Hover Functions? Apple Patent Describes “Virtual Buttons”

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Apple has been granted a patent revolving around touch-free gestures, potentially pointing to the future of input technology.As reported by Apple Insider, the patent details methods to move the user interaction area beyond the screen.

The patent, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, describes “hover events” as being “the no-touch, close proximity hovering of fingers or other objects above a touch-sensitive surface but outside the near-field detection capabilities of touch sensors”.

It additionally details how “one or more proximity sensors can be used to implement the function of ‘pushing’ virtual buttons appearing on the touch panel (in some embodiments with an audible confirmation) and trigger functions without actually requiring contact with the touch panel”.

In a way, this appears to be a reverse of Apple’s 3D Touch technology, introduced with the iPhone 6s, which senses the amount of pressure applied to the display.

There is no guarantee that the technology will make it to a consumer release, although it would appear that there is potential for it to be incorporated into a variety of devices, from smartphones and tablets to notebooks.

If it does find its way to consumer devices it may, however, still be some way off, with 3D Touch still a comparatively new input technology.

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