On Tuesday we were surprised to see that Apple was granted a new iPen patent pertaining to orientation detection. While the late Steve Jobs wasn't a big fan of the "dumb stylus" of yesteryear that was basically a tiny plastic pencil, he knew that one day the technology would give rise to an advanced iPen. Apple has invested heavily in the modern iPen with over 20 patents to their credit thus far. Today, three new iPen related patent applications were published by the US Patent and Trademark Office that cover many new aspects of this invention including a unique eraser function.
Apple's Patent Background
Many types of input devices may be used to provide input to computing devices, such as buttons or keys, mice, trackballs, joysticks, touch screens and the like. Touch screens, in particular, are becoming increasingly popular because of their ease and versatility of operation. Typically touch screens can include a touch sensor panel, which may be a clear panel with a touch-sensitive surface, and a display device that can be positioned behind the panel so that the touch-sensitive surface substantially covers the viewable area of the display device. Touch screens allow a user to provide various types of input to the computing device by touching the touch sensor panel using a finger, stylus, or other object at a location dictated by a user interface. In general, touch screens can receive a touch event and a position of the touch event on the touch sensor panel, and the computing system can then interpret the touch event in accordance with the display appearing at the time of the touch event, and thereafter can perform one or more actions based on the touch event.
Some capacitive-sense touch sensors can be formed from a matrix of row and column traces, capacitive sense elements or nodes present where the rows and columns cross over each other while being separated by a dielectric material. Each row can be driven by a stimulation signal, and touch locations can be identified through changes in the stimulation signal. Typically, a touch location is sensed based on an interference of the stimulation signal, such that a touch location may correspond to a location where the stimulation signal is the weakest.
In some instances it may be desirable for input devices, such as styli, to be able to transfer data, in addition to the touch location data, to the touch screen. For example, a stylus may have a finer tip than a user's finger and may be better able to transmit fine characters or symbols (such as those used in handwriting) better than a user's fingers. Additionally, using different input devices with a touch screen may allow an enhanced user experience, as data from the input devices (such as force, angle or tilt, or the like) may be communicated to the touch screen, which may use that data to change an output of the display or the like.
However, in many instances, data communication between input devices and touch screens may require each of the input devices to be a slave to the touch screen, which may require a significant amount of power as the input devices may have to continuously listen to signals from the touch screen in order to start transmission in the correct window of time, to avoid colliding or otherwise interfering with the touch screen scan for touch inputs, such as from a user's fingers.
Apple Invention Relates to their iPen Project
Apple's invention generally relates to computing devices, and more specifically, to input devices such as an iPen for computing devices.
A first example may take the form of a computing device such as an iPad configured to communicate with an input device such as an iPen. The computing device includes a processor and a touch interface in communication with the processor. The touch interface is configured to detect an input signal corresponding to an object approaching or contacting a surface and includes a plurality of sensing lines and a plurality of driving lines.
Noteworthy is patent FIG. 2 which includes a unique eraser electrode.
The touch interface is configured to conduct a touch scan (as noted in patent FIG. 6 below) and an input device scan. During the touch scan the touch interface drives at least one of the plurality of driving lines and scans the sensing lines. During the input device scan the touch interface scans at least one of the plurality of sensing lines and/or at least one of the plurality of driving lines, and while receiving a data signal from the input device, the touch interface interleaves the touch scan and the input device scan.
A second example may take the form of a method for a computing device to receive data from an input device through a touch interface. The method includes detecting an input device, synchronizing the touch interface with the input device by receiving a position signal and activating an input device scan of the touch interface, receiving a data signal from the input device through at least one of a sense line or a drive line of the touch interface, and scanning the touch interface for a touch input by applying a stimulation signal to the at least one drive line and analyzing the at least one sense line.
A third example may take the form of a method for transmitting data from an input device to a capacitive sensing grid of a computing device (As noted in patent FIG. 4 below).
The method includes receiving a user input, transitioning from an idle state to an active state when the user input exceeds a predetermined threshold, transmitting data to the capacitive sensing grid through a tip of the input device, and if a previous data transmission was longer than a predetermined time period, extending a time period for the data transmission.
A Fourth example may take the form of a system for receiving and transmitting multi-frequency signals. The system may include an input device, such as a stylus, and a touch screen interface. The stylus may transmit one or more signals using two or more frequencies and the touch screen may select a particular frequency for receiving the one or more signals. The touch screen may select the particular frequency by determining the frequency that may be received most clearly, that is, the frequency that may be less affected by noise sources. The cleanest or clearest frequency may be selected using a spectrum analyzer or may be selected using a majorities rules or a medium algorithm. For example, the touch screen may analyze the at least two frequencies and determine the two closest results.
Apple's patent FIG. 9A noted below is an illustrative circuit schematic diagram of an implementation of the touch screen for receiving data through phase modulation.
Apple credits Christoph Krah, Shahrooz Shahparnia and Steven Hotelling as the inventors of patent application 20140028577 which was originally filed in Q3 2012.
Apple's Second iPen Patent: Input Device for and Method of Communication with Capacitive Devices through Frequency Variation
Apple's second iPen patent application published today is titled "Input Device for and Method of Communication with Capacitive Devices through Frequency Variation." Apple's patent abstract states the following:
A computing device configured to receive data from a peripheral device, such as a stylus. The computing device includes a processor, a touch interface, such as a touch screen, in communication with the processor and configured to detect an input corresponding to an object approaching or contacting a surface.
The computing device further includes a touch filter in communication with the touch interface and a peripheral filter in communication with the touch interface. The touch filter is configured to reject a peripheral frequency corresponding to a peripheral signal of the peripheral device and the peripheral filter is configured to reject a touch frequency component corresponding to a touch signal corresponding to a touch input. Review the details here.
Apple's Third iPen Patent: Device for Digital Communication through Capacitive Coupling
Apple's third iPen patent application published today is titled "Device for Digital Communication through Capacitive Coupling." Apple's patent abstract states the following:
A computing device configured to communicate with an input device. The computing device includes a processor, a touch interface, such as a touch screen, and a receiving unit. The touch interface is configured to detect an input signal corresponding to an object approaching or contacting a surface.
The receiving unit is configured to receive, through the touch interface, at least one input signal from the input device, and the receiving unit amplifies the at least one input signal creating at least one amplified input signal. Additionally, at least one of the processor or the receiving unit analyzes the at least one amplified input signal and creates at least one output digital signal corresponding to the at least one input signal. Review the details here.
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