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

cynikal Avatar
111 months 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!
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
doug in albq Avatar
111 months 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?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sualpine Avatar
111 months 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?
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
philips Avatar
111 months 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.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
samcraig Avatar
111 months 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...
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jclo Avatar
111 months 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.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

USB C Over Lightning Feature

EU Passes Law to Switch iPhone to USB-C by End of 2024

Tuesday October 4, 2022 3:30 am PDT by
The European Parliament today voted overwhelmingly in favor of enforcing USB-C as a common charging port across a wide range of consumer electronic devices, including the iPhone and AirPods, by the end of 2024. The proposal, known as a directive, forces all consumer electronics manufacturers who sell their products in Europe to ensure that a wide range of devices feature a USB-C port. This...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

10 New iOS 16 Features Coming Later This Year

Monday October 3, 2022 2:41 pm PDT by
iOS 16 was released to the public three weeks ago with a customizable Lock Screen, the ability to edit iMessages, improvements to Focus modes, and much more. And in the coming months, iPhone and iPad users have even more new features to look forward to. We've rounded up 10 new features coming to the iPhone and iPad later this year, according to Apple. Many of the features are part of iOS...
ipad pro m1 feature

Gurman: Apple Event This October Remains Unlikely, No Touch ID for iPhone 15

Sunday October 2, 2022 6:41 am PDT by
Apple is developing new iPad Pro, Mac, and Apple TV models, and at least some of these products will be released in October, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. However, Gurman continues to believe that Apple is unlikely to hold an event this month. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman said "the big iPhone 14 unveiling last month was probably it for Apple in 2022 in...
iOS 16

Apple Preparing iOS 16.0.3 With More Bug Fixes Following iPhone 14 Launch

Monday October 3, 2022 7:53 am PDT by
iOS 16.0.2 was released last month with several bug fixes for iPhone 14 issues, excessive copy and paste permission prompts, and more. Now, evidence suggests that Apple is planning to release iOS 16.0.3 with additional bug fixes. Evidence of an upcoming iOS 16.0.3 software update has shown up in MacRumors analytics logs, which have been a reliable indicator in the past. There are several...
Apple SIM Card

Apple SIM No Longer Available for Activating New Cellular Data Plans on iPads

Sunday October 2, 2022 8:04 am PDT by
As of October 1, Apple SIM is no longer available for activating new cellular data plans on supported iPad models, according to an Apple support document. Introduced in 2014, the Apple SIM was designed to allow iPad users to activate cellular data plans from multiple carriers around the world. Initially, the Apple SIM was a physical nano-SIM card, but it was embedded inside later iPad Pro...
maxresdefault

Video: AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort II

Monday October 3, 2022 12:50 pm PDT by
Apple on September 23 officially launched the second-generation version of the AirPods Pro, introducing updated Active Noise Cancellation, Adaptive Transparency, improved sound, and more. Right around the same time, Bose introduced new QuietComfort II earbuds with many similar features, so we thought we'd compare the two to see which has the edge. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for ...
General YouTube Feature 1

You May Soon Need to Be a YouTube Premium Subscriber to Watch 4K Videos

Monday October 3, 2022 4:29 am PDT by
YouTube may make watching videos in 4K quality on the platform exclusive to only YouTube Premium subscribers, according to screenshots posted by users on Twitter and Reddit. On Reddit (1,2) and Twitter, some users have started to recently notice that on iOS, and presumably across other platforms also, YouTube is now saying that in order to watch videos in 4K, the user must be a paying...
dynamic island alan dye

Apple Executives Talk About iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island in New Interview

Sunday October 2, 2022 10:48 am PDT by
In a new interview, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, and Apple's vice president of human interface design, Alan Dye, sat down to discuss the thinking behind the iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island and how it was developed. During the interview with the Japanese magazine Axis, Federighi, who oversees the development of iOS, said Dynamic Island represents the...