Apple wants your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple Watch to work better in the rain. The tech giant has been granted a patent (number 10,386,965) for “finger tracking in a wet environment.”
In the patent info, Apple notes that water on the surface of a touch sensor panel can be detected as a touch. In particular, water on a touch-sensitive surface in contact with a metal housing of the device or a finger can be grounded and appear as a touch by a finger. As a result, water (or other unintentional touches) can result in unintended behavior by the device. This can negatively affect user experience, particularly in wet environments, and Apple wants to change this.
Here’s the summary of the invention: “Touch input processing for touch-sensitive devices can be improved by filtering unintended contact detected on a touch-sensitive surface. In wet environments in particular, water on the touch-sensitive surface can be erroneously detected as touch input and degrade touch performance. In some examples, input patches can be classified as touch patches or non-touch patches prior to computationally-intensive touch processing.
“Filtering out unintended touches classified as non-touch patches can reduce processing requirements and save power. Additionally, classifying input patches can improve touch performance in wet environments. In some examples, input patches can be classified as touch patches or non-touch patches based on characteristics of edge touch nodes. In some examples, input patches can be classified as touch patches or non-touch patches based on a state-based signal threshold.”
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.