As if the raging fire that is the Apple tablet rumor mill needed any more fuel, AppleInsider recently dug up a patent application from Cupertino for two-handed multitouch interactivity for its devices. The system would be able to distinguish between palms and fingers for full touch typing, gestures and more.
The input system appears to be a Minority Report-style do-everything keyboard and mouse replacement wonder device, but it could easily be applied to a large, tablet device with a screen big enough for two hands to fit comfortably upon. It also makes sense for a tablet because the iPhone’s current multitouch system is specifically tailored to its small size, and probably wouldn’t translate that well to a 10.7-inch device, which is what the latest rumors put the size of the Apple tablet at.
In the patent, a system is described that could potentially enable a user to type, write, draw and manipulate 3D objects and other digital media. It is so advanced that it could also detect when you’ve removed an individual digit or hand from the surface, when you’re just resting your hands on it, and ignore idle gestures like drumming on the surface with multiple fingers. Many activities are performed with some combination of multiple fingers, and these are termed “chords,” borrowed from guitar speak, in the patent application.
Apparently the system is also capable of recognizing handwriting (just shape your hand like you’re gripping an invisible pencil, perhaps?), which would address the needs of professional artists wanting to use an Apple tablet to ply their trade. It also provides for the two-handed manipulation of two-dimensional electronic documents, so you could rotate pages, scale photos, etc., using both hands instead of just pinch gestures, which would feel awkward on a larger surface.
While only just unearthed, the patent was filed in June 2009, so it stands to reason that the concepts contained within could already have been applied to pre-production versions of an upcoming tablet. The thing is, unless Apple was purposely trying to obfuscate tablet applications for the tech, it doesn’t look to me like it was planned for that use at all, at least when the idea was initially conceived.
Instead, it really seems like this was meant for a peripheral device, some all-in-one replacement for the keyboard and mouse that would completely revolutionize the entire computing industry, not just the tablet. Sort of like what the recent Bamboo Touch series of devices promises, but with much more complexity and in a more usable form. Either way, it remains tantalizingly speculative for now.