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Apple Invention Advances Force Touch through to Hardware providing new Controls for Gaming & Video Playback

1 XXX Cover squeeze control

 

Back in 2014 our Patently Mobile IP blog covered a Samsung patent filing for a smartphone that introduced squeeze and stretching controls to work with future flexible displays. It was an idea that was a little over the top making the smartphone look like a kitchen sponge as noted in our cover graphic.

 

Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple titled "Mobile Electronic Device with Squeeze Detection." It's basically the same concept with a little less ambition that could make it a little more realistic.

 

Although Apple's invention title includes the word squeezing, the force sensing noted in the patent application isn't limited to side squeezing actions.

 

Apple's invention covers apparatuses and methods for force sensing compliant enclosures for electronic devices. A force sensing compliant enclosure for an electronic device may include at least one deformable housing wall. At least one strain concentration portion may be located on the deformable housing wall where strain caused by application of a force that deforms the deformable housing wall is greater than at other portions of the deformable housing wall.

 

The strain concentrating portion may have a second thickness that is thinner than other portions of the deformable housing wall. One or more sensors may be positioned in the strain concentration portion and may sense strain caused by the application of the force that deforms the deformable housing wall. In this way, the strain caused by the deformation of the deformable housing wall may be concentrated at the location sensed by the sensor.

 

In some implementations, the force sensing compliant enclosure may include multiple strain concentrating portions that may form pockets or notches in one or more deformable housing walls of the force sensing compliant enclosure that may each include one or more sensors. However, in other implementations the strain concentrating portion may comprise a groove that runs along an inner surface of one or more deformable housing walls, such as across an internal perimeter of the force sensing compliant enclosure.

 

The electronic device may include one or more processing units that receive and interpret data regarding the strain sensed by the sensor to determine one or more user inputs that correspond to the force applied to the deformable housing wall. In some cases the processing unit may analyze the data to determine an amount of the applied force and/or a location on the force compliant enclosure and/or electronic device where the force was applied. In various cases, the processing unit may determine the location where the force was applied and compare the determined location to a previously determined location where a previous force was applied to determine a movement between the two locations.

 

2 apple deformable iPhone with squeeze controls

Apple's patent FIG. 1E is a cross-sectional front side view of an electronic device such as a smartphone. The portions of the housing #101 located at the strain concentrating portions #102 may comprise a different material #106 than the other portions of the housing, such as an elastomer while the other portions of the housing may be a hard plastic.

 

Apple's patent FIG. 3 below is a flow chart illustrating a method for operating an electronic device. At block #304, after the housing of the electronic device is deformed, a sensor positioned on at least one strain concentration portion of a wall of the housing where the strain is greater than at other portions of the housing senses strain caused by the deformation. The flow then proceeds to block #305 where at least one processing unit of the electronic device receives data regarding the strain from the sensor.

 

3 Apple fig. 3 deformation  force squeeze detection

A Control for Video Play, Gaming & More

 

There are two main functions that Apple envisions for a squeezing form of force touch integrated into an iDevice. The first is pausing and restarting a video.

 

Apple notes: "The processing unit may process received data and determine that the user applied a force to a location on the back of the electronic device (the surface opposite the display associated with pausing the video.

 

As such, the processing unit may determine that user input corresponds to a command to pause the video. Subsequently, the processing unit may process received data and determine that the user applied a force to a different location on the back of the electronic device associated with resuming play of the video.

 

As such, the processing unit may determine that user input corresponding to a command to resume play of the video has been received and resume play of the video accordingly.

 

In another example, the processing unit may be presenting a motorcycle driving game via the display. The processing unit may process received data and determine that the user applied a force to bend the electronic device. In this case, bending the electronic device may be associated with increasing the speed on the motorcycle in the game.

 

Subsequently, the processing unit may process received data and determine that the user applied a force to twist the electronic device. In this case, bending the electronic device may be associated with braking the motorcycle in the game.

 

And lastly, Apple notes that the processing unit may process received data and determine that a user applied a force to an area on a side of the electronic device associated with waking the electronic device out of a "sleep mode."

 

Apple's patent application was originally filed five months ago in February 2018. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.

 

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