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Touch ID Patent Reveals Gesture-Based Controls

by Todd Haselton | November 25, 2013November 25, 2013 12:00 pm PST


Touch ID on the iPhone 5s is fairly limited right now: you can use it to unlock your device or to make purchases inside the iTunes App Store. However, a new patent that was filed with the World Intellectual Property Organization in May of this year reveals grander ideas for the fingerprint reader that could be implemented down the road.

Take for example, a swipe across the Touch ID sensor inside of your home button. Right now, that doesn’t do anything at all. But, because the sensor is trained to recognize your prints at some points, it could also be trained to perform other tasks. A swipe might allow you to move around inside of Apple Maps, panning from location to location without touching the screen.

You might be able to access all of your open apps without double tapping the home button, but instead swiping a finger up across it, the patent describes. Placing a finger on the Touch ID sensor and turning it might also execute another task, like scrolling, the patent discovered by Unwired View describes. Better yet, in future implementations, the Touch ID might might not need to exist in the home screen at all. The patent describes a use-case scenario where the technology might instead be built into the display.

Clearly Apple wants to do more with its Touch ID sensor, but for now its controls aren’t accessible by developers. We don’t mind pinching and zooming and panning on the touchscreen of an iPhone, though perhaps controls built-in to the home button could make it easier to interact with some apps without getting your hands in the way. It could be even easier on larger-screen devices, such as the iPad, which still don’t have Touch ID. For now, we’re more excited to see what other use case scenarios can be enabled, and thankfully the patent also describes uses for mobile payments, check-ins, support for multiple users, the ability to fill in Web-forms (likely linked to iCloud Keychain) and pressure recognition.

Patents don’t always result in final products or designs, though we do now have definite evidence that Apple’s plans are far reaching.

Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...