Apple files patent for technology to control touchscreen without touching it

Imagine a touchscreen phone you didn't have to touch?.
Imagine a touchscreen phone you didn't have to touch?. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Imagine using a touchscreen you didn’t actually have to touch. Apple seems to think the idea might actually be possible, according to a recently published patent filing.

The patent, originally filed by Apple in March of last year, details technology that would allow users to interact with touchscreen devices by simply hovering over the screen itself. According to the filing this would involve “the no-touch, close proximity hovering of fingers or other objects above a touch-sensitive surface but outside the near-field detection capabilities of touch sensors.”

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Apple would do this by including multiple proximity sensors made of infrared LED and photodiodes, according to the document. Photodiodes change electrical currents based on how much light they detect. So, by bouncing infrared light off your hands, the sensors could detect their presence and pick up on the gestures you make.

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However, Apple did not specify what type of devices the technology was meant for; but in one of the patent drawings includes a keyboard, pointing towards some sort of desktop application.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

While a patent filing doesn’t necessarily mean Apple is going to create a product using this technology, the idea could be a dream come true for iPhone-using germaphobes.

Countless studies have looked at how many germs live on devices like smartphones and tablets – some concluding that smartphones harbour more germs than a toilet seat. According to a University of Surrey study, most of the bacteria found on a smartphone is harmless, but researchers admit that occasionally disease-causing bacteria, such as “Staphylococcus aureus,” are found.

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