Apple patents a hover touch panel and embedded heart rate monitor

Apple patents a hover touch panel and embedded heart rate monitor
We know that we often give the US Patent and Trademark Office a hard time for granting patents for technologies that either 1) have an obvious prior art, or 2) are logical extensions and don't deserve a patent. This time around, we're split, because one new patent granted for Apple - a hover touch panel - looks like a legit patent, but the other - an embedded heart rate monitor - is a bit sketchy.

The touch panel described in the patent would generate an electrical field which would be used to sense when your finger is hovering above the display by measuring the capacitance fluctuations in the electrical field. The trick with a system like this is to keep a high degree of accuracy when there are other objects (like your other fingers) disturbing the field. The patent describes a couple possible ways to deal with this, including an option where hover gestures would be turned off on a section of the screen where your palm or other fingers are touching the display. 

The idea sounds pretty interesting. We've seen gesture control systems before like Samsung's Air Gestures, Microsoft's Kinect, and Leap Motion, but those systems use a combination of cameras and infrared light to track your movements. We've seen products like Senseg, which uses an electrical field for kinetic feedback, which would make you feel different textures from your touchscreen display, but this one is definitely different. Apple filed this patent back in 2010, and it was just granted today. The patent is incredibly detailed, and you can jump over to the AppleInsider source if you're interested in the more technical explanation.

*Update* A reader pointed out that we did forget something: the Sony Xperia Sola's "floating touch" feature, which does seem to be doing the same thing, in the same way as Apple's patent. Both use the same self capacitance sensor to detect hover events and mutual capacitance sensors for normal touch events. Of course, Sony's tech was first shown off last year, Apple filed the patent in 2010, and it is unknown if/when Sony ever filed a patent on its technology in the U.S.

The other patent granted to Apple today is for an embedded heart rate monitor is one that doesn't really seem like something that deserves a patent, because it describes a system where a heart rate monitor is embedded into the metallic conductive portions of a device. This type of system can be found in plenty of different devices right now, but Apple's twist is that it would be used to detect electrical signals so small that they could be used to identify a user. This is a really interesting implementation, but one that can be found in other devices as well, so it's a matter of if Apple's patent, filed in 2009, came first. 

source: USPTO 1 & 2 via AppleInsider



46. ddeath

Posts: 170; Member since: Apr 14, 2012

I always wonder when they put up the patents, was a working model already made and available? Or they just have an idea?

36. hafini_27

Posts: 951; Member since: Oct 31, 2013

I really don't like these patent stuffs

35. darkkjedii

Posts: 31801; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Merry Christmas fellas, enjoy the holiday.

38. androiphone20

Posts: 1654; Member since: Jul 10, 2013

Merry christmas darkkjedii

44. tedkord

Posts: 17528; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Merry Christmas, DJ. And all PA readers.

45. darkkjedii

Posts: 31801; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

You guys be cool, talk to ya Thursday. I'll be too full to talk tomorrow ;)

15. TBomb

Posts: 1758; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

not completely sure the technology behind it but my GS4 has air view...

21. Furbal unregistered

I was going to say the same thing. The note 3 and s4 both have features that do similar things. What tech is apple introducing that is new/different enough so it should be patented? (I'd really like to know so I can learned about it...)

8. androiphone20

Posts: 1654; Member since: Jul 10, 2013

A hover touch panel sounds good I would like to see how they bring it up maybe say on the next flagship (idk if I'll upgrade though :/)...enough said, Happy holidays PAs, that includes everyone

6. JMartin22

Posts: 2425; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

You can't patent something that broad. That's just dumb. That's a whole different type of technology, not something being done differently in a preexisting way.

32. tedkord

Posts: 17528; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

You can't? That's most of Apples patent portfolio.

5. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

No wonder Apple didn't change the design of the iPhone until now, because they're only focusing on patent useless things. lol

9. Sauce unregistered

This patent is 3 years old, probably a lot older because of the time they started working on it to the time they applied to it (in 2010). Read the article!

10. androiphone20

Posts: 1654; Member since: Jul 10, 2013

I wouldn't bother answering to xperiadroid, he'll go about the same logical argument over and over again. I don't really think he has a better understanding of why patents exist.

26. Sauce unregistered

You're right man. Slow news day for all my sites&blogs and I got comment happy haha. Merry Christmas :)

37. androiphone20

Posts: 1654; Member since: Jul 10, 2013

Merry Christmas!

4. paulislegend

Posts: 42; Member since: Mar 15, 2012

Apple, so inovative at buying other companies.

14. Mxyzptlk unregistered

You mean like how Google bought the company that made Android? Or how they bought Youtube?

19. Commentator

Posts: 3723; Member since: Aug 16, 2011

Don't forget Motorola! Also, MS buying Nokia.

3. AndroidSHQIP

Posts: 10; Member since: Oct 18, 2013

Again? this company really sucks!!!

2. sprockkets

Posts: 1612; Member since: Jan 16, 2012

Knowing apple it is probably anothert patent that gives a solution in search of a problem, like their stupid "did he move his finger in a straight line" patent.


Posts: 399; Member since: Nov 09, 2013

Apple is the most innovative company in the world.......... when it comes to generating new types of patents :-p

7. ZeroCide

Posts: 819; Member since: Jan 09, 2013

Hover gestures are already used by companies like sony and Nokia. Just like apple to take credit and the patent somthing that is not theirs.This patent is a typical broad patent that they will enforce and sue the crap out of everyone! This kind of thing just smothers innovation.

11. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

Thank you for pointing that out Zerocide plus for you.

13. Mxyzptlk unregistered

If it's your idea then you should sue if a competitor tries to copy. How many times have Samsung copied Apple?

28. tedkord

Posts: 17528; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

About as many times as Apple have copied them. Let me think... what smartphone already has hover gestures...? Hmmmm.

49. Mxyzptlk unregistered

I remember Sammy trying to sue Apple for FRAND patents. That surely worked out well.

30. techguymatt

Posts: 18; Member since: Nov 04, 2013

iThought of this in 2002... should i sue for inntellectual property lol... +1

50. Mxyzptlk unregistered

No you didn't

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.
FCC OKs Cingular's purchase of AT&T Wireless