Hands on with Apple's new multi-touch patent

Extending the reach of iPhone tech

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Apple may be about to extend the multi-touch technology featured on the Apple iPhone and Apple iPod touch to enable you to use different parts of your hand to control certain functions on its products.

Three patent filings outline a arrangement of sensors that makes it possible to use not just your fingers to control a touchscreen, but different parts of the hand, Electronista says.

The sensors will be able to detect how close the hand is to the screen, and also which part of the hand that is touching the display. The new screens will also be sensitive to pressure in multiple areas, the Apple patents state.

Better control

Having Apple's multi-touch screen evolve to be used with your whole hand would allow you to have much better control over your Apple Mac computer or other device.

It would take controls beyond the current taps and dragging motions using a mouse and open up for a more accurate way to control actions on screen. You'd be able to tilt or roll items around on screen by moving your hands in that pattern, or indicate that you're ready to type a document, for example.

Keyboards could also be set for a makeover thanks to the new multi-touch technology. More ergonomic sloping areas could be introduced, functioning both as an active surface, or a hand rest when not in use.

Mac Tablet coming January?

The arrival of the multi-touch application now suggests that Apple may indeed be working on a MacTablet for launch at the Macworld Expo in January - or that it plans on bringing multi-touch functionality to Mac laptops and desktops. The latter seems more likely, delivering huge benefits to Apple's core customers: media, graphics and movie professionals who often use devices like graphic tablets to carry out their tasks.

If Apple does launch multi-touch PCs in January, it's likely to come a week after Dell has officially launched its multi-touch Latitude XT at CES 2008. We're sure Apple CEO Steve Jobs will have a few choice words to say about that.