Apple has just filed for a new patent, “Embedded force measurement”, with the US Patent and Trademark Office that would allow for future Apple products to use a flexible display capable of measuring how much you press into the screen and using that as a form of input. Currently, although apple touch devices use tapping as a form of input the screens are largely two-dimensional in terms of input. Adding a third dimension of input could drastically change how we interact with our iPhones.
According to the patent filing, the new technology would make use of a flexible screen, most likely an OLED display due to the ease of installing such displays on flexible materials. A force measurement layer would be placed on top of the display and use a number of magnitude detectors, including strain gauges and optical sensors, to read how much the display is being distorted when pushed. The flexible part of the screen could be restricted to ensure rigidity in the device, and the measurement layer could be linked to one or several control systems. If an OLED screen is used on the device, the measurement layer could be embedded into the display’s substrate.
The possible applications for the force measurement technology are many. For instance, volume could be regulated by pressing the screen, and would increase or decrease at various rates depending on how hard you press. Since humans tend to press harder the more they want something to happen, this could become a very natural and easily adaptable form of input.