Feeds

Apple seeks to patent movement, vibration and pleasure

Shape-shifting scrolling

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Apple is investigating new user-interface ideas, including motion-based function selection and multi-layered interface elements that change their appearance during use.

Two patents published Thursday by the US Patent and Trademark office give a glimpse into some of the interface thinking going on in Cupertino - and possibly hint at capabilities of future iPhones and the look-and-feel of upcoming versions of Mac OS X.

Both of the applications were originally filed in October 2007, but are only now being made public. The first, "Movement-based interfaces for personal media device," describes how a handheld's functions could be controlled by motion sensing performed by an internal "position, orientation, or movement (POM) sensor."

The second, "Varying user interface element based on movement," describes how a layered graphical-interface element such as a scroll bar could change its appearance in response to a user moving it.

The first of the two filings details a way to control a handheld device such as an iPhone or iPod without needing to look at its display.

One example given is that of a runner wanting to change a tune on her iPod without having to take her eyes off her path and run into a tree. Instead of risking breaking her nose, she could merely grasp her iPod - which would tell it to awaken its POM and ready it for a command - then move it in a predetermined pattern that would be translated into the "skip to next song" request.

Apple motion-sensor patent illustration

Rotate your iPhone to scroll through lists

Movement-based commands could be used to control a variety of functions, including launching or closing apps, selecting or de-selecting features, changing settings, making or ending phone calls, or - in a hint of future iPhone features - "initiating or ending an audio or video recording session."

As usual in an Apple patent filing, a wide net is cast when it comes to defining components. The aforementioned POM, for example, "may include, without limitation, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a light sensor, an infrared (IR) sensor, proximity sensor, capacitive proximity sensor, acoustic sensor, sonic or sonar sensor, radar sensor, image sensor, video sensor, global positional system (GPS) detector, RF detector, RF or acoustic doppler detector, video sensor, compass, magnetometer, or other like environment sensor".

That about wraps it up, now, doesn't it?

In addition to POM-based input, the filing also describes how feedback could be provided to the user through vibration patterns, which would be useful when a command doesn't trigger audible changes such as a skipping from one tune to another.

The second of the two filings centers on what it refers to as providing a "more aesthetically pleasing" GUI.

That pleasure is to be induced by a set of graphics layers that define a GUI element's background color, shape, alpha-channel transparency, and patterns that could all change in response to a user's movement of the element.

For example, a scroll bar could change its appearance while being moved in such as way as to indicate the direction in which it is being moved. Although the filing focuses to a large degree on scroll bars, it also discusses windows, buttons, scroll bars, icons, sliders, tabs, toolbars, "and so on."

In addition to user input, the filing also describes how the same multi-layered system could be used to modify GUI elements based on the time of day, how long the computer has been in use or idle, or in response to any other condition.

Again, in true Apple-patent tradition, the GUI filing doesn't limit itelf to personal-computer displays, but also reaches out to "servers, electronics, media players, game devices, mobile phones, smart phones, email devices, personal digital assistants (PDAs), embedded devices, televisions, other consumer electronic devices, set top boxes, etc."

Although with "electronics" in that list, it's a bit difficult to understand what "etc." might include. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Nintend-OH NO! Sorry, Mario – your profits are in another castle
Red-hatted mascot, red-colored logo, red-stained finance books
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.