Apple granted patent for technology that expands fingerprint sensor functionality

February 11, 2016 - 

Apple was recently granted a U.S. patent entitled “Force-Sensitive Fingerprint Sensing Input“, which will expand the Touch ID home button’s functionality, according to a report by 9To5Mac.

According to the patent application, the technology could allow the Touch Button ID home button to perform different actions based on different fingerprints, as well as adding pressure sensors to enable 3D Touch type functionality.

The patent, which was originally filed on September 11, 2015, offers extensive details about the technology itself without specifying what its exact purpose is.

The application describes the technology as being able to allow an individual to activate your iPhone or iPad through Touch ID, but restricting their access to specific apps and for a limited time.

This functionality would certainly be useful in restricting a child’s use of an Apple device to only certain apps and for a limited duration.

“For example, when the processor matches the fingerprint information against a known fingerprint from an authorized user, the processor can take one or more actions in response thereto,” Apple writes in the patent application. “In a first such case, the processor can authorize usage of a device for an individual procedure, for a sequence of procedures, for a selected time duration, until a trigger indicating that the user is no longer authorized, or until the user de-authorizes the device.”

Last November, Apple was granted another patent for technology that would allow a specific finger to be used to activate a ‘panic button’ feature.

The use of pressure sensors could help determine the device’s actions when it is unlocked, such as automatically launching a specific application when the device is unlocked with a hard press. Additionally, the home button could be used to control apps once it is unlocked.

Meanwhile, unlocking the device with a comparatively soft touch can result in a different effect. This can be based on an analog measure of applied force, such as the user attempting to turn a dial or wheel, or push or turn a joystick, in the case of a gaming application.

The patent application describes ways the technology can detect both the amount of pressure applied, along with its direction, which hints that the unit could potentially act as a joystick.

Later, the application describes how these principles could also be applied to a trackpad to expand on the type of gestures that are currently supported. The patent also references ‘near touch’ gestures, which was addressed in another Apple patent granted earlier this month.

Previously reported, Apple filed a patent application entitled “Finger Biometric Sensor Data Synchronization via a Cloud Computing Device and Related Methods” that leverages fingerprint authentication for file upload and cloud storage.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.