This Friday Microsoft will be releasing their new Surface Tablet along with Windows 8. New tablet specific technologies going into Windows 8 involve new "Contact Discriminator" and "Pen-in-Range" functionalities. Unlike Apple's iPad, Microsoft's new Surface tablet will be offering its users the ability to use touch gesturing and stylus/e-Pen input at a very high level of interactivity. Today's report covers the basics of these new functions that will be debuting on Friday.
Microsoft's Surface Tablet will Utilize a new Contact Discriminator
Microsoft's engineers state that in the course of applying a mark on a display surface with a pen device, the user may inadvertently rest their palm (or other portion of the hand or wrist) on the display surface. The computing device may then incorrectly interpret this inadvertent palm contact as legitimate input activity, thereby causing potentially unwanted behavior by the computing device. A similar challenge may confront a user who is intentionally using the touch input mechanism. The user may attempt to apply a focused touch to a target object presented on the display surface, yet the user may accidently brush or bump his or her hand (or a pen or stylus device held in that same hand) against other parts of the display surface, causing accidental input events. Workflow disruptions to the user resulting from such problems may understandably frustrate the user whenever they occur.
To get around this problem, Microsoft has invented a "Contract Discriminator" which provides various techniques for differentiating between intentional user touches, whether gesture or type-input touches, or contacts and unintentional user touches or contacts on contact-sensitive displays.
In other words, given a contact-sensitive computing device that is capable of responding to single, sequential, or concurrent user finger-touch inputs, and/or pen or stylus contacts or inputs, and/or hover-type inputs, the Contact Discriminator is capable of discriminating between valid touch, stylus, or hover inputs received from any input methodology, as distinct from invalid or inadvertent inputs.
The Contact Discriminator acts on one or more concurrent or simultaneous inputs determined to be valid while rejecting, ignoring, or deprecating invalid or suspect inputs. Note that under some embodiments, certain input may be simultaneously partially valid and invalid in a probabilistic sense, or possibly depending on the end-user application semantics of the touch. Hence, "rejected" inputs may nonetheless be propagated to end-user applications for further processing, but tagged appropriately as "palm-type inputs" with a given probability. Again, note that palm-type inputs may be received from any portion of the user's hand.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 3 illustrates an exemplary architectural flow diagram that illustrates program modules for differentiating between intentional user contacts and unintentional user contacts on one or more contact-sensitive surfaces of a computing device using the "Contact Discriminator."
Microsoft's patent FIG. 4 illustrates an example of using the "Contact Discriminator" to disable sub-regions of a touch-sensitive surface, or reject input originating within such sub-regions, resulting from contacts of portions of a user's hand or palm while concurrently accepting or allowing separate pen-touch and finger-touch type inputs.
Microsoft's patent FIG. 6 illustrates an example of using the "Contact Discriminator" to determine relative angles or orientation between one or more pen or stylus type input devices and touch sensitive surfaces as those pen or stylus type devices hover over or approach the touch sensitive surfaces.
For example, as illustrated by FIG. 6, circular projected field lines 640 would correspond to a pen 630 held perpendicular to the input surface 610 of computing device 600, while those field lines would become increasingly elliptical (i.e., field lines 670) as the angle of a pen 660 is increasingly deviated from a perpendicular orientation. Note also that the size of projected field lines is directly proportional to the distance of the pen input device to the input surface, with the size of the projection decreasing as the pen approaches the input surface. Therefore, in various embodiments, the Contact Discriminator determines hover distance based on projected field size.
In our June report titled "The Patent behind Microsoft's Digital Pen for Surface Tablets," we quoted Mike Anguilo, Microsoft's Corporate VP of Windows Planning as saying: "Another thing that's going on here is, as I'm moving my hand [on the tablet], you see that the page is not moving underneath my hand. That's because Windows has "Palm Block" technology. This surface has two digitizers. It has one for touch and a separate one for digital ink. And what happens is that when I bring the pen close to the screen, Windows sees the proximity of the pen and stops taking touch input so that my hand doesn't mess up what I'm writing."
Microsoft's current patent states that "Windows 8 currently provides functionality referred to as pen-in-range that it uses to disable finger-touch across the entire input surface whenever the pen is within a certain distance of that input surface."
Microsoft's updated patent application was filed in Q2 2012 and published in Q3 2012.
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