While most of us were getting ready for the iPad's arrival in January and Patently Apple hard at work preparing our major series called the Tablet Prophecies, a major iMac Touch patent was being quietly published in Europe. And while some of the graphic figures of today's patent did slip out in Europe, we were never able to verify whether they were legitimate or not. Well, today we finally get to post the Mother Lode of all information concerning the iMac Touch and it's absolutely brilliant! Ironically we had just posted a report on Saturday titled "Apple Patents Point to Future MacBooks with IPS & Touch Displays" when we discovered the European Filing. The naysayers will have to eat crow on this one, because Apple's method of transitioning from OS X to iOS is clearly outlined for both the iMac and MacBook – and it's a grand slam home run. Imagine having an iMac on your desktop one minute and a gigantic iPad the next. Imagine playing iGames on this dream machine - Wow! Imagine reading a double-page book on this - Unbelievable! Apple takes the mystery out of how OS X could finally co-exist with iOS on a Mac and you've got to see this one to believe it.
General Overview of the Patent
While touch-based input is well suited to many applications, conventional styles of input, such as a mouse/keyboard input may be preferred in other applications. Therefore it may be desirable for some devices to provide for touch-based input as well as mouse/keyboard input. However, a UI being displayed by the display device during a touch-based input mode might not be suited for use during a mouse/keyboard input mode, and vice versa.
The foregoing could be addressed by providing transitioning between modes of input, for example, transitioning between touch-based input and mouse/keyboard based input, by sensing a change in orientation of a touch screen display. For example, an accelerometer in the display could sense the force of gravity along an axis, and the measured force could be used to determine an angle of the display with respect to the ground (i.e. the plane perpendicular to the direction of the force of gravity). A transition between input modes could be performed when the vertical angle (tilt) of the display crosses a predetermined angle.
In another example, a rotation sensor could be mounted in an adjustable stand of the display. The rotation sensor could measure a rotation position of the stand, such as an angle between the base of the stand and a hinged arm that connects the base and the display. The measured rotation position could be used to determine the orientation of the display.
In another example, the display could include touch sensor area located where a user typically grasps the display to change the display's orientation. In this case, detection of touch in these areas could be used in addition to orientation information from one or more other sensors, such as accelerometers, position sensors, etc. to aid in the detection of a change in orientation of the display.
The change in the orientation of the display could be detected, for example, by a processor based on sensor data from the sensor(s). When the processor determines that the orientation of the display has crossed a predetermined threshold, e.g., the orientation of the display has changed from a touch input mode to a keyboard mouse input mode, or vice versa, the processor could activate a transition process.
In one example transition from a high-resolution input mode UI to a low-resolution input mode UI, certain items display in the high-resolution input mode UI could appear to "slide off" the edges of the display. A menu bar and menu bar items, a dock and dock items, directory items, scrollbars, and the mouse pointer may appear to move toward the closest edge of the screen and continue to move off of the screen until they disappear from view, such that they aren't displayed in the low-resolution input mode UI. Other items displayed in the high-resolution input mode UI may appear to increase in size, for example, the display may appear to zoom-in, such that the items are displayed at a larger size in the low-resolution input mode UI.
To clarify, the high/low-resolution input shouldn't be confused with high/low resolution display. The latter refers to the level of fineness (resolution) at which an image could be displayed; the former refers to the general level of fineness at which a user input could be detected and processed. One measure of input resolution may be based on, for example, the size of selectable icons, buttons, sliders and other input items and/or the distance between input items that an input method requires for reliable detection of an input. For example, a high-resolution input method may be able to discern whether a user is selecting one or the other of two very small icons that are displayed close to each other, while a low resolution may not be able to determine which of the two icons the user is trying to select.
Transitioning from Keyboard/Mouse to Touch-Based Modes
First, Apple's patent describes the transition process this way. When the iMac's display is oriented upright and relatively far from you – the keyboard/mouse input mode could be selected and basically you're operating in OS X mode.Then to switch to a touch-based input, you'll change the orientation of the iMac's display so as to make touching the screen easier and more natural. For example, to enter touch input, you'll want to pull the iMac's screen closer to you while pushing the display screen down flat as if you were going to read a book, states the patent. In this orientation you'll be able to select a corresponding UI which should translate to using iOS. In fact, the transition is really an automated process.
The transition is activated by the accelerometer as earlier described. What's new here is that you'll be able to control the threshold determining when the iMac's transition from OS X to iOS will occur. Meaning, you could for example, set the threshold angle to 60 degrees to call up iOS or at 90 degrees or higher to recall OS X mode.
As for what kind of applications that'll run this new beast, you could always check out this patent that clearly shows you some of the contemplated apps that somewhat reflect elements of iLife and beyond.
The Adjustable Stand of a Future iMac Touch
While Apple will sexy up the design of the stand for sure, the mechanics described in the patent include a lower base (309), an arm (311), an attachment post (313), a base hinge (317). Apple's patent Figures 3 and 4 above includes an upper rotation sensor (319) at post hinge (317) and a lower rotation sensor (321) at base hinge (315).
New Touch Sensors on the Body of the iMac
When you want to make the switch from OS X to iOS, you'll be grabbing the iMac where the patent figures show patent points 505 left and right. These points are advanced touch sensors that will send touch detection signals to the system's processor (not shown). When the processor receives touch detection signals from the touched sensor areas 505 followed by a change in orientation, the OS transition takes place.
The iMac Touch System Overview
The iMac Touch system overview describes an advanced multi-touch system. An interesting tid-bit is that you'll be able to operate a peripheral device couple to the iMac Touch such as an iPhone and be able to answer a phone call, place a phone call, change settings of the iPhone and so forth.
The iMac UI When in iOS Mode
The MacBook Tablet
Apple's patent figure 11 is obviously a representation of a MacBook that could transition into a tablet and in doing so takes on the transition process as described pertaining to the iMac Touch. Meaning, as the display of the MacBook is turned into tablet mode – OS X will instantly transition into iOS mode.
The patent clarifies this by stating that "the display could also be oriented for touch input. For example, the display 1130 may be rotated and laid flat against the keyboard 1134, with the backside of the display facing down against the keyboard so that the display screen is facing up, in an orientation for touch input."