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Apple Granted a Patent for the Force Sensor Interface in the All-New MacBook


On March 24, 2015, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 60 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular granted patent report we cover Apple's new Force Sensor Interface that is now being used in Apple's all-new MacBook. With the new MacBook comes a whole new way to experience a trackpad. The Force Touch trackpad is engineered to deliver a responsive, uniform click no matter where you press the surface. And underneath, force sensors detect how much pressure you're applying and give you new ways to interact with a Mac. You can now use a Force click to enable new capabilities, like quickly looking up the definition of a word or previewing a file just by clicking and continuing to press on the trackpad.


Granted Patent: Force Sensor Interface for Touch


Apple's newly granted patent covers their invention relating to relates to a force sensor interface in a touch sensitive device that can be coupled with the device's touch circuitry so as to integrate one or more force sensors with touch sensors of the device.


With Apple's new MacBook, the sensory capabilities of the Force Touch trackpad allow the user to tell their MacBook what they want it to do based on subtle differences in the amount of pressure they apply. In the image below you're able to see the force sensors at the bottom of the trackpad.



Apple notes in their granted patent that the force sensor interface can include a transmit portion to transmit stimulation signals generated by the touch circuitry to the force sensors to drive the force sensors. The interface can also include a receive portion to receive force signals, indicative of a force applied to the device, from the force sensors for processing by the touch circuitry. This can allow the force sensors and the touch sensors to concurrently operate in an efficient and seamless manner. By the force sensors and the touch sensors sharing touch circuitry, the touch sensitive device can advantageously have multiple input mechanisms, i.e., touch sensors to detect touch or hover events and force sensors to detect force events, without undesirably increasing device size and power consumption.


3af force sensor figs. 1 and 2b

Apple further notes that a touch sensitive device can include a touch sensor panel, which can be a clear panel with a touch-sensitive surface, and, in some cases, a display device such as a liquid crystal display (LCD) that can be positioned partially or fully behind the panel so that the touch-sensitive surface can cover at least a portion of the viewable area of the display device. The touch sensitive device can allow a user to perform various functions by touching the touch sensor panel using a finger, stylus or other object at a desired location and, in the case of the display device, at a location often dictated by a user interface (UI) being displayed by the display device. In general, the touch sensitive device can recognize a touch or hover event and the position of the event at the touch sensor panel, and the computing system can then interpret the event and thereafter can perform one or more actions based on the event.


In addition to a touch sensor panel, some touch sensitive devices can include a button, which when contacted by a user can cause the device to change a state associated with the button. Pressing or selecting the button can activate or deactivate some state of the device. Not pressing or selecting the button can leave the device in its current state. In general, the touch sensitive device can recognize a press or force event at the button, and the computing system can then interpret the event and thereafter can perform one or more actions based on the event.


Apple credits Christopher Krah, Eugene Shoykhet and Martin Grunthaner as the inventors of granted patent 8,988,384 which was originally filed in Q3 2011 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. This marks another patent fulfilled.


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