Apple Explores How Touch ID Input Could Be Used For UI Navigation

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Apple could have more extensive plans for that fingerprint sensor behind Touch ID on the iPhone and iPad – a new patent application published by the USPTO today details a system for detecting movement of a recognized fingerprint on said sensor and navigating between different parts of a user interface in response to said movement.

Imagine being able to page through a document, or scroll down a website, just by shifting your thumb on the iPhone’s home button, without obscuring the display at all. That’s one possibility that could arise from the practical application of the tech described in this application. The Touch ID sensor is already used to trigger the reachability features on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but this patent describes even more advanced UI manipulation.

Apple’s application is fairly exhaustive in its description of what fingerprint sensor input could enable on devices, and includes things like locking the display orientation of a mobile gadget in response to detected changes of fingerprint movement. It also describes various other functions that are commonly handled via multi-touch gestures or multiple button presses, including accessing and navigating between multitasking applications.

The patent also includes descriptions of how the technique could be applied to devices like Macs, using external input devices that include fingerprint scanners. Of course, these types of devices aren’t currently offered by Apple, but the idea of a Touch ID-equipped smart mouse or trackpad accessory has been floated as a possibility for bringing the tech to the desktop or notebook lineup before.

Finally, the patent describes incorporating haptic feedback as a way to help provide cues to a user about when they are and aren’t using the fingerprint input methods correctly. This could be used either instead of, or in combination with auditory feedback to make the experience of getting used to these features easier for new users.

Hat tip to Mikhail Avady for surfacing this.