User Interface for Smart Devices

US62/938,739 User Interface for Smart Devices

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Selected excerpts are published here from US Patent US62/938,739 User Interface for Smart Devices. This patent is pending and is not yet published in the public records. For a more complete disclosure of the material shown write to with a short cover letter disclosing your interest.

A user interface for smart devices has a hardware and a software component. The hardware component includes at least one wheel flush mounted to the front, back or sides of the device housing.

Each wheel contains an axle mechanism with an optical encoder positioned on the axle, and multiple microswitches mounted at various positions around the central axis and oriented towards that axis. The optical encoder’s rotational position is read by a light emitter and receiver component. The microswitches are engaged by the wheel axle via button depressors according to the angle at which the wheel is pressed. Guide rails in the mechanism encourage wheel presses towards the direction of the nearest microswitch. Signals from the optical encoder and microswitches are sent to the device’s CPU, providing input data to an operating system.

The wheels span the full diameter of the device. A proximity sensor mounted to one side of the device reads movement data by bouncing light off nearby objects and reading the return signal to determine which side of the wheel is being adjusted. Each physical wheel may therefore serve as two virtual wheels, each providing distinct sets of input signals to the operating system. An accelerometer adjusts the orientation of the wheels in line with the orientation of the device.

The rotational movements of the wheels are quantised both electronically and physically by the engagement of an axle mounted detent cog to a detent spring mounted to a fixed point on the axle mechanism. The resistance of the spring against the teeth of the cog provides a stepped motion to the wheel rotation. The fixed point may be adjusted with a linear rail motor, disengaging the spring. The motor is activated by a signal from the operating system when changing between smooth and stepped rotation of the wheel is required.

The software component provides the operating system of a smart device with means for using a combination of touch screen and wheel inputs. The touch screen may be used in the traditional fashion, or to the preference of the user or application developer may be used to activate, deactivate or coarsely control graphical user interface elements such as control panels, menus or windows, while wheel rotation and button press inputs are used for precision control of the same. Wheel button press and rotation actions may also be used to trigger context sensitive controls, menus, shortcuts and the like.

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