Apple patent suggests iPad bezel touch-controls

The broad bezel around the iPad's touchscreen led some to criticize Apple's industrial design last week, but judging by a recently published patent the Cupertino company may have plans for that empty expanse.  A system whereby capacitive touch sensors are embedded in a tablet or digital photo frame screen bezel is described, linked to various contextual controls shown around the edges of the display.  That way, the device can have minimal hardware controls on the fascia, and instead make use of dynamically resizable on-screen controls suited to whatever the current application.

Since another pretty important function of the bezel is to give a user somewhere to grip onto the iPad, Apple's patent also includes technology to discriminate between input and mere contact.  This could either be based on length of touch – if you grab an edge and use it to hold the tablet, after a brief period the iPad ignores that area of contact – or by selectively turning off sections of touch-sensitivity based on the orientation of the iPad.

Meanwhile the controls – and their on-screen labels – would automatically rotate to suit any rotation of the tablet itself, and there could be links between on-screen controls and where the user is touching around the edge of the display (e.g. calling up a volume wheel by tapping a certain corner of the bezel, and then changing that volume by drawing a finger around the on-screen wheel).  While we'd love to see something like this in the first-gen iPad, we don't imagine there'll be capacitive strips to be found during the inevitable iPad teardowns.

[via Everything iPad]