Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,792,013) for “interface scanning for disabled users.” It involves improved input devices and methods for physically-impaired users.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that various types of input devices, such as keyboards, mice, track pads, and touch screens, have been developed to enable a user to interact with a computing device. While these traditional input devices provide users with a quick and intuitive way to interact with a computing device, they all require a significant amount of movement by the user.
This presents a problem for physically-impaired users that lack the fine motor skills required to operate such input devices. For example, some physically-impaired users are unable to move a finger across the surface of a touch screen device and thus, cannot operate a touch-sensitive device, such as a tablet computer. Similar problems can arise with the use of a keyboard or mouse. Apple wants to change this.
Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “One process can include scanning multiple elements within a user interface by highlighting the elements. The process can further include receiving a selection while one of the elements is highlighted and performing an action on the element that was highlighted when the selection was received. The action can include scanning the contents of the selected element or performing an action associated with the selected element.
“The process can be used to navigate an array of application icons, a menu of options, a standard desktop or laptop operating system interface, or the like. The process can also be used to perform gestures on a touch-sensitive device or mouse and track pad gestures (e.g., flick, tap, or freehand gestures).”
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.