In Patent Bolt's miniseries covering future features coming to Microsoft's Surface tablet, we've presented a wide range of technologies. We began by covering Microsoft's next generation digital pen and quickly followed up with another report on how multi-touch and pen combination gestures would work together. In our third report we illustrated how twisting, tilting and shaking Microsoft's future tablets will initiate certain tablet functions. In today's fourth installment, we take a look at yet another Microsoft patent that clearly indicates their intent to bring fingerprint detection to Surface at some point in time. According to Microsoft, biometrics via Fingerprinting will act as a user's unique key for starting their devices and eventually work itself right into corporate boardrooms in a very unique way.
A Look at Microsoft's Fingerprint Detection Patent
Microsoft's invention relates to their future Surface tablets and displays including a fingerprint detection module for detecting fingerprint information that may be contained within touch input event(s) provided by a touch input mechanism.
Microsoft states that computing devices will be able to leverage the fingerprint information in at least one of two ways (or both ways). In a first approach, the computing device will use the fingerprint information to provide an enhanced interpretation of the touch input event(s) provided by the touch input mechanism. For example, the computing device will use the presence (or absence) of the fingerprint information to identify unintended input actions. For example, the computing device will be able to interpret the absence of fingerprint information as a possibility that the user may have inadvertently brushed the display surface with a palm or a knuckle, etc.
In another case, the computing device will be able to use the fingerprint information to determine which finger of the hand has contacted the display surface, which, in turn, can be used to provide a more nuanced interpretation of the touch input event(s).
In a second application, the computing device will be able to use the fingerprint information to identify an individual associated with the fingerprint information. The computing device can then provide a user experience via the display mechanism that corresponds to the individual's identity. For example, the computing device can display content on the display surface (such as a menu, document, etc.) that is associated with the individual.
Overall, the use of fingerprint information will be able to reduce the risk that the computing device will misinterpret input actions performed by the user. Further, the use of fingerprint information enables a designer to provide rich and expressive gestures, which are nevertheless not overly complex. These features may contribute to providing a satisfactory user experience.
The Fingerprint Module
Microsoft's patent FIG. 4 illustrates one way in which a user may contact a display surface of a tablet (402). For example, the user may press their finger on the tablet to select an object/icon or menu option presented on the display surface. The fingerprint detection module 110, which is marked in yellow below, facilitates the analysis of the touch input events by the Interpretation and Behavior Selection Module (IBSM 108) noted in blue below. In this role, the fingerprint detection module can encounter different scenarios.
The system is designed to work with a clean well defined fingerprint as shown in FIG. 4 as 408 versus an degraded fingerprint shown as point 410. The fingerprint information is to identify the user/owner of the device and to provide them with a tailored experience. According to Microsoft, a hosting system (which may a future iteration of SkyDrive) will maintain safeguards to ensure privacy of such fingerprint information.
Fingerprints used as a Key
In Microsoft's FIG. 10 a user has cleanly pressed his finger against a display surface and in response the IBSM detects the fingerprint information, recognizes the user based on the fingerprint information and then displays an object 1006 that is deemed appropriate for this user. For example, the object may correspond to a particular document, web page, menu, and so forth. If the IBSM is so configured, the user may press another finger down on the display surface to receive another object. In effect, each finger of the user serves the role of a key. Instead of presenting a conventional key in a typical manner, the user simply presses his or her finger onto the display surface 1004. The user's fingerprint acts as sufficient credentials to retrieve and present content associated with the user.
The Workplace: The Smart Conference Table
Microsoft's patent FIG. 11 below presents us with one of the ways in which the concepts imparted by FIG. 10 can be extended to a collaborative environment. In this case, multiple participants (1102, 1104 and 1106) sit around a large display surface display 1108, such as a tabletop display surface, or stand in front of a large wall display, etc.
Assume that each user presses one or more fingers onto the display surface. The IBSM responds by detecting fingerprint information from the touch input events, and uses the fingerprint information to recognize the participants. The IBSM then presents objects (1110, 1112 and 1114) on the display surface that are appropriate for the respective individuals.
In the future, you'll go to an internal meeting with no tablet or notepad in hand. You'll simply sit at the table and place your finger on the display acting as a conference table and a copy of your tablet-top will pop up. You'll be able to take notes with your digital pen, call up a document, picture, sales chart and so on to conduct your meeting. When you're done, you sign out with your fingerprint just as you did signing in and any new data derived from your meeting will be sent directly to your physical tablet or PC for future reference.
Microsoft is coming along nicely on the tabletop as the video below proves out. So this isn't just dream-talk.
At the End of the Day
At the end of the day, there's still a stigma associated with accepting biometrics as a key. At one point in time only criminals were fingerprinted and yet soon we'll be asked to trust Microsoft to hold our fingerprints in the cloud. Do you feel comfortable with that? On the flipside, you probably have 20 or more secret passwords written in a little black book somewhere that you're always fumbling through to find that password you just can't remember. Oh – how nice it would be to dump that black book and just rely on one simple key: Your Fingerprint. I'm not sure whether the public is ready for this or not, but the conveniences are starting to look a little tempting. What are your thoughts on using your fingerprints as a digital key?
Microsoft's patent application was originally filed in Q4 2010 and published by the US Patent and Trademark in Q2 2012. Also see our other three related reports in this miniseries (One, Two and Three) covering varying technologies related to Microsoft's coming tablet called Surface. Always bear in mind that these are patents and not rumors and therefore shouldn't be tabled as coming to the first iteration of the Microsoft's tablet. Many of these features will eventually come to market, over time.
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Sidenote: Is Microsoft's Classic Snippet Tool Coming to Surface Tablets?
Just as a sidenote, a recent Microsoft continuation patent application has come to light that was filed just a year ago. The patent covers their classic "Snippet" tool which is a great tool for grabbing images on the fly. Microsoft's Snippet tool has already been designed to work with a stylus and so it stands to reason that Microsoft is likely to update this feature for Windows 8 tablets, Surface or otherwise. That would be excellent news.
The Patent Bolt blog presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. About Comments: Patent Bolt reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.