Apple has been granted a patent (number 11,397,468) for “skin-to-skin contact detection.” It involves systems and methods of detecting skin-to-skin contact, and more particularly, to detecting contact between two hands or between two fingers for input in virtual reality or augmented reality environments.
About the patent
It relates to the rumored “Apple Glasses,” an augmented reality/mixed reality head-mounted display (HMD) and how it would interact with wearable devices from Apple.
Many types of input devices are presently available for performing operations in a computing system, such as buttons or keys, mice, trackballs, joysticks, touch sensor panels, touch screens and the like. In some examples, contact between two different parts of a user’s body may be used for input.
For example, cameras in a HMD can be used to track movement of fingers to detect a finger in contact with an opposite hand, or to track movement of a finger along an opposite hand surface. Additionally or alternatively, a radiofrequency-based system can be used to detect a finger in contact with an opposite hand, or to track movement of a finger along an opposite hand surface.
However, Apple says that camera-based systems and/or radiofrequency-based systems may have difficulty detecting the difference between a finger touching the opposite hand or proximate to without contacting (hovering above) the opposite hand. Additionally, camera-based systems require the finger and opposite hand be in the field of view of the cameras for operation.
Apple wants its HMD to be able to detect gestures between a finger of one hand and other body parts (e.g., other fingers or a thumb on the same hand, or the opposing hand) using a device (e.g., a ring) on each of multiple fingers of the same hand, or on fingers of different hands. In other words, the Apple Glasses would interact with an Apple Watch, Apple Glove, or an “Apple Ring.” When a particular gesture is detected, an operation can be initiated.
Summary of the patent
Here’s Apple’s (somewhat technical) abstract of the patent: “Contact or movement gestures between a first body part and a second body part can be detected. Sense circuitry can be configured to sense a signal at the sense electrode (e.g., configured to contact the second body part) in response to a drive signal applied to the drive electrode (e.g., configured to contact the first body part).
“Processing circuitry can be configured to detect contact in accordance with a determination that one or more criteria are met (e.g., an amplitude criterion and a non-distortion criterion). Additionally or alternatively, processing circuitry can be configured to detect a movement gesture in accordance with a determination that one or more criteria are met (e.g., a contact criterion and a movement criterion).”