Apple patent is for configurable input device
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Apple patent is for configurable input device

An Apple patent (number 20120227006) for a configurable input device has popped up at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. It shows that Apple is working on methods and systems related to having an input device configured according to a position of a user's hand relative to the input device.

In particular, in some embodiments, a method of operating a computing system is provided that includes determining an operational context of the computing system utilizing a processor of the system and configuring an input device for the system based on the operational context. The input device includes a plurality of discrete input members.

The method also includes displaying a virtual image representative of the input device on a display of the system. A position of a user's digits relative to the input device is sensed and the input device is reconfigured based on the sensed position of the user's digits. An image of the user's digits overlaying the virtual image representative of the input device is provided on a display of the computing system.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Some common input devices for computing systems include a keyboard, a mouse, and a trackpad. Of these, the keyboard may be the most used. Often users look down at the keyboard when they type. This is not ergonomic and may lead to neck and muscle strain. Additionally, it is generally not advantageous for accurate and/or fast typing. Specifically, when users are focused on the keyboard, they cannot tell what has been input and typically revisit the input data to edit it.

"Moreover, when someone accustomed to looking at the keyboard tries to view the display instead of the keyboard, errors and frustration may occur as they cannot tell where their hands are relative to the keys they want to use. Further, when alternating between a mouse (or trackpad) and the keyboard, constant re-positioning of the hands on the keyboard is generally required for proper hand placement.

"There are provided methods and systems related to having an input device configurable according to a position of a user's hand relative to the input device. An image of the configured input device may be displayed for a user to view. Additionally, an image of the user's hands/digits may overlay the image of the input device to indicate their relative location.

"In some embodiments, a method of operating a computing system is provided that includes utilizing a processor to determine an operational context of the computing system and configuring an input device for the system based on the operational context. The input device may include a plurality of discrete input members. In some embodiments, the discrete input members may take the form of an array of sensors (e.g., touch sensors, pressure sensors, force sensors, and so forth).

"In other embodiments, the discrete input members may take the form of switches, such as keys of a keyboard, for example. Input received from the discrete input members may be configured so as to register as particular characters, icons, or other input based at least in part upon the location of a user's hands relative to the discrete input members. For example, in some embodiments, a resting or starting position of the hands may cause the discrete input members to be configured such that a 'home row' of keys, or other conventional key arrangement, for a keyboard is aligned with the user's fingers.

"The method may also include displaying a virtual image representative of the input device on a display of the system. A position of a user's digits relative to the input device is sensed and an image of the user's digits overlaying the virtual image representative of the input device is provided on a display of the computing system. In some embodiments, the image of the user's digits overlaying the virtual image shows the user's digits in positions approximating their relative location.

"Additionally, or alternatively, the user's digits may be shown in positions illustrating what input their digits overlay. That is, the illustrated digits may be shown as being over particular characters, icons, etc., that the discrete input devices will be interpreted as by the computing system.

"In some embodiments, a computer system is provided that includes an input device having a surface utilized for providing input to the computer in response to a user input, a first sensor configured to determine a position of a user's hand relative to the surface, and a second sensor configured to determine a touch of the user's hand on the surface. The computer system also has a processor communicatively coupled with the input device and a memory communicatively coupled with the processor.

"A display in communication with the processor is provided and configured to receive data from the processor to provide a virtual image of the user's hand overlaying an image of the input device. The image of the input device shows discrete input members and an image representing the user's hands overlaying the image of the input device. The displayed discrete input members are aligned at least in part based on the determined position of the user's hand relative to the surface.

"In still other embodiments, a computer system is provided having a processor, a memory communicatively coupled to the processor, and a plurality of sensors communicatively coupled to the processor. The plurality of sensors are configured to sense a position of a user's digits relative to a surface of the computer system and to sense an input from a user.

"A display of the computer system is configured to show an image representing a virtual input device and the user's digits overlaying the image representing the input device. The virtual input device includes a plurality of discrete virtual buttons configured to correspond in location with the sensed position of the user's digits.

"While multiple embodiments are disclosed, other embodiments will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following Detailed Description. As will be realized, the embodiments are capable of modifications in various aspects, all without departing from the spirit and scope of the embodiments discussed herein. Accordingly, the drawings and detailed description are to be regarded as illustrative in nature and not restrictive."

David T. Amm is the inventor.

 
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Microsoft Corpora
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