Part of the art of writing patents is to protect concepts that might be used in future products without delineating them too clearly.
Case in point: Apple was awarded a patent yesterday: Gestures for controlling, manipulating, and editing of media files using touch sensitive devices. Here’s the abstract:
Embodiments of the invention are directed to a system, method, and software for implementing gestures with touch sensitive devices (such as a touch sensitive display) for managing and editing media files on a computing device or system. Specifically, gestural inputs of a human hand over a touch/proximity sensitive device can be used to control, edit, and manipulate files, such as media files including without limitation graphical files, photo files and video files.
Seems mainly about Apple getting a patent for gestures used to edit video on multi-touch devices. But I think the interesting phrase there is proximity sensitive device. That means we’ll be able to edit without touching a screen (or wearing special gloves).
Hidden in the middle of the patent are the following two sentences:
Finally, using a multi-touch display that is capable of proximity detection … gestures of a finger can also be used to invoke hovering action that can be the equivalent of hovering a mouse icon over an image object.
Ironically, one of the arguments against making Flash available on multi-touch devices is the fact that the majority of Flash implemented UI elements use the position of the mouse pointer without the mouse button being clicked as useful feedback to the user – a concept not possible using multi-touch. If devices included advanced proximity detection technology, then ‘mouseover’-equivalent events could be sent to Flash UIs – so they’d work they way they have since Shockwave and .fgd files.
Although granted yesterday, the patent was applied for in June 2007. In August 2007, I wrote about gestural edits that required the UI being able to detect fingertip position while not touching the screen.
I also wrote about Apple being granted a patent for using a camera mounted to a portable device to detect hand movement in three dimensions.