Apple patents a hover touch sensor and heart rate monitor for smartphones

December 30, 2013

Apple is getting closer to having you interact with your iPhone without even touching it.

Apple today received U.S. Patent No. 8,614,693, which describes a method for accurately determining user interactions with touchscreens for touch and hover events (bringing your finger close to a screen but not quite touching it), reports AppleInsider. Apple also snagged U.S. Patent No. 8,615,290, which details an embedded heart rate monitor for smartphones.

Touchscreen hovering tech isn’t exactly new — Samsung first implemented it in the Galaxy Note 2 last year, and it brought the technology to all of its gadgets it’s released since that smartphone’s debut. Hovering a finger or stylus over a touchscreen opens up new possibilities, like previewing a link’s source or a picture without directly selecting it.

You can think of it similar to what happens when you hover your mouse pointer over something on your computer, something that’s been lost in most touchscreen devices so far.

But while Samsung may have been first to bring hover tech to its gadgets, it seems Apple wants to do it better. The patent describes several methods for increasing the accuracy of hover events, which could compensate for people with shaky fingers (which would help people who have Parkinson’s disease and other conditions that cause tremors). We’ve also seen patent applications from Apple years ago describing hover touch tech.

The integrated heart rate sensor is exactly as it sounds: a simple way to let a future iPhone read your EKG data. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple bring the heart sensor tech to future iPhones, it sounds even more useful for its fabled “iWatch.” Plenty of wearable health gadgets today can track your heart rate, but they’re typically bulky. Apple’s patent could bring that technology to smaller devices.

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