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Apple files patent for hover-ready touchscreen

updated 08:40 am EST, Thu December 4, 2008

Apple Hover Touchscreen

Apple has developed technology that would let an iPhone or similar device be controlled by hovering fingers nearby rather than just touches alone, a new US patent filing shows. The system would include the company's familiar capacitive touchscreen technology but would also introduce numerous infrared or similar sensors that can gauge the relative position of fingers, a whole hand or an outside object by measuring the differences in the light level at different points on the display.

While the iPhone currently has a monolithic proximity sensor that triggers basic events, such as switching the display off when the phone is near one's ear or enabling voice search in Google Mobile App, the newer technology would allow certain parts of the screen to remain active and could alternately modify the interface itself based on the exact position of items above the screen. Different controls could be highlighted or appear where they wouldn't be available through a screen that only allows touch, Apple says.

Apple isn't under obligation to use the technology from the patent in a finished product and notes that the sensing technique could apply to traditional computers as well as phones or portable media players. A notebook could tell when the user is hovering over a multi-touch pad and enable some or all of its controls while ignoring some input when one or both of the user's hands are in a regular typing position.

The patent application was submitted July of this year but is a partial continuation of a patent originally submitted in early January of 2007, just days before the iPhone's public announcement.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999



    It will be interesting to see how and when exactly these technologies and Microsoft's "Surface" system come into conflict ( either in or out of court ). I think the 1998 $150,000,000 deal between M$ and Apple has expired by now.

  1. vasic

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2005


    Long ago

    The MS deal was for five years. At the time, MS acquired 5% stake in Apple, which it also sold long ago (and must be kicking itself by now).

    As for the 'big-a** table' (a.k.a. Surface), it will be very interesting to observe Apple's legal actions regarding this device.

  1. Guest

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 1999


    See the difference

    Now can you get Dell to come up with anything like this? Truthfully, they used to do about 5 years ago.

    Now the most highly paid upper and middle management is trolling the web sites of china looking for promising idea's to jump at them - literally.
    Well now they no longer have engineers and techs to come up with neat inventions.

    Now it is like " Asus, please help us? Give us few neat idea's of yours."

    Or it is like "Quanta, do you have anything neat we can use. We will pay you a premium for exclusive use of it for three months - Hopefully that highly paid good for nothing middle management can come up with a pricing scheme that will make money for Dell. Or may be the stock will tank below a dime.

    Oh Dell you are so lost. What a mess you made of a good Company by hiring the left overs middle managers of IBM and everyone else.

  1. gitcypher

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2007



    Didn't Nokia do this 2 weeks ago?

  1. phillymjs

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2000


    Touchless controls?

    Anyone else reminded of the radio in Hitchhiker's Guide? " all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same programme."

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001



    From the article:
    Apple has developed technology that would let an iPhone or similar device be controlled by hovering fingers nearby rather than just touches alone, a new US patent filing shows.

    Amazing. I didn't realize that filing a patent meant that they actually have developed the technology. I think it should have read "designed a technology"

    As for Surface, I'm not sure what the lawyers for either side could argue. The whole touch-screen isn't owned by Apple or MS, just what you do with it. And at that point you get into that murky concept of "software patents".

    And then it all depends on who developed (excuse me, designed) what first...

  1. Guest

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 1999


    this is not new...

    I haven't fully read the actual patent text, but this technology was thought (I understand patented as well) by Analog Devices in a joint venture with a company called Ethertouch back a few years ago, and its application to mobile devices, game consoles and such. If fact capacitive sensing devices were designed. The invention does not require actual touch indeed.

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