Leave it to the pioneers of multi-touch in the mobile space to apply for a patent on all future versions of multi-touch. Apple’s latest patent filing suggests that Cupertino is working to integrate more than just touch-based input modalities in to future versions of multi-touch.
The problem with the current multi-touch setup is that it’s tailored to touch-based mechanics alone. Multi-touch on the iPhone and iPhone 3G is goo for mechanical manipulation, but without complementary input modalities like voice or finger-recognition, the current multi-touch setup falls short of offering truly immersive user interaction.
Imagine trying to resize and rotate a picture while changing its color and inserting a bit of text. It wouldn’t make sense to resize and rotate the picture using your voice. There are size and rotation-degree parameters that are just more well-suited for manipulation through touch-based multi-touch technology – it’s just easier to pinch/stretch and rotate the picture with your finger than with voice commands. Likewise, it’s easier to use voice commands to change the color of the background picture or add a text string to the picture.
Apple proposes, in their latest patent application, that future multi-touch technologies will integrate almost all foreseeable input modalities to complement touch-based multi-touch. Mechanical manipulations could be assigned to touch-based commands, while voice commands are relegated to functions that require choosing an option from a list.
Futhermore, Apple envisions future multi-touch setups incorporating finger-recognition that would allow the user to assign different functions to each finger – which would allow for more complex commands to be issued. Gaze-vector tracking could allow your future laptop or mobile phone to recognize which menu you’d like to select and automatically drill down to the appropriate category. Then there’s the proposition of using finger-tracking and force-sensing technologies that would allow the user to affect different degrees of control depending on finger-pressure and position.
Combine all that with accelerometer support and some pixie dust and you’ve got the makings of a seriously immersed control environment. We can’t wait for a future filled with multi multi-touch and pixie dust!