On June 26, 2008, the US Patent & Trademark Office published Apple's patent application titled Mouse having an optically-based scrolling feature. Apple's patent generally relates to an input device for use in a computer system. More particularly, the present invention relates to a mouse having an optically-based scrolling feature. In other words, Apple's Mighty Mouse is about to dump its traditional scrollwheel for a next generation mini-touchpad. Other added features discussed in the patent include incorporating both audio and haptic-like feedback features and shifting to a more translucent or semi-translucent appearance.
The Advantages of the Touch Pad
The advantages of the invention are numerous, according to Apple. One advantage of the invention is that it requires no obvious button to actuate a GUI movement. Buttons break the surface of the housing and are therefore less aesthetically pleasing. For example, there is no need for a cutout in the housing of the mouse or a mechanical component to protrude out of the device. Another advantage of the invention is that the user implements the GUI movements by a simple and natural posture change of the hand and is not required to hold down a button. For example, the invention provides scrolling with very little force (almost zero) exerted by the finger on the scroll area of the device. In contrast, convention devices have mechanical components that require some amount of force to be applied by the finger, as for example, in the form of a pushing action to rotate a wheel or to activate a switch.
Another advantage of the invention is that it allows an intuitive way to scroll on a display screen. For example, the user can manipulate his or her finger side to side for horizontal scrolling and backwards/forwards for vertical scrolling. Apple's patent FIGS 3E and3F – illustrate the proposed touch pad used in the horizontal scrolling mode.
Although not shown, the optical assembly may also include a buzzer to provide audio feedback to a user. The audio feedback can, for example, be a clicking sound produced by the buzzer. In one embodiment, the buzzer is a piezo-electric buzzer. In most cases, the clicking sounds provide audio feedback to the user at the rate at which the finger is moved across the active surface. The number of clicking sounds per unit time increases the faster the movement, and the clicking sounds per unit time decreases the slower the movement. The buzzer is typically controlled by the control assembly.
Haptics: Tactile Features
Moreover, the active surface may include tactile features, which provide tangible surfaces that help the user manipulate the touch pad. For example, the tactile feature may define the boundary of the active surface. The tactile features may be widely varied. For example, the tactile features may be bumps, lips, recesses, cavities and/or the like. The tactile features should be least obtrusive surface as possible while still allowing the user to feel or view the boundary. In most cases, the tactile features 62 are disposed around the outer periphery of the active surface. This configuration informs the user where the edge of the active surface is when using the touch pad. Alternatively, the boundary may be printed so that it is viewed rather than felt.
Apple lists Wing Kong Low (Cupertino, CA), Brian H. Berkeley (Saratoga, CA) and Benjamin Bendix Lyon (Kensington, CA) as the inventors of patent 20080150898.
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