The US Patent Office has published a new patent application from Google that reveals that both their Android and Chrome OS teams are considering the use of pop-out radial styled menus in the future. The new menus will apply to smartphones, tablets and tradition hardware such as notebook and desktop computers. The new menus could provide single or dual layers of application tools that will assist users in getting the task at hand done quicker and more intuitively when it comes to touch displays. Google's not alone on this quest to deliver radial styled menus to both portable and traditional styled devices in the future, as Apple has already filed not one, but two patent applications on this very feature in the last two years. Who will get to market first with this idea and who will get it right? – Only time will tell.
Future Google Operating Systems May Implement a Radial Styled Menu System
Google's invention generally relates to techniques for displaying and selecting menu items provided by a presence-sensitive (e.g., touchscreen) display. Smartphones and tablet computers often receive user inputs as gestures performed at or near a presence-sensitive screen. Gestures may be used, for example, to initiate applications or control application behavior. Quickly displaying multiple selectable elements that control application behavior may pose numerous challenges because screen real estate may often be limited on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet devices.
In one aspect of Google's invention, a computing device may include an output device, e.g., a presence-sensitive screen (touch display), to receive user input. In one example, the output device may include a touch display region that may detect gestures provided by a user. The output device may further include a non-sensing region, e.g., a perimeter area around the presence-sensing region, which may not detect touch gestures. In one example, the perimeter area that includes the non-sensing region may enclose the presence-sensing region. The output device may also display a graphical user interface (GUI) generated by an application.
In one example, an application may include a module that displays a pie menu in response to a gesture. The gesture may be a swipe gesture performed at a boundary of the presence-sensing region and non-sensing region of the output device. For example, a user may perform a touch gesture that originates at the boundary of the non-sensing region of the output device and ends in the presence-sensing region of the output device.
In one example, a user may perform a horizontal swipe gesture that originates at the boundary of the presence-sensing and non-sensing regions of the output device and ends in the presence-sending region of the output device. In response to the gesture, the module of the application may generate a pie menu for display to the user. The pie menu may be a semicircle displayed at the edge of the presence-sensitive screen that includes multiple, selectable "pie-slice" elements. In some examples, the menu elements extend radially outward from the edge of the presence sensing region around the input unit, e.g., the user's finger. Each element may correspond to an operation or application that may be executed by a user selection.
In some examples, the user may move his/her finger to select an element and, upon selecting the element, the module may initiate the operation or application associated with the element. In some examples, the pie menu is displayed until the user removes his/her finger from the presence-sensitive screen. Google states that their invention may also increase available screen real estate by potentially eliminating the need for a separate, selectable icon to initiate the pie menu.
Google's patent FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating an example of a computing device #2 could, according to the filing, be a smartphone, netbook, tablet, notebook or even a desktop computer that incorporates a touch display and may be configured to execute one or more applications. The radial styled menu in this figure is illustrated as being initiated on the right border instead of the bottom border as shown in patent FIG. 4A above.
Selecting a Menu Element
According to Google's filing, selecting a menu involves a first motion finger gesture at location 30 to second location 32 which open a display menu 18. To select a graphical menu element, e.g., graphical menu element 28D, the user moves their finger from the second location 32 to a third location 34 of the touch display (presence-sensitive screen). The third location may be included in the touch sensitive region the touch display.
In patent FIG. 5 below, we see menu 116 display one or more groups of graphical menu elements that may include a first group of graphical menu elements shown as patent point #112 and second group of graphical menu elements shown as patent point #114. An application may associate one or more operations with one or more graphical menu elements.
Google's proposed radial menus could be simple or detailed. For instance, in patent FIG. 1 the application is a simple browser and the radial menu could provide a user to quick access to navigation operations such as Back, Forward, Reload, and Home. In contrast, patent FIG. 5 shows us that the radial styled menu which is directed from the particular app that you're in, can be quite detailed with sophisticated tools like those used in CAD programs for example.
Google's filing points out that in some examples an application may cause the touchscreen (presence-sensitive screen) to display an object viewer 120 as noted above in patent FIG. 5. The object viewer may display one or more visual objects which could include a photo or video images. In one example, a group of visual objects may include images that represent one or more documents.
Google's patent application was originally filed in Q3 2011 and published and published by the US Patent and Trademark Office earlier this month.
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