Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a pair of patent applications from Apple relating to next-generation force and/or 3D Touch. One involves a new touch force deflection sensor system allowing for multi-dimensional sensory for touch and future Apple Pencil applications on the iPad but more importantly the iPhone as illustrated in Apple's patent figures. The second feature reveals Apple integrating 3D Touch or special force touch elements into a future iPhone's Home Button.
Apple's Invention: Touch Force Deflection Sensor
Apple's invention relates to force-sensitive input devices, including track pads, touch screens and other control systems with sensitivity to contact forces. In particular examples and embodiments, the invention encompasses a touch sensitive input system for an electronic device, with a deflection sensor disposed adjacent to or along the control surface.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is a block diagram of an exemplary electronic device with a force-sensitive input system, for example a touch screen or track pad; FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of a force-sensitive input system for the device.
Apple's patent FIG. 3A noted below is schematic illustration of a representative force pattern sensed an iPhone. As shown in FIG. 3A, the touch pattern #30 is presented as an applied force on the sensing surface #32 of the input system, for example by touching a finger or stylus to the touch screen display on the iPhone application. The input system generates a two-dimensional displacement or deflection map #40 based on the pattern #30, fusing an array of overlapping traces 34A and 34B or sensors #36 to measure deflection. Apple's patent FIG. 3B is schematic illustration of an alternate force pattern sensed by the device.
Apple notes that as device technologies advance, moreover, an increasing number of control functions can also be integrated into a single device or form factor, including, but not limited to, real-time operation and control of voice and data communications, messaging, media playback and development, gaming, internet access, navigational services, and personal digital assistant functions including alarms, reminders and calendar tasks. This patent likely represents one of Apple's original 3D Touch inventions with aspects yet untapped.
Apple patent application 20160034088 was originally filed in Q3 2015 as 3D Touch was being introduced on the iPhone 6s.
Apple Invention: Combination Force-Sensitive Fingerprint Sensing Input
Apple second 3D Touch related invention provides techniques, including devices and structures, and including methods, that can allow a device with a function button or Home Button to provide both a fingerprint image measurement and an applied force measurement.
In one set of embodiments, a set of electrodes for measuring applied force can be disposed in the device for either a mutual capacitance or a self-capacitance measurement of an applied force. A resistance element having a mechanically resistive force can be disposed to resist the applied force. For example, the resistance element can be an elastomer or other deformable substance. For example, a rubber-like substance or other resistive element that resists the applied force can be disposed so that the applied force compresses the resistive element and a capacitance change can be determined based on that applied force. The change in capacitance can be used to determine an amount of applied force.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 illustrated below shows us a conceptual drawing of a combination fingerprint sensor and force sensor system.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 shows us a conceptual drawing of a method of operation where the system decides whether the application is to apply to fingerprint ID or force touch.
Apple states that software, hardware, firmware or any combination thereof may be used to process the measurements of the detected touches to identify and track one or more gestures, fingerprints, or applied forces.
A gesture, fingerprint, or applied force may correspond to stationary or non-stationary, single or multiple, touches or near touches on touch I/O device. A gesture, fingerprint, or applied force may be performed by moving one or more fingers or other objects in a particular manner on touch I/O device such as tapping, pressing, rocking, scrubbing, twisting, changing orientation, pressing with varying pressure and the like at essentially the same time, contiguously, or consecutively.
A gesture, fingerprint, or applied force may be characterized by, but is not limited to a pinching, sliding, swiping, rotating, flexing, dragging, or tapping motion between or with any other finger or fingers. A single gesture may be performed with one or more hands, by one or more users, or any combination thereof.
Apple notes that this invention may also one day apply to the Apple TV remote, iMac, MacBooks, peripherals and beyond.
Apple's patent 20160033342 is noted as being filed on September 11, 2015, two days after the debut of the iPhone 6s that introduced the 3D Touch feature.
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