back to article Like your iPhone, but not enough to touch it? This patent's for you

Do you baulk at the size of Microsoft’s mega Surface Hub whiteboard, and want something a little more Apple-tastic for your wall? Fear not. Cupertino has filed a patent raising the prospect of interacting with your iOS device without touching the screen. US Patent 9,250,734, awarded to Apple on February 2, will: Use one or …

  1. TheProf

    Don't touch this

    I was in a new VW Golf a few months back and was impressed with the touch screen display that appeared to be a non-touch display. Moving my finger to a few millimetres from the screen caused the screen to display a set of options. Moving my finger away from the screen and the display switched back to showing station info.

    I still had to prod the display to get it to do anything useful but that was probably a design decision to stop accidental swipes switching the radio to a commercial station.

  2. msknight Silver badge

    I've heard of the obvious...

    ...but this is laughable. What about all the "touch screen" sensors that went around the edge of the screen and tracked your finger as you moved it? You didn't have to, "touch" the screen at all. We could retro fit them to anything.

    I thought Obama was going to sort out all this crap. Well he'd better hurry up as his exit looms large.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I've heard of the obvious...

      Agreed, we were using such screens to obtain train tickets at the main stations here in France 15 to 20 years ago with the OS/2 touch interface.

      Sorry, I forgot, this is before the US patent office where they don't look at the wider world for prior art. Do they actually look for prior art at all?

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: I've heard of the obvious...

        Why do you need multi-touch to buy a train ticket?

        1. AMBxx Silver badge

          Re: I've heard of the obvious...

          There used to be an addon thingy for the BBC Micro that fixed onto the front of the monitor. IR Beams to detect touch. Seem to recall it had low resolution, and was expensive, but still 30 years ago.

      2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: I've heard of the obvious...

        The technology used 20 years ago was probably based upon a resistive screen.

        The underlying tech used today is far removed from that.

        A patent covers a specifc method of doing something. The end reslult or the UI might be the same but the how is gets from A ot Z is unique. You can build upon work described in an existing patent as long as you refer to that patent in your application.

        The devil they say is in the detail.

        People thinking of developing something that might end in a patent SHOULD NOT Read any patents in that area. IF you do then you might be hit with a wilful damage lawsuit.

        Leave any reading to your Patent Attourney to do when preparing your application.

  3. Roger B

    No one knows this

    As no one apparently likes Windows Phones but my Lumia 625 has a touchless scroll and select option, works kind of okay, basically just hover your finger tip a mm or so above the screen and it scrolls through IE. But, hey its Apple, they have of course invented this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No one knows this

      Well, MS copied it from someone.

    2. Darryl

      Re: No one knows this

      You'd think the Apple fans would have more respect for MS, Samsung, et al... After all, they DID invent time machines so that they could go a few years into the future and steal Apple's ideas so that they could copy them back in the past.

      Or something

  4. Leeroy Bronze badge


    S5 Air view



  5. DougS Silver badge

    WTF is this article talking about?

    Yes, the iPhone and Android phones have true multitouch. iPads can handle 11 simultaneous touches - which can be from one person (don't tell me what you're using for the 11th) or multiple people. I don't remember the limit for the iPhone, but the number 7 sticks in my head for some reason, but it is definitely at least 5.

    Android devices have a different number depending on hardware, some are as few as 2 and others are a lot more.

    If you scaled an iPad up to whiteboard size, 11 touch inputs is more than enough for multiple people to be drawing on it at once.

    And none of that crap had anything to do with Apple patent for NOT touching your screen. Sheesh, Reg writers lose their minds when it comes to Apple sometimes...

    1. DaLo

      Re: WTF is this article talking about?

      The paragraph from the reg does seem a bit strange...

      "The firm pioneered touch for the masses with the iPhone, kicking to the curb earlier puny efforts from Microsoft with its tablets. However, touch on the iPhone is not multi-touch – that is, capable of taking input from more than one source, or person. Pinching and resizing a screen using just your fingertips doesn’t count as multi-touch."

      Who says multi-touch has to be more than one scource. Multi-touch is defined by pretty much everyone as more than one point of contact, as DougS said. You can redefine to whatever you want such as saying "normal websites are not true websites, only is a true website", doesn't make it real until everyone else agrees with you.

      Also, of course, the iPhone didn't pioneer touch for the masses. You could say that the iPhone pioneered a version of multi-touch that was used by 'the masses'*

      *depending on your description of masses

      However, in regards to DougS I would see that being able to distinguish between two different sources (people) is the claim. If two people point their fingers at a large ipad and move them apart the ipad will interpret that as "pinch to zoom", the same on android. Whereas detecting two different people would interpret it as two sources sliding their finger around independently. I'm guessing multiplayer gaming on a large surface is where it would help, although it could be simulated in software if each player controlled their own specific piece or were only able to play in a defined area of the board.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: WTF is this article talking about?

        Ah OK I see what you're getting at there. If I was implementing a big whiteboard I'd consider touches within a foot or so as being part of the same hand for the purpose of gestures like pinch to zoom or three fingered swipe. If you have multiple people on a whiteboard at once hopefully they aren't crowding you closer than that!

  6. Stevie Silver badge


    Aren't apple trying to patent the Wacom Tablet here?

  7. Ali Um Bongo

    Kicking to the What Now?

    *"...The firm pioneered touch for the masses with the iPhone, kicking to the curb earlier puny efforts from Microsoft..."*

    I think you mean "kerb". "Curb" is a verb.

  8. Neoc

    Old news?

    Funny - I have a device the size of a thick matchbox which projects a keyboard on any flat non-transparent surface and allows me to type using that projection. Also works as a touch-pad for mouse movements. Connects to any Bluetooth- or USB-enabled kit.

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