Apple reveals a Future MacBook with an In-Air Sensing Strip that interprets 3D Finger Gestures using Ultrasonic Sensors
Apple already has more than 40 patents relating to future applications relating to "In-Air Gesturing" that you could review in our special archive. Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to in-air gesturing being specifically applied to a possible future MacBook. In some ways Apple is using it to advance or perhaps reinvent their Touch Bar feature so as to make it more appealing.
Apple's invention technically covers a future MacBook that advances the Touch Bar to being a new "sensing strip." In this future MacBook the control circuitry may use the sensing strip to gather air gesture input from the fingers of a user.
The control circuitry may gather the air gesture input by using the sensing strip to monitor motion of the user's fingers while the user's fingers are not touching the sensing strip. Use of the sensing strip to provide input in this way facilitates efficient operation of the user's MacBook.
The control circuitry can control any suitable operations in the MacBook using the air gesture input. For example, the control circuitry can adjust operating modes, can launch applications, can select on-screen options and perform associated tasks, or can perform other operations based on air gesture input from a user's fingers.
The sensing strip may have a one-dimensional array of sensor elements extending parallel to the axis along an edge portion of the housing. The sensing strip may be a capacitive sensing strip or may have optical sensor elements, acoustic sensor elements, radio-frequency sensor elements, and/or other sensing circuitry.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 below is a top view of an illustrative sensing strip on a MacBook that is shown in FIG. 5 as being a dual sensing strip with one on the MacBook's display and one above the keyboard.
Apple's patent FIGS. 6 and 7 below are cross-sectional side views of illustrative MacBooks. In FIG. 6 Apple illustrates a MacBook with dual sensor strips.
The illustrative configuration of FIG. 6 above shows how the sensing strip #20 can be located adjacent to the upper edge of keyboard #62 in lower portion #10B or can be located adjacent to the lower edge of display #14 in upper portion #10A.
While Apple's patent is definitely a cool patent, it's also a continuation patent which means that Apple has extended their previous patent claims. In fact, Apple has added 20 new patent claims to their invention.
Some of the claims are crucial starting with claim #1 that "the sensing strip comprises an array of sensors configured to detect touch input on the sensing strip and three-dimensional air gesture input in the air above the sensing strip; and control circuitry that adjusts display content on the display based on output from the sensing strip.
The following are a few other important new patent claims worth noting:
Claim #2. The electronic device defined in claim 1 wherein the array of sensors comprises sensor elements selected from the group consisting of: optical sensors, capacitive sensors, radio-frequency sensors, and ultrasonic sensors.
Claim #3. The electronic device defined in claim 1 wherein the touch input comprises tap input and swipe input.
Claim #4. The electronic device defined in claim 1 wherein the three-dimensional air gesture input comprises single-finger dwell gestures and multi-finger dwell gestures.
Claim #5. The electronic device defined in claim 1 wherein the three-dimensional air gesture input comprises swiping motions in the air above the sensing strip.
Claim #9. The electronic device defined in claim 1 wherein the display content comprises on-screen options and wherein the control circuitry is configured to select a given one of the on-screen options based on the three-dimensional air gesture input.
Claim #13. The electronic device defined in claim 12 wherein the finger gestures comprise a finger swipe in the air above the second display and wherein the display content comprises an on-screen slider button that moves in response to the finger swipe.
Claim #18. The electronic device defined in claim 17 wherein the sensor elements are selected from the group consisting of: optical sensors, capacitive sensors, radio-frequency sensors, and ultrasonic sensors.
To review all 20 added patent claims, check out Apple's continuation patent 20210149445. Considering that this is a continuation patent, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.