In mid-June, Microsoft surprised the market with a media blitz previewing their Windows 8 tablet called Surface that created quite the buzz. Their first Surface tablet is scheduled to launch in October with the release of Windows 8 while their pro model powered by Intel's Ivy Bridge processor is set to arrive sometime in January 2013. In and around the timing of their original tablet event, their first and second patent applications came to light revealing details surrounding their next generation ePens. One patent application covered their ePen digitizer system while the other covered the basics of a new Cooperative Touch + Pen Input Mechanism. In today's report we take a look at yet another ePen invention from Microsoft that attempts to take the ePen to another level. In doing so, Microsoft attempts to reposition the device as being more of a high-end "Multi-Touch Input Device." The new device is designed to go beyond the basics of ePen functionality and offer users the ability to switch layers within a graphics application, change ink colors on the fly and switch to paint brush mode with just a slight change in the orientation of one's grip of the device. All in all it's a fascinating peak into where the ePen of tomorrow is heading.
Microsoft's Patent Background
Input devices are used to control a variety of electronic devices. For example, keyboards and mice are used to provide input to computers, while controllers are used to provide input to game consoles, televisions, and other entertainment devices. However, the usage paradigms for input devices have generally changed little. A user generally first selects a particular input device that controls an electronic device, and then uses the particular input device to send a control command to the electronic device. However, the performance of certain complex tasks may involve the user learning to use and switching between multiple input devices.
Advancing the ePen: Microsoft Invents a Multi-Touch Input Device to Perform Multiple Tasks
Microsoft's invention describes techniques for using a multi-touch input device that is equipped with an orientation sensor to perform multiple tasks. The multi-touch input device may have the ability to detect a grip pattern that is used by a user to hold and manipulate the input device. The grip pattern may include a particular hand grip that the user uses to hold the input device and the orientation of the input device in the user's hand. In turn, the multi-touch input device may act as different tools or perform different functions in response to the way the multi-touch input device is gripped and oriented by a user.
The multi-touch orientation sensing input device may enhance the task performance efficiency of the user by making it possible to perform different tasks with a single input device, instead of with the use of multiple input devices. Further, since the user may switch the multi-touch orientation sensing input device from performing one function to another function by simply changing the grip pattern, a user learning curve associated with mastering the use of new input devices may be reduced. Additionally, since the use of the multi-touch orientation sensing input device does not force the user to hold the input device in unnatural ways, user comfort and perceived quality of the input device may be improved.
In at least one embodiment, a multi-touch orientation sensing input device may include a device body that is partially or completely enclosed by a multi-touch sensor. The multi-touch orientation sensing input device may further include an inertia measurement unit that is disposed on the device body. The inertia measurement unit may measure a tilt angle of the device body with respect to a horizontal surface, as well as a roll angle of the device body along a length-wise axis of the device body with respect to an initial point on the device body.
Overview of Microsoft's New Device
Microsoft's patent FIG. 1 below is an illustrative diagram showing the example components of a multi-touch orientation sensing input device 102.
Various Functions of Microsoft's Multi-Touch Orientation Input Device
Microsoft's patent FIG. 4 noted above is an illustrative diagram showing an example grip pattern that commands the multi-touch orientation sensing input device to function as an electronic eraser tool 402; FIG. 5 s to function as a digital cutting tool 502 (e.g., digital razor) that may be used to digitally slice apart an existing drawing; The function illustrated in patent FIG. 6 is that of a digital paintbrush for creating drawings. In other instances, such an occurrence may also cause the function module to switch between layers in a drawing that is being worked on using the graphical illustration application.
In Microsoft's patent FIG. 7 noted above we see an illustrative diagram showing an example grip pattern that leads to change ink impression size when the multi-touch orientation sensing input device is functioning as a digital sketching tool. In other words, the user is attempting to use a virtual pencil sharpener 702 on the input device 102. Accordingly, when the user rotates the input device i.e., increase or decrease the roll angle, the function module may correspondingly increase or decrease the size of the ink impression made by the digital sketching tool.
In patent FIG. 8 above, Microsoft illustrates an example grip pattern that commands the multi-touch orientation sensing input device to function as a digital calligraphy brush tool for writing; in patent FIG. 9 we see an illustrative diagram showing an example grip pattern that commands the multi-touch orientation sensing input device to function as a digital compass tool.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 10 is an illustrative diagram showing a manipulation of the multi-touch orientation sensing input device to change ink color when the multi-touch orientation sensing input device is functioning as a digital sketching tool; Microsoft's patent FIG. 11 is an illustrative diagram showing example grip patterns of multiple multi-touch orientation sensing input devices that are collectively performing a digital ruler function.
In patent FIG. 12, the multi-touch device is acting as an input device (e.g., a virtual flute) to a music generation application (e.g., an electronic flute application). Accordingly, the sequence of grip patterns may be interpreted by the function module as correlating to a series of music notes to be recorded or played. If gives a whole new meaning to: Whistle while you work. And finally, patent FIG. 13 is an illustrative diagram showing an example grip pattern that commands the multi-touch orientation sensing input device to function as a digital racquet in the context of a video game.
The Important Tablet Components Required to Work with the New Multi-Touch Orientation Sensing Input Device
Microsoft's patent FIG. 2 shown below is a block diagram that illustrates selected components of an electronic device that is paired with the multi-touch orientation sensing input device. The electronic device may include a transceiver 202, an inertial measurement unit 204, a proximity sensor 206, user interfaces 208, one or more processors 210, and memory 212.
Microsoft's patent application filed under serial number 026058 was originally filed in Q1 2011 and published by the US Patent and Trademark Office in Q3 2012.
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