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Apple Patent Reveals Multi-Touch Scroll-Wheel & Larger Display iPod


On June 4, 2009, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals various concepts behind a newly advanced multi-touch scroll-wheel in development. Apple's current iPod Classic uses a single-point contact Click-Wheel which severely limits the types of applications that could be controlled on this iPod. Today's patent advances a new concept of multi-touch instructions that could go beyond circular motions to that of a wide range of input. Different regions of sensor elements can aid in sensing gestures that traverse the center of the scroll wheel. For example, linear motion, such as a swipe across the scroll wheel, would support an app like Cover Flow. Multitouch input would also enable zooming applications that could be used with an iLife app like iPhoto or an iWork app like pages or better yet, keynote. Apple introduces us to "Gesture mode" that will activate these advanced features. Lastly, if Apple's FIG.1 noted above is to be taken at face value, then it would indicate that the iPod Classic could be getting a much larger display and smarter scroll wheel. Considering the apps it will be able to run, it stands to reason. Whether this pops up during Apple's WWDC next week is unknown – but it's not that much of a stretch. Traditionally however, patents don't always translate to market that quickly. We could hope though. 


Zooming Function




In Apple's patent FIGS. 16 and 17 (click to enlarge) we see that the scroll wheel is used to control a zooming feature or function. To enable this function, the user has to go to the menu to change "legacy wheel mode" to that of "gesture mode." Gesture mode will be used in conjunction with iLife, iWork or other applications suitable for the iPod. If the larger display for an iPod Classic materializes, then you'd also be able to use your iPod at home or in any WiFi area to surf the net with Safari.


Swipe Function, List Navigation


In patent figure 14 below, the proposed iPod multi-touch scroll wheel will allow end users to swipe the wheel left-to-right to advance photos to mimic the touch-screen feature found in multi-touch screen based media players like the iPod touch.




In Apple's patent FIG. 15 noted below, the scroll-wheel 1510 can detect a linear input gesture to enable the iPod to provide list navigation. In a portrait orientation, the iPod could display a list of items on its display screen. When it detects a vertical swipe in an up-to-down direction, the iPod could scroll the list in a downward direction in response to the applied input.




New Possible iPod Classic Apps


Today's patent discusses various apps that would support a multi-touch scroll wheel based iPod Classic but doesn't illustrate them. They do however point to other related patents, such as U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/767,409 entitled "Media Player with Imaged Based Browsing," filed Jun. 22, 2007. Apple has since filed a continuation patent 20090172532 - related to the "Media Player with Imaged Based Browsing," patent, and a few images are noted below.




Apple lists the following engineers as the inventors of patent application 20090141046: Rathnam; Lakshman; (Cupertino, CA) ; Bokma; Louis; (Cupertino, CA) ; Rothkopf; Fletcher; (Cupertino, CA) ; Mucignat; Andrea; (Cupertino, CA) ; Kocalar; Erturk; (Cupertino, CA) ; Lyon; Benjamin; (Cupertino, CA) and Fisher; Joseph; (Cupertino, CA). A great number of new engineers are listed here.


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