Are electrostatic touch sensors coming to future iOS devices?

“The race is on. The next wave of tablet computers, smartphones and wrist watches will not only have multitouch interfaces but also multitouch embodiments,” Jack Purcher reports for Patently Apple. “A new patent that has surfaced from a mysterious Apple competitor shows us how they’re working on devices that will incorporate electrostatic touch sensors right into a device casing to give users access to UI features quicker and easier. Will Apple’s competitors get the leap on them or will they have a response inkind in the not-too-distant future? If you want to take a peek at one of the next crazes in smart devices, then you’ve come to the right place.”

“Recently I stumbled upon a new patent application from a possible future competitor of Apple’s,” Purcher reports. “The invention was devised by two Japanese engineers yet the patent carried no known assignee. Is this a secret patent from a well known competitor – or is it just two dreamers hoping to sell their invention to the highest bidder? I don’t know the answer to that question but I can say that their patent is worth noting.”

Purcher reports, “These engineers point to Apple’s iPhone specifically, and then describe how to create a better device by using electrostatic touch sensors. That was enough to catch my eye and this report will present you with some of the finer points of this patent – and perhaps better yet, point to how this could play out for Apple.”

Much more in the full article here.

19 Comments

  1. I thought apple already had a patent similar to this. I remember something when folks were speculating on the iPad before it came out.

    Also, I think the technology apple has with the magic mouse and trac pad is just this.

  2. What’s new melgross is the creative use of touch sensors on the rear of a device. What Apple could do with such an advancement will be far beyond with the Pre has, though it’s nice to see that the competition is pushing and egging Apple on. I might even check out the Pre this weekend just to see what this entails. Apple will still do it beter. They usually do.

  3. I’m not a patent reader, but the first time I heard the term “gesturing” was in an Apple store in a way that sounded like, felt like, it was an Apple applied term. I know you can’t copyright a word so I assume that applies to patents at least certainly an existing word, anyway my point being that it was interesting to note that this new electrostatic sensor patent uses a Nano looking device and uses the term “gesture” to describe the finger movements as if the word has already become ubiquitous like Kleenex has.

  4. No biggie. There is no reason why you should not have touch interface on surface other than glass. There are already works on clothes, walls, etc The key is make it right. I would hate to accidentally touch someone’s watch and make him call his mother.

  5. Agreed there was much speculation last year about similar patents from Apple to the point that some insisted that the iPad.iPhone would feature such controls and yes it was mentioned in regard and comparison to the Pre’s existing elements for similar function.

  6. “What’s new melgross is the creative use of touch sensors on the rear of a device. What Apple could do with such an advancement will be far beyond with the Pre has, though it’s nice to see that the competition is pushing and egging Apple on. I might even check out the Pre this weekend just to see what this entails. Apple will still do it beter. They usually do.”

    Ray, the fact that this can already be done on the case shows that, as always, there is more than one way to skin a cat. New sensor tech is always good, but it isn’t always needed. It’s also possible that swiping and poking on the case ISN’T a good idea. If it allows that, where do you put your hands to hold it?

    We have people who complain that the bezel around the screen is too big, even though it’s required, and all tablets allow just about as much. Sometimes when I’m holding my iPad, I wish I had just a bit more. What about the back? Where will our palms and fingers go?

    We can be sure Apple is investigating this.

  7. @ Mel. The controls on the back could be optionally turned on. If I’m not playing a game, shut it off. If I’m not reading an iBook, shut it off. Apple has/is looking into this and if they are, it’s because it may serve a good function.

    Someone I spoke to today about this brought up playiing games on an iPod touch could benefit from the top right and left corners of the unit to be touch enabled for simple accelleration and braking on driving games and run and jump (or other action) using touch sensors on the iPod touches body.

    It’s one of those “magical” things Apple likes to pull off for marketing reasons.

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