The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a Microsoft patent application last week for a next generation low profile notebook pointing stick, very much like the IBM or Lenovo TrackPoint. For some this is must-have productive feature. Lenovo once dumped the TrackPoint only to bring it back to the enterprise market due to popular demand. Microsoft wants their Surface Book to appeal to enterprise users who are hooked on this feature and so they're considering this feature for a future Surface Book. To modernize this feature, the top surface of the pointing device would double as a fingerprint authentication system to allow users quick access to their system.
Technically speaking, Microsoft's invention covers a low-profile, small-footprint gel-based pointing device with a tactile surface affixed to a first side of the gel-based body, and a base surface affixed to a second side of the gel-based body that is opposite the first side. The tactile surface is configured to receive an input from a user. The base surface affixes the gel-based body to a sensor surface.
In some embodiments, the gel-based pointing device further includes a sensor for receiving the gel-based pointing device and a detector for detecting changes in at least one of resistance, capacity, pressure, lateral position, and/or vertical position in response to movement of the pointing device.
To a certain degree, Microsoft describes their pointing device as being able to use different layers of force to trigger a translation of gestures by the Surface Book to modify a user interface – which seems to go beyond the mere movement of a cursor and closer to what Apple has done with their Force Touch trackpad.
In respect to the pointing device doubling as a fingerprint ID authentication system, Microsoft notes that "When the gel-based pointing device is in combination with an optical lens and image sensor, some or all of the components can be at least partially transparent such that the image sensor can capture imagery of a user's finger and therefore a user's fingerprint. Thus, the image sensor can be used for authentication."
Considering that Microsoft only filed their patent application for this invention last December, it's unknown at this time when such a feature could be introduced with a future Surface Book.
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