Google Filed Patents For Android Pattern Unlock And Gesture-Based Controls

Back in the early days of Android, people ooh-ed and aah-ed over every little thing, even the seemingly-innocuous pattern unlock feature. It appears that Google has bigger plans for that lockscreen, as recently published patent applications cover both the pattern unlock method and a way to control applications with definable touch gestures.

For those who haven’t taken a peek at patent applications before, I’d suggest you start with this one. The pattern unlock concept is simple enough that you could explain to friends with just a few sentences, but Google had considerably more to say on the subject. They, for example, describe pattern unlock thusly:

A lock screen view is displayed on the mobile device to prevent unauthorized and inadvertent access to the mobile device’s data. While the mobile device is locked, a touch gesture having a pre-defined shape is detected on a touch screen of the mobile device independently of the initial position of the touch gesture on the touch screen.

But that’s not all! The filing goes on to say that certain patterns can be connected to applications, so defining and drawing a “M” could automatically fire up your Gmail app. HTC’s new ubiquitous Sense UI does something similar now, with users dragging a magnifying ring over their function of choice. Their solution is arguably easier, but it’s still interesting to see Google’s take on the issue.

Interestingly, Google’s other new patents tread on similar territory but with a bit of a twist. The idea, as laid out in “Automatic Derivation of Analogous Touch Gestures From A User-Defined Gesture,” involves setting a specific pattern that gets tied to an application action. Once that pattern is drawn on the screen, it executes the action — fair enough, but here’s where it gets interesting. If you then draw a variation of that same pattern on the screen, that application will perform an actionsthat’s “different from but related to” the original.

It’s a little abstract, I know, but imagine this: you’re walking down the street listening to music and you’d like to change tracks. Instead of unlocking the phone, opening the music app, and hitting the button to change tracks, you could draw a small arrow pointing to the right on your screen to do the same thing. Want to jump to the next album? Draw a big version of that same arrow. Want to return to the previous track? Draw a small arrow pointing left, and so on.

Google’s been having more than a little fun with devising neat ways to unlock your device (Face Unlock, anyone?), so it’s possible we’ll see something like this in the not-too-distant future. Perhaps in Android 4.1?