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Apple Files Patent for a Multi-touch Gesture Language

Apple Files Patent for a Multi-touch Gesture Language

by , 3:30 PM EDT, July 3rd, 2008

Apple has filed a patent for a "Multi-touch Gesture Dictionary." The patent introduces the notion of chords. The patent suggests that Apple's customers may be learning a full-fledged gesture language in the future compared to the limited gestures available now on the iPhone.

An analogy with American sign language was made: "Users of these multi-touch interfaces may make use of hand and finger gestures to interact with their computers in ways that a conventional mouse and keyboard cannot easily achieve. A multi-touch gesture can be as simple as using one or two fingers to trace out a particular trajectory or pattern, or as intricate as using all the fingers of both hands in a complex sequence of movements reminiscent of American Sign Language.

"Each motion of hands and fingers, whether complex or not, conveys a specific meaning or action that is acted upon by the computer or electronic device at the behest of the user. The number of multi-touch gestures can be quite large because of the wide range of possible motions by fingers and hands. It is conceivable that an entirely new gesture language might evolve that would allow users to convey complex meaning and commands to computers and electronic devices by moving their hands and fingers in particular patterns," according to the patent application.

The application goes on to describe how the user multi-touch dictionary can display one or more motions associated with a chord -- a combination of fingers, thumbs, and/or other hand parts. Each user's hand can execute many chords, and many of the chords can have different motions associated with them. Modifier keys can be used to alter the meaning.

In another embodiment, the user can assign meanings to various gestures.

The patent doesn't limit itself to actual touches: "In other embodiments, gesture dictionary applications may be triggered by events other than presentation of a chord. These events may include hand parts hovering over a multi-touch surface, audible events (for example, voice commands), activation of one or more buttons on a device, or applying a force and/or touch to a force and/or touch sensitive portion of a device."

From the patent applications Apple has filed so far, it's clear that Apple is heading towards a new platform with a new language. Given that and the fact that the iPhone is expected to generate a significant fraction of Apple's revenue in the future, it's reasonable to ask if Apple plans to let Mac OS X run on other than the Mac platform at some point -- now that they have an additional, emerging financial leg to stand on.

That would also be a parting gesture as Apple moves into a new century with a new platform and a new UI language.

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