Friday, July 2, 2010

Pressure Sensitive iPad

One thing that I've wished the iPad had from the beginning was the ability to detect different levels of pressure, similar to a Wacom tablet. That would make it much more useful for things like sketching. I've heard from a few people that the hardware supports it, but I've been skeptical of those claims. How could a capacitative touch device detect pressure? But a few people I talked to at WWDC insisted it was possible with the hardware.

Turns out they were right. This is really cool. I don't know anything about the technology - whether they're really using pressure (I tend to doubt it) or just the relative size of the area being touched, but the results in the video look promising. I also hope the final version can be accomplished with only public APIs somehow.



16 comments:

David said...

really cool! That's very promising. Unfortunately, the article mentions that it does use a "private function call" so I'm guessing we won't see this technology on the AppStore anytime soon. But it's good to know it's possible.

David said...

No idea how this works. I guess this could theoretically work without detecting "pressure". Similar to what you mentioned, Jeff. There could be 2 heads on the pen, so that the harder you press the more they diverge. That could also explain the ability to detect pen vs. palm vs. finger...

mbw said...

Why can't they tell us what private API this is using? Haven't people made exhaustive class dumps of the full iOS API? Wouldn't something like this stand out?

Even if it is private I would love to use it in some personal projects that I don't plan on releasing to the app store.

Jeff LaMarche said...

If Apple sees the potential with what they're doing (and they should), it's possible that Apple will expose the functionality needed to do this without the use of private APIs. They did that with all the augmented reality functionality between 3.0 and 3.1, so there's hope.

I just hope the Ten One people have started a dialogue with Apple about it already. It takes time for private APIs to become public. Apple has a rather lengthy process internally for anything that gets exposed in a public API for third party use.

K. A. Barber said...

So in my app MotionInk I basically use the size and small movements of a single touch to control the flow of ink while using the accelerometer to control the position of the the pen.

The linked site form the original post is not showing a video for me but I have also experimented for my next version with simulating pressure with touch point positioning while dragging. It feels right sometimes but not all of the time.

Whats the likelihood of this being being on the iPad and not on any other iPlatform including the new iPhone 4? If it is real this is really cool for the future.

K. A. Barber said...

So I saw the video and am impressed if not skeptical. I wish the camera was tighter in on the iPad so I could see the outputted realtime ink size changing in more detail.

aaron said...

I used to work on the Nintendo DS, which used a resistive touchscreen. It too was pressure sensitive, however Nintendo did not support this feature in it's APIs and would not approve games that attempted to use the pressure sensitive functionality (there are homebrew apps that did however, most notably one called "Colors" that was a really cool painting program). I always wondered why, but then a thought occurred to me that I doubt Nintendo really wants to encourage people to use the touchscreen forcefully, for fears that it could be damaged. I could see that perhaps Apple may keep this functionality locked up for the same reason.

Aras said...

This is cool but it is not pressure sensitive touch technology. It is demonstrating a pressure sensitive pen "similar" to wacom tablets. The pressure sensitive wacom tablets have been available for more than a decade and they provide a very high pressure sensor resolution. What I see in this video is definitely a few steps backward from the electromagnetic technology that is used in the wacom. First you have to do extra input processing to eliminate hand and finger touch. Second, the pen tip is not sharp, thus it does NOT give you the accuracy that you would expect from a normal pen. Third, since the pen does not run in a seperate channel, it is not possible to provide buttons on the pen for mode switching, which is a handy little thing.
There are more reasons, but I think I made my point here.

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Danilo Campos said...

It's pretty straightforward: Because of the gumminess of your skin, the overall size of a given touch increases as pressure is applied and decreases as pressure is relieved. You can see this in action with BetterTouchTool and a multi-touch touchpad or Magic Mouse. (click the Show Live View button)

All you'd need to do is measure the relative sizes of a hard vs soft touch et voila, you've got a decent proxy for pressure.

Rob Fielding said...
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