Apple has been granted a patent for proximity and multi-touch sensor detection that would allow users to use touchscreens without actually touching them. This technology allows gestures — movement of a palm or a hand — to control devices.
The technology uses infrared (IR) frequency and photodiodes for the proximity sensors. The sensors (touch and proximity) would connect to an analog route to send a signal of touch or hover. Apple filed its patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office on 23 March 2015.
While there is no clarity on what the use of the technology would be for, the application claims that it pertains to panels used as input devices for computing systems and, more particularly, Mac laptops, iPhones or other devices.
This technology is defined as "multi-touch detection and no-touch proximity hovering detection and demodulation". It will have a combination of one or more physical interfaces like proximity and touch sensors in a multi-touch panel. Hence, the device would be able to identify the presence of a body part, like a finger or a palm, or an object and respond accordingly.
As described in the patent application, the use of the patent is "detection and processing of multi-touch events and hover events (the no-touch, proximity hovering of fingers or other objects above a touch-sensitive surface but outside the near-field detection capabilities of touch sensors)."
The patent application elaborated that using this technology a user can turn the entire touch panel on or off, or turn portions of the touch panel on or off by just hovering a finger over the sensor. "In one specific example, if a user's cheek is detected near the touch panel by one or more proximity sensors, the touch panel can be powered down, and the display device can be dimmed or powered down so there is no reflection off the user's face," it read.