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Google Patent Reveals Possible Changes to Android Menus

by Jacob Kleinman | March 17, 2014March 17, 2014 9:00 am PST

google patent radial controls

A new patent from Google reveals possible plans for a revamped Android navigation system based around pie-shaped menus. The patent, which was filed in 2012 and published last week by the U.S. Patent Office, was first spotted by Patent Bolt and details how we may end up controlling future versions of Google’s mobile OS.

Based on a handful of sketches included with the patent, the radial menu would be launched by placing your thumb on the screen to act as a sort of anchor. A list of options would then generate in a circle around your thumb which you can tap with a second finger. Extending your finger beyond the initial menu would also bring up a second ring of functions. It looks like the menu’s content could be customized and might even vary based on context.

It would be interesting to see Google take Android in a new direction with a future update. Despite solid improvements to the mobile OS in the past year, we haven’t seen a drastic re-imagining of the stock UI since the release of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. On the other hand, Google seems more invested in voice recognition and other technology like Google Now that brings your information straight to you, rather than simply tinkering with the basic elements of its UI.

This also isn’t the first time we’ve seen a similar menu appear on Android. Google introduced radial controls with Android 3.0 Honeycomb for tablets and Samsung’s Note series features a similar Air Command menu to make use of the company’s S Pen stylus. So it’s no surprise Google is still playing around with the design for a radial menu, but we wouldn’t hold our breath waiting for one to show up in the next version of Android.

Patent Bolt

Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...