On January 15, 2015, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a possible next-generation multi-functional iDevice Home Button. In the first mode, the Home Button retains its standard functionality. In the second mode, the Home Button transforms into a pure gaming joystick. The transition from one mode to the other is rather simple through a pressure sensor. This looks like it could be serious fun for gamers in the future.
Apple's Patent Background
Apple notes that touch screens, which may be well suited to applications such as an Internet browser application, may offer some advantages for operating game applications on portable devices, but they may also have shortcomings. For example, a user's finger may need to cover part of the screen while the user is controlling the game. This may interfere with the user's ability to see what he is controlling and/or other portions of the game display. Additionally, a touch screen may be unable to provide tactile feedback and the ability to provide tactile feedback during a game may enhance the user's game experience. Some gamers hold the opinion that realistic game play cannot be fully experienced without joysticks and/or tactile buttons.
Users may desire to use a first kind of input device for various applications and a second kind of input device for various other applications. However, providing multiple different kinds of input devices may be complicated, expensive, and may not be possible within space constraints (such as in the cases of portable devices such as tablet computers or smart phones). Further, providing some input devices, such as joysticks, may expose components of the input devices that project outward to damage and/or otherwise compromising the aesthetics of electronic devices in which the input devices are incorporated.
Additionally, providing multiple different kinds of input devices may frustrate other users who never utilize applications that are suited to one or more of the input devices and have to work around those input devices when utilizing one or more of the other input devices.
Apple Invents a Multi-Functional Home Button that Doubles as a Joystick
Apple's invention covers apparatuses, systems and methods for multi-function Home Button. An electronic device may include a surface and a multi-function Home Button. The multi-function Home Button may be operable in at least a first mode and a second mode.
In the first mode, an input portion of the multi-function Home Button may be flush with the surface or recessed in the surface and may be operable to receive z axis press input data.
In the second mode, the input portion may be positioned proud of the surface (i.e., project from the surface) and may be operable to receive x axis input data and/or y axis input data. The input portion may also be operable to receive z axis input data in the second mode. In this way, the multi-function Home Button may be capable of operating as multiple different kinds of input devices at different times.
In one example, a multi-function input device may have a button mode and a joystick mode.
In the first mode, an input device head of the multi-function input device may be flush with the surface of an electronic device in which the multi-function Home Button is incorporated or recessed in the surface and may be operable to receive button press input data.
In the second mode, the input device head may be positioned proud of the surface and may be operable to receive directional joystick data. In this way, the multi-function Home Button may be capable of operating as a button and a joystick at different times. Further in this way, the input device head may not project outward from the surface when not being used as a joystick, thus avoiding compromising aesthetic appearance of the electronic device, preventing potential damage to mechanisms utilized to project the input device head, and/or keeping the input device head out of the way when not being utilized as a joystick.
Transition of Standard Home Button to Gaming Mode
Apple notes that the multi-function Home Button #102 may be operable in a first mode as a button and in a second mode as a joystick. As illustrated in FIG. 1A, the multi-function Home Button may be flush with the surface. This may be the first and standard mode.
In the first mode, when force (such as 100 to 1000 g) is applied to the multi-function Home Button, as illustrated in FIG. 1B, the multi-function Home Button may depress and the force may be interpreted as a press or button input.
However, when force is applied to the multi-function Home Button that exceeds the threshold (such as a force in excess of 1000 g), the multi-function input device may project such that it is positioned proud of the surface 101 (as illustrated in FIG. 1C), thus switching the multi-function input device to the second mode - a gaming mode where the button acts as a joystick.
In the second mode, the multi-function input device may be manipulated in a direction corresponding to the X axis, the Y axis, and/or the Z axis (as illustrated in FIG. 1D). Such manipulation may be interpreted as X axis data, Y axis data, and/or Z axis data, respectively. From the second mode, force may be applied to the multi-function input device to move the multi-function input device back flush with the surface (as illustrated in FIG. 1A), switching the multi-function input device back to the first mode.
Views of Home Button in Standard Mode and Gaming Modes
Apple's patent FIGS. 2A and 2D are partial cross-sectional views of the multi-function Home Button found on an iDevice in both standard mode and gaming mode.
Apple notes that the new Home Button could include additional sensors including a force sensor, at least one accelerometer, at least one gyroscope, at least one contact sensor, at least one optical sensor, at least one capacitive sensor, at least one ultrasonic sensor, and/or at least one tactile switch.
The shaft of the Home Button may also include a collar that is operable to rotate at least partially around the shaft. The housing may also include a mode changing mechanism. In this example, the mode changing mechanism may be a push-push mechanism that includes a track that interacts with a pin of the collar.
Apple credits Colin Ely and Fletcher Rothkopf as the inventors of patent application 20150015475 which was originally filed in Q3 2013. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
Apple's invention would definitely benefit driving games and any game where a joystick could add precision moves. While it's not a total gaming solution, it's still a nice feature to have if they could actually make it work under their Touch ID circuitry.
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