Blackberry patents: Angled Slider and RIM Multi-Touch technology
The rumors that RIM Blackberry may soon have it’s own touchscreen interface must be true also. After the iPhone, everyone is working on a some kind of touch interface based device, and RIM would be stupid not to do so as well. Especially for the consumer market, where RIM wants to increase Blackberry presence.
However there’s no solid information about new 9000/9100 line Blackberries available yet. And we wanted to get at least some hints on what RIM is up to. So we checked with the US Patent Office, looking for clues. And we found some.
The first one, related to some usability improvements for your good old Blackberry, is called “Handheld mobile communication device with movable display/cover member“. It introduces us to an interesting angled Blackberry slider configuration, that may come in handy while typing messages and watching video/TV.
The idea here is to be able to use the Blackberry both in standard and angled slider modes, as needed.
And in a closed position it could be operated via the touchscreen interface. Which brings us to the second RIM patent application, called “System and method of integrating a touchscreen within an LCD“.
It indicates, that RIM may be working on it’s own Multi-touch touchscreen technology.
The technology itself is different from capacitive touch used in Apple’s iPhones, and somewhat similar to the touchscreens described in Nokia S60 Touch patents.
It also has a touchscreen embedded withing the LCD itself. Only instead of using light sensors, it uses an array of parallel electrodes throughout the display, and measures the changes in voltage between them as the finger or stylus pressure is applied. Here’s how the patent application describes it:
…mobile electronic device with… touchscreen liquid crystal display, comprising: a liquid crystal display having a viewing surface and including a plurality of parallel first electrodes located on one side of a liquid crystal containing area and overlapping with a plurality of parallel second electrodes located on an opposite side of the liquid crystal containing area, the first and second electrodes overlapping to form an array of liquid crystal pixel elements, at least some of the first electrodes being displaceable towards the second electrodes in response to external pressure applied to the viewing surface; a driver circuit coupled to the first and second electrodes for driving the electrodes for selectively controlling a display state of the display pixel elements; and a measurement circuit coupled to the electrodes for measuring display pixel element voltages for at least some of the display pixel elements formed by the first electrode, and for each display pixel element for which a display pixel element voltage is measured, comparing the measured voltages to a reference voltage and determining a relative force of the external pressure on the viewing surface based on the measured voltages.
In addition of being able to detect multiple touches at once, the basis for Multi-touch, this technology also provides the capability to detect the level of pressure the user is making on the screen. And that opens another set of interesting 3D touch interface design possibilities.
E.g. zooming in and out just by increasing/decreasing finger pressure on display, or switching between “scroll” and “move” based, again, on how much pressure is applied during the sliding gesture.
OK, RIM, we’ve seen the patents now. Mobile World Congress is just around the corner, and it is a perfect event to surprise us with some really cool mobile devices.