Apple files 'swipe-gesture' patent application

Technology lets touch screen users perform certain common functions--such as inserting a space or backspacing--by swiping across the key area rather than tapping a particular key.

Michelle Meyers
Michelle Meyers wrote and edited CNET News stories from 2005 to 2020 and is now a contributor to CNET.
Michelle Meyers

While children were nestled all snug in their beds, Apple apparently had visions of improved touch-screens in its innovative head.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revealed a patent application from Apple, dated Christmas Day, for a swipe-gesture system to be used on touch-screen keyboards. It would allow a person to "perform certain functions using swipes across the key area rather than tapping particular keys," according to the patent application, authored by Wayne Westerman.

For example, the application explains that leftward, rightward, upward, and downward swipes might be assigned to inserting a space, backspacing, shifting, or inserting a carriage return.

MacRumors, which was first to point out the patent application, notes that Apple sees swipe gestures being used on top of the iPhone's on-screen keyboard to provide people with quick access to common keys. Ars Technica's Infinite Loop, which like MacRumors explains the patent in more detail, likens the technology to a "Palm Graffiti-like interpretation layer to the standard iPhone keyboard."

Here's a sample gesture depicted in the filing:

Apple patent swipe gesture
A downward swipe might be assigned to 'return.' U.S Patent and Trademark Office