An Apple patent suggests intelligent, touch-sensitive bezel

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Old 16-Jan-2011
An Apple patent suggests intelligent, touch-sensitive bezel

Ever wondered why there is such a thick bezel on the iPad? According to a new patent granted to Apple, future iPads could sport a touch-sensitive bezel with visual interface guides providing access to common controls, such as the volume up and down sliders.
When Apple’s iPad came into full view, pundits called the unusually thick black bezel running around the device’s 9.7-inch screen a design flaw. Unlike the iPhone, which is small enough to rest in the palm of one’s hand, a typical iPad user handles the device by holding its back with four fingers while affixing it in place with thumb resting against the bezel. Since Apple designed the iPad with no particular orientation in mind, the company has surrounded the iPad’s screen with the bezel in order to enable easy handling regardless of the orientation. Besides, you’d be obscuring your view and initiating unintended touches if it weren’t for the bezel.

According to an Apple patent titled “Electronic Device Having Display and Surrounding Touch Sensitive Bezel for User Interface and Control,” there might be more to the iPad’s bezel than meets the eye. Paired with the software, a touch-sensitive bezel could act as an additional form of input that could enhance the user interface. One embodiment of the patent describes media playback controls, the volume level, and display settings – all made possible just by touching and dragging your finger across the bezel.
Here’s how Apple described a touch-sensitive bezel:
Areas on the bezel are designated for controls used to operate the electronic device. Visual guides corresponding to the controls are displayed on the display adjacent the areas of the bezel designated for the controls. Touch data is generated by the bezel when a user touches an area of the bezel. The device determines which of the controls has been selected based on which designated area is associated with the touch data from the bezel. The device then initiates the determined control.

Apple also noted that the device could alter the areas designated on the bezel and the location of the visual guides based on accelerometer sensor data. Patently Apple has predicated the content of this patent to a October 2006 patent filing by Apple. Since at that time the iPad wasn’t even a credible rumor, the blogosphere passed on the patent because folks couldn’t figure out what good an intelligent bezel would be on the iPhone.
According to the United States Patent & Trademark Office database, Apple has been awarded this patent on February 2, 2010. The filing credits Apple engineers Nick King, Duncan Kerr, Paul Herbst, and Steven Hotelling with coming up with this invention.

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