It has recently been said that the days of the dedicated music player have come and gone – and with the advent of the new iPod Nano adding features like an FM radio with iTunes Tagging and video recording, the argument could be made that the iPod Classic is need of an identity facelift. Today, the US Patent & Trademark Office revealed a patent application that could point to one of the possible next chapters for Apple's iPod Classic. The patent introduces us to the concept of "switchable sensor configurations." That basically boils down to adding swiping and gesturing capabilities to the iPod Classic's traditional scroll wheel. This would allow the iPod Classic to add much of the same types of apps that the Nano just received in addition to introducing the ability to control applications and enter text better and so forth. Apple first advanced this concept in March 2008 when it presented us with the notion of adding Cover Flow and business apps to the iPod Classic and more recently, presented us with the Classic having the ability to use zooming features. It's evident that Apple is exploring ways to advance the iPod Classic without destroying its unique place and retro look within their media player line up.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 illustrated below (click to enlarge), is an example of a process in which the sensor controller can switch a sensor configuration of its sensor elements.
For example, the input device can operate in a partial detect mode in which sensor configurations are switched based on an orientation of the portable computing device. For instance, in a "orientation bias" mode, the input device can switch which subsets of its sensor elements are enabled so that a predefined pattern of the enabled sensor elements (such as a horizontal swipe pattern, for example) has the same orientation relative to a user of the portable computing device at any device orientation.
In another example, the input device can operate in a group detect mode in which sensor configurations are switched to determine a position of the input on the input device. For instance, in a "switch detect" mode, the input device can switch between a radial grouping of elements to determine a radial position of an input, and an angular sector grouping of elements to determine an angular position of the input. The input device can then output a combined radial and angular position of the input.
The input device can switch between sensor configurations based on any number of factors, such as an orientation of the portable computing device or a context of an application running on the portable computing device, for example. Think of the new Nano's ability to switch from that of a music player to using the scroll wheel to control the video camera.
In Apple's patent FIG. 5A illustrated above, we see an example of one type of partial detect mode in which only linearly arranged sensor elements 16-5-1-3-10 are enabled to sense input, while the remaining sensor elements are disabled from sensing input. This mode may be referred to as a "swipe" mode for example. FIG. 5B illustrates an example of another type of partial detect mode in which only annularly arranged sensor elements 6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17 are enabled to sense input, while the remaining sensor elements are disabled from sensing input. This mode may be referred to as a "scroll wheel" mode for example. Although the enabled sensor elements in the illustrated example are arranged along the outer periphery of sensor element arrangement 300, the sensor elements in a scroll wheel mode may be arranged according to any annular pattern in the practice of the present disclosure.
In a further example, only sensor elements arranged according to a predefined gestural input pattern can be enabled, while the remaining sensor elements are disabled. Examples of predefined gestural input patterns may include alphanumeric characters, such as an "X" for example, and symbols, such as a check mark for example. This mode may be referred to as a "gesture" mode for example.
As should be appreciated, the button functions generated by pressing on each button zone may include selecting an item on the screen, opening a file or document, executing instructions, starting a program, viewing a menu, and/or the like. The button functions may also include functions that make it easier to navigate through the electronic system, as for example, zoom, scroll, open different menus, home the input pointer, perform keyboard related actions such as enter, delete, insert, page up/down, and the like.
Apple credits Joseph Fisher, Erturk Kocalar, Rishabh Bhargava and Lakshman Rathnam as the inventors of patent application 20090229892, originally filed in September 2008.
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