Apple Invents Finger-Mounted Devices to make Typing on a Future MacBook Virtual Keyboard feel Natural
Last month Patently Apple posted a report titled "New Apple Patent reveals Finger Devices to be used with a Future Mixed Reality Headset instead of Sensor Gloves." Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that continues work on this theme of using finger devices but with a whole different context. Apple's main inventor has been with Apple six years and for two of those years he was a Senior Input Technologist.
Next generation notebooks may provide a dual display form factor with one of the displays being able to function as a large virtual keyboard. In late January of this year we covered a patent application from Apple in a report titled "Future Virtual MacBook Keyboards will use Deformable Glass that provides a Superior Tactile Experience."
Apple has a number of other patents on record covering futuristic dual display MacBooks that could support virtual keyboards and other configurations (01, 02 and 03).
In today's published patent filing, Apple's engineering team invents an alternative system in the short term while working on deformable glass for the future. Apple's latest revelations on this front covers a system involving using finger mounted devices to "cushion" the impact of a finger hitting a hard surface like the glass of an LCD or OLED display.
Apple notes that "A sensor such as an optical proximity sensor or capacitive proximity sensor may be used in monitoring when the finger-mounted device and a user's finger in the device approach the input surface of the electronic device. In response to detection of motion of the finger towards the input surface, actuators in the finger-mounted device may squeeze the finger inwardly. This causes a finger pad portion of the finger to protrude outwardly towards the input surface, thereby softening impact between the finger and the input surface."
Apple further notes that the electronic device may also have an array of components that repel the finger-mounted device and/or the finger in response to detection of the motion of the finger towards the input surface. These components may produce repulsive force using electrostatics, magnetic repulsion or attraction, ultrasonic output, and mechanical output. The components may, as an example, include an array of electromagnetics overlapping the input surface that magnetically repel a component such as a permanent magnet in the finger-mounted device.
Apple later notes that input surfaces such as virtual keyboards can be formed on other structures such as table tops, vehicle dashboards, refrigerators and so forth.
For example, finger press input may be gathered form an input surface onto which key icons have been projected using a projector and/or finger press input may be gathered from an input surface without any visible key icons.
An unmodified finger impact event may be characterized by an abrupt force-versus-displacement profile (e.g., rapidly rising force on a user's finger when traveling a relatively short distance toward an input surface). By modifying these forces, a user may be provided with softer finger-to-input-surface interactions, with finger sensations that mimic the action of clicking on a physical button, and/or other finger sensations.
Apple's patent FIG. 13 presented below shows how the housing of finger-mounted device 26A may wrap under the tip of finger (#10) while leaving fingernail (#18) exposed.
The finger mounted devices could be individually worn or a gloves-accessory could be used with the finger-mounted devices built-in.
Apple's patent FIG. 14 is a diagram of a user's finger with an optional finger-mounted device and an associated electronic device in a system.
Apple's patent application was originally filed back in Q3 2018. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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