Apple has filed a patent (20130038534) with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a mouse with an improved input mechanism using touch sensors.
Per the patent, the mouse is configured with touch sensing areas capable of generating input signals. The touch sensing areas may for example be used to differentiate between left and right clicks in a single button mouse. The mouse may further be configured with force sensing areas capable of generating input signals. The force sensing areas may for example be positioned on the sides of the mouse so that squeezing the mouse generates input signals.
The mouse may further be configured with a jog ball capable of generating input signals. The mouse may additionally be configured with a speaker for providing audio feedback when the various input devices are activated by a user.
Here’s Apple’s background on the invention: “Most computer systems, as for example general purpose computers such as portable computers and desktop computers, receive input from a user via an input device such as a mouse. As is generally well known, the mouse allows a user to move an input pointer and to make selections in a graphical user interface (GUI). The mouse generally includes a trackball, which is located on the underside of the mouse and which rolls when the mouse moves thus translating the motion of the users hand into signals that the computer system can use.
“The movement of the trackball generally corresponds to the movement of the input pointer in the GUI. That is, by positioning the mouse on a desktop and moving it thereon, the user can move the input pointer in similar directions in the GM. An optical sensor may alternatively used to track the movement of the mouse.
“Conventional mice also include one or two mechanical buttons for data selection and command execution. The mechanical buttons are disposed near the top front portion of the mouse where they are easily accessible to a users fingers. In some mice, a single mechanical button is placed in the middle of the mouse while in other mice, two mechanical buttons are placed on the left and right side of the mouse.
“In either case, the mechanical buttons typically include button caps that pivot relative to a fixed top back portion of the mouse in order to provide a mechanical clicking action. When pressed, the button caps come down on switches located underneath the button caps thereby generating button event signals. The mice may additionally include a scroll wheel. The scroll wheel allows a user to move through documents by simply rolling the wheel forward or backward. The scroll wheel is typically positioned between the right and left mechanical buttons at the front top portion of the mouse.
“The unibody mouse is another type of mouse. Unlike the conventional mouse, the unibody mouse does not include any mechanical buttons thereby making it more elegant than the conventional mouse (e.g., no surface breaks or lines). The unibody mouse includes a base and a top member that acts like a button and that forms the entire top surface of the mouse. The top member pivots relative to the base in order to provide a clicking action. In most cases, the top member moves around a pivot located towards the back of the mouse so that the top member can pivot forward and downward.
“When pivoted in this manner, the top member activates a switch, which causes the microcontroller in the mouse to send a button event signal to the host computer. Although this design is more elegant than the conventional mouse that includes mechanical buttons, in most cases it only operates as a single button mouse thereby limiting its functionality. The Apple Mouse manufactured by Apple Computer, Inc., of Cupertino, Calif. is one example of a unibody mouse.
“Recently, dual button functionality has been implemented in a unibody mouse. In this implementation, the pivot of the top member runs through the middle of the mouse. This allows the top member to rock left and right. Switches are located in both the left and right positions to implement right and left buttons. That is, moving the top member to the right causes a right click to be generated and moving the top member to the left causes a left click to be generated.
“Unfortunately, the middle pivot does not allow a user to press the middle of the mouse and further the force needed to activate the buttons is high at areas near the middle pivot, and low at areas further away from the middle pivot. The pivoting action therefore feels sloppy and non uniform, which leaves a negative impression on the user. In addition, accidental activation of the buttons may be encountered when the mouse is moved around, i.e., the force used to move the mouse may cause the mouse to tilt to the right or left. Moreover, the form factor is different than other mice which click down in the forward direction and therefore clicking the mouse is not intuitive to the user.”
The inventors are Christoph H. Krah, Jeffrey B. Doar, Sean Corbin, Nishibori Shin Low and Wing Kong.