Apple figures out way to help you more easily move objects on a touchscreen

A newly-granted patent describes a way to move text and other items on the screen of a mobile device by tapping the side of the device rather than using your big fingers.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Apple has invented a way to move objects onscreen by tapping the side of your device. Apple/USPTO

Do you sometimes find it frustrating trying to move your cursor and other small objects on a mobile device screen using your finger? An Apple patent may have a solution.

A patent application dubbed "Fine-tuning an operation based on tapping," which was approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, describes a unique method for moving objects on a touchscreen that doesn't actually require you to touch the screen. Instead, you would actually tap the side of the device to move a cursor, selected text and other small items a specific amount of space, as tiny as a single pixel.

Apple and other mobile device makers have long offered the ability to cut or copy and paste text. To do this, you can use your finger to zoom in on the text you wish to select, then expand or shrink the highlighted text, and then finally delete or move that text. But that type of operation doesn't always go smoothly because your fingers are typically too large to perform such a granular task. So selecting text is more frustrating than it should be. Apple's patented solution would remove the need to place your big finger on the touchscreen in the first place.

Here's how it would work: Let's say you want to select a specific section of text. With the cursor placed in the right spot, you'd tap the side or another non-touchscreen area of the device. Each time you tap the side, the cursor could move one character, thereby expanding the selection of the text on a more precise and granular level. Tapping the right side of the device would move the cursor to the left, while tapping the left would move the cursor to the right.

Further, your device would react differently based on how hard you tap the side. Tap lightly, and the selection could move one character. Tap more strongly, and the selection might move an entire word. The concept could also extend to icons and other graphical elements that you want to move more slowly and precisely.

So how would this technology actually work? Your mobile device would use its own-built in sensors to detect and interpret your tap against its side or non-touchscreen surface.

And here's how Apple explains it in the patent:

The mobile device can use its sensors (e.g., accelerometer, gyroscope, etc.) to detect a tapping motion against a non-touchscreen surface of that mobile device. In response to detecting such physical interaction, the mobile device can perform the operation with a level of precision that cannot be achieved when the performance of the operation is attempted via interaction with the touchscreen. The level of granularity of performance can vary with the interaction's force. For example, a tap performed with lesser force can cause a displayed object to move one pixel, while a tap performed with greater force can cause that displayed object to move five pixels.

As always, even an approved patent doesn't mean the technology will ever pop up on our mobile devices. But the feature would certainly cut down on the frustration we often experience when attempting to finely manipulate text and other small items on our phones and tablets.

(Via AppleInsider)