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Apple Patents the Ergonomic Input Device of the Future

Posted on 8th Jul 2011 @ 2:50 PM

Remember the keyboard-free, space-glove input system from Minority Report? If Apple has its way, we might all soon be thumbing our way down the digital highway. A series of patents filed just before the iPhone debut three years ago seems to imply that the ultimate touch-screen input system could be just around the corner. Now that's ergonomic!

/news/43/apple_patents_the_ergonomic_input_device_of_the_future_image002.jpgWe have seen the future, and it is Tom Cruise. Or something.

The patents include improvements in sensor layout, mobile sensors, and compliant conductors. As Apple Insider points out, "the collective technology uses improved touch input nodes that are accurate enough to create a sensor image of different parts of the hand while not being bound to any particular size, shape, or resolution."

What does this mean for us? Well, Tom Cruise's cool gloves might still be a ways off. But we might be able to look forward to a combination keyboard/touchscreen/mouse device, more sensitive to smaller finger motions and less sensitive to background pressure. This would mean, for example, that a typist could rest his hands on the same surface he was typing on, without the input device picking up the pressure of his palms. It would also mean that the cursor would stop when your finger stopped instead of skittering down the line of type.


As far as looks go, this device could be anything from the flat glass screen of sci-fi movies to something that more closely resembles the keyboards of today. But the smart money is on a curved, ergonomic surface that makes it easier to "type" for long periods of time.

Some of these innovations are gradually showing up in the products we use today. Touch screens, for example, are such a part of our daily life that it's not uncommon to see people flailing desperately at a non-touch screen and ignoring button inputs entirely. But for now, the perfect integration of all these patents is still to come.

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