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7/2/2009
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Apple Files Touchscreen-Related Patent Applications

The iPhone-maker may be on track to fix one of the biggest complaints about the smartphone, and to add RFID and biometric identification capabilities.

Apple may be developing technology that would provide non-visual feedback when a person touches the screen of a laptop, smartphone, or other electronic device, according to a patent application filed by the company Thursday.

Such technology could fix one of the biggest complaints of the iPhone's virtual keyboard, which is the lack of any non-visual response. The haptic response could be in the form of a vibration and paired with an audible noise, the document filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office says.

Besides the use on virtual keyboards, the tactile feedback would also be useful for scrolling around virtual click wheels, sliding a finger across a trackpad, or touching a multi-touch display screen, the patent application said.

Such non-visual cues would be useful to touchscreen users who are visually impaired or are using their electronics in the dark. The technology would also be useful when a person's attention is diverted, such as when driving a car, which is not uncommon, and not recommended.

Apple on Thursday also submitted two other patent applications, one for technology to detect fingerprints and the other for a radio-frequency identification reader.

The fingerprint detector would make it possible for a person to initiate commands on a device through the use of a particular finger. For example, the system could detect the unique fingerprint on the middle finger to play music, or the touch of a person's pinky could fast-forward or rewind music. The variety of commands could be increased by launching functionality by double tapping with a particular finger.

The RFID-related patent would involve placing an antenna in the touchscreen of a device for reading RFID tags. Such tags are mostly used for tracking and managing inventory in a supply chain. The technology is expected to be more widely used in the future.


InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on smartphone security. Download the report here (registration required).

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