pressure sensitive devices. The patent details a system that allows a device to be controlled by squeezing or putting pressure on the outer case of the device.
This is notable because such a system could potentially work in conjunction with the front touch screen of an iPad or iPhone, allowing for users to control apps and functions using the back or side casing of the device. That means you could potentially play a game or flip pages of an e-book without your fingers blocking the screen.
The potential for gaming devices with an interactive back or side casing is huge. For example, the PlayStation Vita works in a similar way because it has a back-facing touchscreen. This screen is used to fulfill certain functions in the game, such as controlling the camera or shifting the gears in racing titles.
It doubles the control real estate and makes it a lot easier to perform multi-gesture functions. The PS Vita, of course, works alongside tactical buttons, but such a system would be a huge boon on the fully touched based iPad as well.
Imagine web browsing or reading without having to move a finger, or playing a platform game where special actions are accessed by a simple tap on the back of the device. It’s an exciting prospect.
Apple’s Patent, which is No. 8,390,841, is titled “Sensing capacitance changes of a housing of an electronic device.” The patent specifically details two combined methods of pressure detection, physical and electrical, to determine when a touch is deliberate.
Embodiments are disclosed that allow measurement of a user’s interaction with the housing of an electronic device. 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.
Apple details several different instances and devices where this technology could potentially be used, which can be seen in the photo at the top of the article. The company believes that it could be functional in a range of devices, from laptops to tablets and phones.
Apple originally filed this patent in 2009, which means there’s no indication of when or if we might see the technology pop up in its products. Apple often patents a wide range of ideas that don’t come to fruition, but this is one promising technology that would be great to see in the future.