A new Google patent application that was recently published by the US Patent & Trademark Office reveals an ambitiously unique invention that relates to the construction of a future Android smartphone structure. The structure would be pressure sensitive to user directed squeezes and other physical gestures to control applications in a more intuitive manner than by touchscreen alone. As smartphones are now in the five inch range and beyond, the new gestures will assist users to control applications beyond the traditional use of a single hand and thumb control methodology. Each application will be uniquely tied to various specific controls via Google's new gesturing mechanism using a strain gauge that'll be integrated into the structure of a future smartphone. In theory, Google might be unto something here.
Google Invents a Unique Pressure Sensitive Smartphone Structure
Handheld portable electronic devices such as mobile phones are now capable of functions similar to personal computers. Compared to personal computers which offer several input devices such as keyboards, mice, and other input devices, handheld portable electronic devices are relatively small in size and offer more limited options for input. Handheld portable electronic devices are designed to be small in size, lightweight, and preferably operable using one hand. As the design of handheld portable electronic devices is driven by these considerations and one-handed ergonomics, engineers have undertaken the task of designing new input devices suited for handheld portable electronic devices.
Google's invention presents such a new design that is rather ambitious involving an all-new pressure sensitive device concept.
In one embodiment, a pressure sensitive device interface of a portable electronic device is described including a display screen that displays a user interface, a framing structure that receives a force applied to an external surface of the portable electronic device and exhibits strain, a strain gauge that identifies the strain within the framing structure, and a processor coupled to the display screen and the strain gauge and configured to measure the strain identified by the strain gauge to produce a measurement of the strain, and control the user interface according to the measurement of the strain.
Among aspects, the framing structure may include a first pair of parallel elements that form opposing elongated outer edges of the portable electronic device, and a second pair of parallel elements that extend perpendicularly between the first pair of parallel elements at respective ends of the first pair of parallel elements.
In some embodiments, the portable electronic device may further include interface circuitry that quantifies strain within the framing structure, and the strain gauge may comprise a plurality of strain gauges, where at least one of the plurality of strain gauges is positioned on a framing structure in an orientation that is different than another one of the plurality of strain gauges. In other aspects, each of the plurality of strain gauges may be positioned at respective orientations on a framing structure.
In certain aspects, the measurement of strain may include a magnitude of strain for each of a plurality of strain gauges, and a processor may be configured to measure a magnitude of strain for each of the plurality of strain gauges, and, for each magnitude of strain, assign a direction to the magnitude of strain to produce an individual strain metric for each of the plurality of strain gauges. The processor may be further configured to sum the individual strain metrics according to vector mathematics to produce an overall strain metric comprising magnitude and direction attributes, and identify a gesture with reference to the individual and overall strain metrics.
Pressure Sensitive Smartphone Casing Gestures: Squeeze, Shear & Splay
Among other aspects, Google identified pressure sensitive smartphone casing gestures that may include a squeeze, a shear, or a splay as noted below in Google's patent figures.
A processor may be further configured to control an application executing on the portable electronic device to execute a particular instruction based on an identified gesture. For example, the processor may be configured to control an application executing on the portable electronic device to select an item displayed on the display screen according to a squeeze gesture, control an application executing on the portable electronic device to rotate an item displayed on the display screen according to a shear gesture, and control an application executing on the portable electronic device to return to a previously displayed list according to a splay gesture.
Embodiments further include a portable electronic device including a framing structure that receives a force applied to the framing structure and exhibits strain, a strain gauge that identifies the strain within the framing structure, and a processor configured to measure the strain identified by the strain gauge to produce a measurement of the strain, and identify a gesture according to a value of the measurement of the strain.
Operating Smartphones with One Hand is Limited
As discussed above, the portable electronic device is generally designed to be operated by a single hand. However, inputting commands by touching the display requires either a thumb of one hand supporting the portable electronic device or an index finger of a hand other than the hand holding the portable electronic device.
Likewise, inputting commands by touching the buttons requires a thumb of a hand supporting the portable electronic device or an index finger of a hand other than the hand holding the portable electronic device. In many situations, this arrangement is cumbersome for a user. For example, a user may have only one hand free because the user's other hand may be occupied with another activity.
Furthermore, to accurately input a command based upon a graphical user interface displayed on the display, a user must visually reference the display before touching the display--requiring the user's attention to shift from other activities. A user may become frustrated with visually referencing the display every time a routine input command must be provided.
For example, in the context of playing music on the portable electronic device, a user may routinely wish to advance to a next song in a playlist during a physical activity without visually referencing the device. It is also noted that the display and the buttons may not include any tactile references. Thus, a user may be unable to distinguish between any two points over the display or any two of the buttons using tactile references (e.g., raised dots), necessitating the user to visually reference the portable electronic device before providing an input with precision.
In connection with the apparatus and method described in Google's patent filing, the above-discussed limitations may be addressed using strain gauge sensors that identify forces imparted to a framing structure of the portable electronic device. In other words, embodiments described in the patent implement a pressure sensitive device interface using feedback from strain gauges that identify partial physical deformation of the framing structure.
The strain gauges may be secured to, formed on, integrated with, or embedded within elements of the framing structure. Among embodiments, the pressure sensitive device interface may recognize and interpret different types of strain.
For example, the pressure-sensitive device may recognize compressive forces, tensile forces, shear forces, rotational forces, and other types of forces. Further, the pressure-sensitive device interface recognizes and interprets various magnitudes or proportions of various types of strain. In this context, proportions of strain may correspond to a plurality of different commands as noted in FIG. 8 above.
Google filed their patent application under serial number 446933 back in Q2 2012. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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