Apple Rumored to be Making Touchless Touchscreen
Appleinsider is reporting that Apple has filed a new patent for technology that would allow some of their products with touch sensitive controls to be manipulated merely by hovering one’s fingers, palm, arm, or whatever other appendages you please, over the touchscreen.
So far the technology is only slated to be used in products larger than the iPhone, and would allow users to perform certain procedures, such as powering down parts of the screen, dimming or brightening parts of the screen, and so on, without actually making contact with anything.
Apple’s file patent explains some other uses:
Additionally, merely by placing a finger, hand or other object near a touch panel, virtual buttons on the display screen can be highlighted without actually triggering the ‘pushing’ of those buttons to alert the user that a virtual button is about to be pushed should the user actually make contact with the touch panel. Furthermore, the combination of touch panel and proximity (hovering) sensor input devices can enable the computing system to perform additional functions not previously available with only a touch panel.
So how does this magical technology work? Apparently a series of IR receivers will be layered to do something that I don’t understand. Apple’s file patent explains again:
The transmitters and receivers can be positioned in a single layer, or on different layers. In some embodiments, the proximity panel is provided in combination with a display. The display can be, for example, a liquid crystal display (LCD) or an organic light emitting diode display (OLED display). Other types of displays can also be used. The IR transmitters and receivers can be positioned at the same layer as the electronic elements of the display (e.g., the LEDs of an OLED display or the pixel cells of an LCD display). Alternatively, the IR transmitters and receivers can be placed at different layers.
Neat! I think? While I look forward to a future where we can hover our hands over massive holographic screens and make files and pictures and stuff fly around on an aesthetically pleasing user interface like they do in Hollywood science fiction films, I’m having a hard time getting excited just yet. It sounds like so far the technology is only planned to be used for neat visual effects, like highlighting a button before you actually press it, but it’s obviously far too early to speculate on what the final product will actually do.
Further, only time will tell whether Apple actually follows through with this patent, considering many patents have been filed by the Steve Jobs’ company that have never seen the light of day in the form of an actual product. This could be merely another move on Apple’s part to secure the rights to a technology before someone else comes up with it first. It might be the case that Apple could find no use for this technology at all. But here’s hoping that in the future I never have to clean a touch screen again.