Apple's Unofficial Trademark Filing for iPad
Apple Files iPad Design Trademarks

Apple's iPad May Gain an Intelligent Bezel in the Future


Today, the US Patent and Trademark Office officially published two major granted patents of Apple's covering tablets and advanced touch technologies. The first patent may provide us with a glimpse of a future implementation of an intelligent tablet bezel. The bezel could have invisible or visible touch areas that could be programmed to control such things as music volume, simple zooming functions for maps or even gaming controls. Considering that Apple's new iPad has a considerable sized bezel, you have to wonder if this is what they have in mind for that bezel in the future. Apple has also gained a second advanced virtual keyboard and touch based patent in the last 90 days that actually plays into the strengths of the intelligent bezel.


The Touch Sensitive Bezel


Apple's patent FIG. 4 shown below is a tablet that incorporates a touch sensitive bezel 120. The touch sensitive bezel is used for UI control of the tablet.



The housing 102 of the tablet of device also contains electronic components that provide a number of operations and features, such as memory access, communications, sound, power, etc. In addition, the tablet houses electronic components that are used to control operation of the display 110 and the bezel.


In one example, the tablet can be a picture frame having memory for storing digital pictures and for viewing on the display. In another example, the tablet can be a digital media device having the display 110, the touch sensitive bezel, and lacking most or all buttons or similar physical controls on the housing 52. In other examples, the tablet can be an electronic game, a personal digital assistant, a multimedia device, a cellular telephone, a portable video player, a portable navigation device, or the like.


The bezel is touch sensitive and is used to obtain touch data from the user in response to touch events made by the user on the bezel 120. The tablet uses the touch data obtained with the bezel to perform various operations and functions related to user interface and user control of the tablet.


For example, the touch data obtained with the bezel can control what is displayed on the tablet such as what files are played, what the volume level is, what the settings for the display are, etc.


Visible or Invisible Bezel Touch Areas  


During the tablet's operation, areas or locations of the bezel are designated for various user controls of the tablet. In one embodiment, particular user controls designated for areas of the bezel may be indicated directly on the bezel itself using graphics, words, or the like.


In another embodiment, particular user controls designated for areas of the bezel may not have any visual indications appearing directly on the bezel itself. Instead, the designated user controls may be in a logical or predetermined location on the bezel that the user may know or expect.


In one example, one edge of the bezel that is about 4 to 5-inches in length may accommodate about one-hundred distinct areas that can be designated for user controls. See the illustration of such below in Apple's patent FIG. 13A which illustrates an embodiment of a touch sensitive bezel having a plurality of conductive pads, a control module, and sensors according to certain teachings of the present disclosure.


Shifting Orientation of the Tablet Alters the Visual Guides  


In a further embodiment, the electronic device may be capable of rotation as with the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad today. Based on the sensed orientation, the areas 121 on the bezel designated for the user controls can be altered or relocated to match the current orientation of the device.



Likewise, the user interface software operating on the device can alter the location of the visual guides 180 to match the current position of the areas 121 on the bezel designated for the user controls. The visual guides could also be represented as touch icons.  


An Intelligent Bezel


In Apple's patent FIG. 10 we are told that bezel could be configured to discriminate or ignore certain forms of touch data. Simply holding the bezel wouldn't activate bezel designated controls which would require a specific touch so that the bezel could distinguish between a users generally holding the bezel versus instruction. It could be a tap or it could be determined on a timer setting.


The processing circuitry (not shown) of the device can store information tracking how long touch data has occurred on portions of the bezel 520 and/or how many adjacent, designated areas have had repeated touch data. Then, after a predefined time limit, the processing circuitry can begin to ignore that consistent touch data in the portion 522 of the bezel when determining what user controls the user is implicating.


In the present example, the areas 524 and 526 for the "page up" and page down" user controls on the left side of the bezel have been moved to new locations outside the ignored portion. Likewise, the visual guides 512 associated with the "page up" and page down" user controls have been shifted to new locations adjacent to the newly designated areas.


In additional alternatives shown in FIG. 12, a touch sensitive bezel 590 according to the present disclosure can be arranged in a housing 572 around at least a portion of a display 580 of an electronic device 570. In general, the bezel can include one or more discrete touch sensitive surfaces positioned in the housing adjacent one or more sides of the display.


On device 570A, for example, the bezel has a plurality of discrete touch sensitive surfaces positioned in the housing adjacent each side of the display. On device 570B, for example, the bezel has a first touch sensitive surface positioned in the housing adjacent three sides of the display and has a second touch sensitive surface positioned in the housing adjacent one side of the display. On device 570C, for example, the bezel has first and second touch sensitive surfaces positioned in the housing adjacent opposing sides of the display. These and other alternative arrangements are possible for touch sensitive bezels according to the present disclosure.

Apple credits Nick King, Duncan Kerr, Paul Herbst and Steven Hotelling as the inventors of Granted Patent 7,656,393, originally filed in Q2 2006.


One last Granted Patent of the Day


User Interface Gestures: Apparatus and methods are disclosed for simultaneously tracking multiple finger and palm contacts as hands approach, touch, and slide across a proximity-sensing, multi-touch surface. Identification and classification of intuitive hand configurations and motions enables unprecedented integration of typing, resting, pointing, scrolling, 3D manipulation, and handwriting into a versatile, ergonomic computer input device. This is Apple's second granted patent within the last 90 days. See Patently Apple's other detailed report on this subject matter. The patent covers virtual keyboards and would definitely support intelligent bezels as outlined above. Today's granted patent is 7,656,394, originally filed in Q3 2006.  


Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application and/or Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application and/or Issued Patent should be read in its entirety for further details. For additional information on any granted patent noted above, simply feed the individual patent number(s) into this search engine.


Please note that any of the temporary links presented in today's report are in fact temporary and may redirect you to unrelated patents in the future. In such cases refer back to the search engine instructions above. 




Be on the lookout for Apple to eventually patent a thought-sensitive device. It's not science fiction; such technology has been in the works for a while now. When it happens, you can be sure they'll make a killing in patent enforcement.

This appears to build upon the "gesture area" on the palm pre. Perhaps apple is hedging their bets when it comes to competing with palm on pure interface techniques

Good article! I think the function isn't included in the first generation iPad, maybe Apple is already started develop the second iPad?

I also published an article in Dutch about this report:

It's sounding more and more that when the iPad is finally released for general distribution in the early Summer it is going to contain many features and functions (F&Fs) that were not discussed — or even hinted at — during the Introductory on 1/27, and that these surprising F&Fs are going to make the iPad a truly magical device to own and use. Yesterdays news that there's also a machined cutout in the iPad's metal frame that could contain the same camera as used in the laptops adds to this perception (though it's not shown in any of the above patent application sketches).

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