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Squeeze detection: new Apple patent points to unusual gestures

Apple’s Research and Development department comes up with all kinds of ideas for future products, and we often get sneak previews of them from the US patent office.

Some of the notable patents we investigated two years ago have since become key features of the iPhone range – back then we predicted the software Home button, device waterproofing, and even (sort of) the infrared systems that make Face ID possible. We also predicted an embedded fingerprint scanner, though, which hasn’t come to pass – so it’s worth noting that not every patent becomes a reality!

This latest one is pretty interesting, though. A newly discovered patent describes a squeeze detection feature, which would allow the user to interact with the device by – you guessed it – squeezing its sides. This could do anything from launching a menu to invoking Siri to controlling a game.

It may seem like an odd idea, but Apple is always on the lookout for new gestural commands to make iOS better. The new swipe gestures in the iPhone X make the Home button seem like a relic of ancient history, and so maybe it’s not such a wild thought that in a few years we could all be pinching and squeezing our iPhones to navigate our apps.

Interestingly, some Android smartphones already incorporate a similar feature called Active Edge, which uses squeeze gestures for simple actions like dismissing incoming calls or muting timers.

We don’t claim to understand how patent law works, but it seems odd that Apple could hold a patent for a feature rival devices already have. In fairness, the patent looks to have first been posted in 2013 and later revised, so Apple has clearly been thinking about this idea for a while. Perhaps they have a completely different approach.

Whether or not this patent ever becomes a reality is up for debate, but it certainly shows that Apple’s not afraid to prototype unusual ideas for future devices.