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
106 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
106 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
106 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
106 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
106 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
106 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

RIP iPod Feature

RIP iPod: A Look Back at Apple's Iconic Music Player Over the Years

Friday May 13, 2022 2:25 pm PDT by
Apple earlier this week announced the discontinuation of the iPod touch, and because it was the last iPod still available for purchase, its sunsetting effectively marks the end of the entire iPod lineup. To send the iPod on its way, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the most notable iPod releases over the last 21 years. Original iPod (2001) Introduced in October...
iOS 16 mock for article

Gurman: iOS 16 to Include New Ways of System Interaction and 'Fresh Apple Apps'

Sunday May 15, 2022 6:14 am PDT by
iOS 16 will include new ways of interacting with the system and some "fresh Apple apps," Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has said, offering some more detail on what Apple has in store for the upcoming release of iOS and iPadOS set to be announced in a few weeks at WWDC. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman wrote that while iOS 16 is not likely to introduce a major face-lift to...
maxresdefault

Unbox Therapy Shares Hands-On Look at iPhone 14 Pro Max Replica

Monday May 16, 2022 4:40 am PDT by
YouTuber Unbox Therapy has shared a hands-on look at the iPhone 14 Pro Max using what he claims is a one-to-one replica created by third-party case makers with access to detailed schematics and dimensions for Apple's new upcoming flagship smartphone. As with the iPhone 13 Pro lineup, in 2022, we are expecting a 6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro and a 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max, but this time the Pro...
iOS 15

Apple Releases iOS 15.5 and iPadOS 15.5 With Wallet and Podcast Updates

Monday May 16, 2022 10:00 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS 15.5 and iPadOS 15.5, the fifth major updates to the iOS and iPadOS 15 operating systems that were initially released in September 2021. iOS and iPadOS 15.5 come a little over two months after the launch of iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4. The iOS 15.5 and iPadOS 15.5 updates can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in...
14 16 inch 2021 mbps back to back feature orange

Five Things You Still Can't Do With a MacBook Pro

Wednesday May 11, 2022 11:16 am PDT by
It's been over 200 days since Apple debuted its redesigned MacBook Pro lineup. Offered in 14-inch and 16-inch display sizes, the new-look MacBooks wowed Apple fans and creative pros alike with their powerful custom Apple silicon, mini-LED screen, and multiple connectivity options. But there are still some things you can't do with a MacBook Pro. Here are five features some Mac users are still...
apple mac ipad watch trade in

Apple Launches Limited-Time Bonus Trade-In Credit for iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch in Many Countries

Wednesday May 11, 2022 5:14 am PDT by
Apple has launched a special limited-time offer for iPhone, Apple Watch, Mac, and iPad trade-in that offers customers additional credit when trading in their only device for a new one. The offer is being run in several countries including the US, UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, India, and France. In the UK, Apple is offering up to £50 of extra trade-in credit...
airpodsprodesign

Kuo: AirPods, MagSafe Battery Pack, and Other Apple Accessories Also to Switch to USB-C in Future

Sunday May 15, 2022 5:59 am PDT by
Earlier this week, well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that Apple plans to release at least one iPhone 15 model with a USB-C port in 2023. Now, in a follow-up tweet, he has claimed that accessories like AirPods, the MagSafe Battery Pack, and the Magic Keyboard/Mouse/Trackpad trio would also switch to USB-C in the "foreseeable future." Both the iPhone and all of the aforementioned...