Apple patent filing involves ‘ultrasonic force detection’ for an ‘Apple Glove’

Apple has filed for yet another patent (number 20210064177) involving an “Apple Glove.” This one is for “ultrasonic force detection” and would allow the controlling of various devices by not only the motion of the wearable device, but also the amount of pressure a user applied to a surface when using it.

There are a variety of input devices available for performing operations in a computing system, such as buttons or keys, mice, trackballs, joysticks, touch sensor panels, touch screens and the like. Touch screens, in particular, are becoming increasingly popular because of their ease and versatility of operation as well as their declining price. 

Touch screens can include a touch sensor panel, which can be a clear panel with a touch-sensitive surface, and a display device such as a liquid crystal display (LCD) that can be positioned partially or fully behind the panel so that the touch-sensitive surface can cover at least a portion of the viewable area of the display device. Touch screens can allow a user to perform various functions by touching the touch sensor panel using a finger, stylus or other object at a location often dictated by a user interface (UI) being displayed by the display device. In general, touch screens can recognize a touch and the position of the touch on the touch sensor panel, and the computing system can then interpret the touch in accordance with the display appearing at the time of the touch, and can then perform one or more actions based on the touch. 

In the case of some touch sensing systems, a physical touch on the display is not needed to detect a touch. For example, in some capacitive-type touch sensing systems, fringing electrical fields used to detect touch can extend beyond the surface of the display, and objects approaching near the surface may be detected near the surface without actually touching the surface. 

Apple says that capacitive-type touch sensing systems, however, can experience reduced performance due to conductive, electrically-floating objects (e.g., water droplets) in contact with the touch-sensitive surface. The tech giant thinks that ultrasonic force detection systems and methods based on propagation of ultrasonic waves in a user’s body (e.g., in a user’s finger) can help overcome such issues.

Here’s Apple’ summary of the patent filing: “An amount of force can be determined using time-of-flight (TOF) techniques of one or more ultrasonic waves propagating in the user’s body. In some examples, an electronic device including a transducer can be coupled to a digit, and can transmit ultrasonic waves into the digit. As the wave propagates through the thickness of the digit, a reflection of at least a portion of the transmitted wave can occur due to the bone and/or due to reaching the opposite side of the digit (e.g., finger pad). One or more reflections can be measured to determine the amount of force.”

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.