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An Apple Patent Reveals More Force Touch Details for Controlling a Virtual Paint Brush and Interacting with 3D Buttons

30A - Patent Application


On May 28, 2015, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to Force Touch and Intensity manipulation of objects on a display of an iDevice such an iPad. Apple tells us that this could be of importance in a future graphics and/or presentation applications. The invention could apply to a using force of a finger or a future Apple or third party stylus. Apple also touches on "tactile Output." Apple's patent focuses on a "Virtual Brush" as well a 3D buttons on a touch display.


Intensity = Force Touch


Apple notes in a new patent application published today that the term "intensity" of a contact on a touch-sensitive surface mentioned in their patent filing refers to the force or pressure (force per unit area) of a contact (e.g., a finger contact) on the touch sensitive surface, or to a substitute (proxy) for the force or pressure of a contact on the touch sensitive surface.


For example, one or more force sensors underneath or adjacent to the touch-sensitive surface are, optionally, used to measure force at various points on the touch-sensitive surface. In some implementations, force measurements from multiple force sensors are combined (e.g., a weighted average) to determine an estimated force of a contact. Similarly, a pressure-sensitive tip of a stylus is, optionally, used to determine a pressure of the stylus on the touch-sensitive surface.


Tactile Output


Apple also notes that the term "tactile output" in their patent application technically refers to physical displacement of a device relative to a previous position of the device, physical displacement of a component (e.g., a touch-sensitive surface) of a device relative to another component (e.g., housing) of the device, or displacement of the component relative to a center of mass of the device that will be detected by a user with the user's sense of touch.


For example, movement of a touch-sensitive surface (e.g., a touch-sensitive display or trackpad) is, optionally, interpreted by the user as a "down click" or "up click" of a physical actuator button. In some cases, a user will feel a tactile sensation such as a "down click" or an "up click" even when there is no movement of a physical actuator button associated with the touch-sensitive surface that is physically pressed (e.g., displaced) by the user's movements.


As another example, movement of the touch-sensitive surface is, optionally, interpreted or sensed by the user as "roughness" of the touch-sensitive surface, even when there is no change in smoothness of the touch-sensitive surface.


Adjusting Properties of a Virtual Brush


Apple notes that a virtual brush includes one or more properties that are adjustable. This new virtual brush will have a more convenient and intuitive interface by enabling the user to adjust an output property. By changing the intensity or "force" of the contact, the user can adjust an output property (e.g., width, color, opacity,) of the virtual drawing instrument.


Additionally, the user interface object optionally includes helpful indications of various output properties of the virtual drawing instrument, thereby providing the user with information that enables the user to use the virtual brush more quickly and efficiently.


Apple's patent FIGS. 11A through to 11P illustrate exemplary user interfaces for adjusting properties of a virtual brush. Apple notes that a contact-detection intensity threshold could be a light press, a medium press or a maximum press to alter brush output to adjust a drawing's element width or thickness.


Apple's patent FIG. 11A noted below illustrates virtual canvas 16802 displayed on a display (# 450). Virtual canvas #16802 is associated with an application, such as a drawing application or a presentation application.


2AF 55 FIG. 11A

According to Apple, a user will, in some circumstances, draw lines, curves, etc. on a virtual canvas with a virtual brush. The virtual brush is represented on display as brush manipulation object #16804.


The virtual brush strokes such as a line drawn on virtual canvas is controlled in accordance with one or more output properties of the virtual brush and movement of the brush manipulation object. In some embodiments, the properties include one or more of width, thickness, color, opacity, and brush hardness (e.g., whether the virtual brush output more resembles strokes from an instrument with a softer tip, such as a physical paint brush, or from an instrument with a harder tip, such as a pen or marker).


A brush manipulation object includes one or more status indicators. For example, brush manipulation object #16804 includes output status indicator(s) #16806 and brush status boundary #16808. The brush manipulation object includes four output status indicators. The output status indicators move (e.g., converge) toward the brush status boundary as an intensity or force of a contact controlling the brush manipulation object is detected on the touch-sensitive surface increases, and move away from the brush status boundary as the intensity of the contact decreases. In some embodiments, brush status boundary 16808 is represented as a circle as noted above.


In the lower have of the display shown above we see (fig. 11f) that the force of the virtual brush can increase the thickness of the line. If the virtual brush tool for color is chosen, then the force of the virtual brush will be able to change the depth of the color from light to various shades of a darker shade as noted below in patent FIG. 11M.



While users may be able to use a future stylus directly on the display of an iDevice for use as a virtual brush, it should be noted that the patent figure above is illustrating that a user is using their finger as the virtual brush on a secondary display, MacBook trackpad or possibly even a Magic Trackpad to manipulate objects as needed or desired.  


Virtual Brush Flowchart



3D Force Touch Buttons


In Apple's patent FIG. 8i shown below we're able to see that a force touch on an icon or button of an interface element could change visually to communicate that something is being turned on or off. We see that the flat icon or button can be elevated with a force touch to appear like a real activation button.


5AF - 55  3D BUTTON

Apple's patent that was published by USPTO today was originally filed back in Q1 2015. The complexity of the "related applications" noted in the patent filing, it would appear that Apple is putting a long series of patent filings into this one application covering years of work on haptics and beyond. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


One of the inventors that Apple credits on this patent application is May-Li Khoe. On a new webpage Khoe states that she recently left a long stint at Apple, where she designed and prototyped new things to poke at with the Human Interface Device Prototyping team. Her work included the invention and development of experiences across iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, and more, as well as concepts behind Apple's Force Touch and Taptic Engine.


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