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Thursday, December 06, 2007, 06:00 am PT (09:00 am ET)

Apple filing details multitasking touch-screen for mobile gaming

Apple Inc. in a new patent filing details multitasking input techniques that would allow iPod or iPhone users to play interactive gaming titles on their device's touch-screen while at the same time maintaining control of a secondary application from the touch-screen, such as digital music player application.

The 29-page filing, originally made September 11th of last year, is credited to five of the Cupertino-based company's engineers and is title "Techniques for interactive input to portable electronic devices." More specifically, it pertains to touch-pads or touch-screens on a mobile device that can determine which application should receive input based on the manner in which the user entered the input.

"One aspect of the invention provides a game input area (surface or plane) that can receive input for multiple applications including an interactive application executed in connection with a scene displayed on a display," the filing states. "Input is directed to the appropriate application based on one or more locations (e.g., points, positions, regions, portions) of the input area effectively identified when input is received (e.g., when input is entered by a person by touching a particular position on a touch screen)."

By way of this example, Apple explains that the same input area can be effectively used to receive input from a gaming application and a non-gaming application at substantially the same time.

"More particularly, the input area for a gaming application can effectively overlap or include a number of locations that are designated for a non-gaming application (e.g., a media playback application) and/or designated as such only if input is received in a particular manner (e.g., pushing or pressing of any location, or a particular designated location, would result in sending the input to non-gaming application)," the filing continues. "As such, a location on the input area can be designated, for example, for a gaming application if input is received in a particular manner different than that designated for the non-gaming application (e.g., tapping or touching the region would send input to a gaming application, but pressing would result in a media player function)."

Accordingly, Apple concludes, this aspect of the invention would allow a single input area to be used for multiple applications. "Hence, a person can use the same input area (e.g., a top surface or plane of a physical input device such as a touch screen) to multitask. In other words, the person can, for example, play a game and exercise control over another application (e.g., media playback application) using the same input area."

Another aspect of the same invention could provide an input area that resembles or approximates the shape of a gaming scene. "Typically, the scene is used in connection with the application (e.g., a game scene is used to play a game, a record is displayed for a database program and manipulated based on input)," the filing states. "Further, the scene is often controlled or manipulated based on input provided by a person. Typically, this requires one or more objects to be controlled or manipulated in the scene based on input provided."

Apple touch-screen gaming patent


Apple notes that those skilled in the art of software development will appreciate that such an input area that resembles or approximates the scene would allow a person to provide input in a more intuitive way.

"Further, input can be provided in a simple and more intuitive manner by effectively allowing the user to interact with the input area in a way that mimics or approximated a desired action or motion of an object displayed in the scene (e.g., moving a ball or bat around by mimicking the motion on the input area)," the company wrote. "Examples of such interactions include that can be characterized as positional, directional, rotational, pressing and/or pushing type inputs (or movement)."

Apple touch-screen gaming patent


Other aspects of the invention can be combined to realize additional benefits, Apple adds. "In general, the invention allows various applications to be integrated and used on devices that are not readily suitable for supporting multiple applications at the same time. As an example, a portable media player can be effectively integrated with various other applications including gaming applications. The media player can, for example, be used to play a game and still behave as a media player during the game play."

For example, a person can use the same input area (or input device) to not only play a game but also control the music being played while the game is in progress. "The game can be controlled by using intuitive and simple motions (e.g., directional and/or rotational movement and/or touching a particular location using a thumb or finger)," Apple added. "In one embodiment, during game play, the media player can still be controlled in the manner familiar to users."

The filing is credited to Apple engineers Michael Lampell, Francois-Yves Bertrand, Alan Berfield, Leo Lee, and Eric Snider.