Got a tip for us? Share it...

New in OS X: Get MacRumors Push Notifications on your Mac

Resubscribe Now Close

Apple's Exploration of Pressure Sensitive Touch Screens Continues

Apple is exploring touch screen technology that determines pressure sensitivity using a combination of capacitive touch and infrared light sensing, according to a new patent application recently published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (via AppleInsider).

The patent describes a method of determining the force of a user's touch on a capacitive screen using infrared transmit lines from transmitters and receivers positioned under the frame of the cover glass. Capacitive touch combined with light would determine both the position of the finger and distinguish a soft touch from a harder touch, allowing Apple to implement gestures that could vary with force.

Using infrared light to determine where a user touches a screen is a method known as Frustrated Total Internal Reflection, or FTIR. FTIR is essentially a light-based way to detect multitouch, bouncing infrared light off of the touch screen to detect interference from a finger. When combined with capacitive touch, the interference measurements can also deduce force.

FTIR has been used by Microsoft for its Perceptive Pixel products, as noted in Apple's patent application. Microsoft offers several large-screened multi-touch sensing devices that use FTIR and offers a technology called Microsoft PixelSense, which is used in the Samsung SUR40.


As implemented by Microsoft, the FTIR technology, which uses cameras to detect light refracted by pressure, allows multiple people to use the device at once and it also recognizes and distinguishes objects that are not fingers.

Though Apple has not yet built pressure sensitivity into the touch screens of its mobile devices, the company has been looking at various techniques for implementing pressure detection over the last several years. In addition to infrared light, Apple has explored force sensors, spring membranes, and pressure sensitive device casings.

Given Apple's continued interest in pressure sensitive touch screens and competing products that already include pressure sensitivity, such as Microsoft's Surface Pro line of tablets, the implementation of the technology in some form or another seems like a logical step for Apple's future mobile devices.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)

22 weeks ago
I can't be the only one who finds it at least a little bit comical/ironic how an interface with the name of Frustrated Total Internal Reflection, is being offered by Microsoft.. :-) That pretty well sums up my experience with their O/S's at least!
Rating: 5 Votes
22 weeks ago
I wonder if this technology could be used to detect finger placement before the finger touches the screen...for mouse-over-like effects on links, and whatnot?
Rating: 4 Votes
22 weeks ago

Didn't they implement some sort of pressure sensitivity in the Garage Band app for iPad? I thought there was something like the harder you hit a drum the loaded the sound would be. Or is that something completely different?


GarageBand uses the accelerometer to determine how hard the screen was tapped, but it's not super accurate.
Rating: 3 Votes
22 weeks ago

Even though Samsung has a product already with something similar but developed by Microsoft?


Shhhhh. Don't re-align that reality distortion field on him without warning...
Rating: 3 Votes
22 weeks ago
ZOMG. Apple hasn't invented it yet, but Samsung and Microsoft are already copying it!!!

P.S. The thing is, the pressure sensitive tech has one major problem on portable devices: they are, well, portable and often are held in the hand. Even if highly effective/precise method of measuring the pressure would emerge, it would still be a gimmick, because human hands are not as precise. Same applies to the Samsung's finger-hover-over-the-screen thingy.
Rating: 3 Votes
22 weeks ago
I love how they need to research this when Wacom is already on multiple tablets for Android and Windows.

Is Apple too proud to license?
Rating: 3 Votes
22 weeks ago
I remember my BlackBerry Storm vividly
Rating: 2 Votes
22 weeks ago

Why?


They're fantastic to use! Apple's party line is that you'll end up with "gorilla arm" syndrome or some BS like that, but I work with touchscreens at work, and the touchscreen isn't a primary input device. It's a secondary input device, and if you use it as a secondary input device, it's absolutely fantastic to use.
Rating: 2 Votes
22 weeks ago

Isn't pressure based going backwards? iPhone broke through in 2007 as the first capacitive touch on glass while everything else was that crappy pressure- based resistive screens…..


Pressure *sensitive*, not pressure "based" e.g. "resistive" screens.

Same touch experience as we have now, but the hardware will be able to detect how hard your fingers (or some other object) are pressing against the screen and optionally respond to that pressure (drawing apps or maybe ability to discern different intents from the user).
Rating: 2 Votes
22 weeks ago



Licenses it, doesn't give Samsung free roam to use it wherever they please.[COLOR="#808080"]


Not quite sure where you're going or what you're actually saying to be honest. The OP was clearly mocking Samsung with a "don't copy this because it's already patented" and the implication was it was patented by Apple. I pointed out that was false and Samsung already uses the tech so the copying would not be possible.

As to your statement about Samsung's license... yeah that's false too. You have no idea what freedoms or restrictions their license gives them. Or do you?
Rating: 2 Votes

[ Read All Comments ]