Google has filed a patent that offers touch input from the back of a smartphone or tablet.
Patent Bolt has discovered a patent filed by Google that adds touch-based controls to the back of an Android-based smartphone or tablet. This could allow a user to flip the virtual pages of an ebook or browse through a gallery of images without having to smudge the front touchscreen with a finger. Apple introduced a similar idea back in 2006, but it was designed specifically for tablets.
The patent, called "Receiving Input at a Computing Device," describes a conceptual Android-based smartphone or tablet with a standard touch screen. This device is not only able to detect contact on the backside housing; it also detects if the contact is meant to trigger an operation. That means when a user touches the back of the phone, it will determine if the user is simply holding the device or is trying to perform an action such as scrolling and more.
The patent seemingly describes the backside touch option as secondary, meaning the first input would be through the touchscreen, as in launching a browser, while the second input would be through the backside, such as scrolling. Here's one of the patent claims:
"Selecting, by the mobile computing device, a second operation from among a plurality of possible operations based at least in part on the first operation having been previously performed by the mobile computing device within a threshold amount of time or number of operations of receipt of the second input; and causing the second operation to be performed."
Part of the patent's "tap detection" includes the device providing visual, audible and/or tactile feedback, indicating that the tap input on the backside has been detected. This "acknowledgement" could be a simple click sound, beep or device vibration.
The patent description also mentions using several points of contact on the backside. One diagram splits the back plate into four sections, two of which can be used as forwards and backwards functions. The device determines where the input originates by using one or more motion sensors including accelerometers and gyroscopes. It even incorporates non-motion devices like microphones.
To read the whole patent, check out Google's application here. It was filed on August 23, 2012 and published on March 7, 2013.