Apple’s(s aapl) touchscreen devices – the iPhone, iPad and iPod mini – all have wonderfully responsive screens, but they lack the ability to detect different levels of pressure. That might be set to change, however, according to a new patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday (credit to Apple Insider for spotting).
The patent – Gesture and Touch Input Detection Through Force Sensing – describes a device that uses the same type of multitouch display as Apple’s other touchscreen devices, but adds a number of pressure-sensitive sensors beneath the surface of the screen. The force sensors – at least three – could be located around the corners of the device, or hidden somewhere else, like underneath the bezel (you can see an example of this in the image below). This would allow the device to detect gestures from beyond the scope of the display itself.
This actually reminds me a little of BlackBerry(s bbry), which allows you to swipe from the bezel on the BlackBerry Playbook and BB10 smartphones. It is unclear if Apple is merely seeking to provide the same functionality, or if it would use the bezel as a more advanced means of touch input. This could also enable Apple to leave certain elements off of the display entirely – similar to the swipe-up Settings menu introduced in iOS 7.
Pressure sensitivity would also make for better palm rejection. Apple devices are already pretty good at this, but it could come in handy for a thumb that’s resting on the side of the screen.
Of course, these sensors could also allow future devices to determine the force of a press. This could have many practical applications, from enhanced sensitivity for using your device to draw, or more immersive gameplay.
Bloomberg last year reported that Apple is working on new pressure-sensitive touch sensors for the iPhone. But even with a patent in place, whether or not this technology will make it to a future device remains to be seen.