Google files patent for backside touch controls

Google has filed a patent for “simple backside device touch controls,” a concept that could change the way we interact with smartphones in the future. The concept is simple: introduce touch controls to the rear casing of a device. The control could be smartly reconfigured (by remembering the last performed action) to allow for quick recall of common functions simply by tapping the rear the the phone.

Google’s patent details how variations in touch strength could be used to either trigger a function or allow for a preview, eloquently providing users with one more way to interact with their phones. Of course, a patent filing does not necessarily equate to a technology we will see any time soon.

Such is the case with Apple. The company filed a similar patent for tablets back in 2006. I can see the lawsuit now, and it gives me a headache.

[via PatentBolt]

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TAGS: patents

  • Robert

    How do I bend my finger like that?!?

    • RobWild

      Good point. Would have been a hoot if they showed him with 5 fingers and thumb. Patent that. Everyone could use another finger. ;)

    • No_Nickname90

      IKR!? It’s all disjointed.

    • Eric Silva

      I think point 116 is the main part of the patent, it’s a patented break in the index finger to allow such an action. Meanwhile someone just got fired at Apple for not thinking of breaking one’s finger to act in such a manner.

    • ArmageddonX

      Ok, I LOL’ed IRL

  • Dan

    I would appreciate the ability to scroll around without having to cover the screen with my fingers.

    • Unorthodox

      That would have been awesome. Move the damn Dpad from the screen to the back so we can move around with an index finger, not the thumb. And also track taps and double taps.

  • Justin Gibbins

    The PlayStation VITA currently has back-touch functionality, but more often than not it’s a burden. If you ever accidentally activate a rear-touch function, that one time is enough to turn you off of it.

    Sometimes it works just fine. When the function is benign unless aligned with something on the front screen as indicated by a cursor, it is acceptable if not practical and preferable. Games like LittleBigPlanet and Uncharted: Golden Abyss make use of it in a fun and functional manner that does make the experience more enjoyable, but games like Street FighterxTekken and Stardust Delta tie it to a function that fires on a tap or swipe, which is too precise a function for an input method that is so imprecise.

    Google would have to come up with a function that does not require precision but is also something that is not also easily presented on screen. In other words, I am not immediately convinced by this application of “next” when a giant “next” button is just as effective.

    If they wanted to make it a scrolling feature, that would have some practical value. It would allow the user to see the screen as they scroll, and would eliminate issues of accidentally tapping a button or link or highlighting text when intending to scroll.

    • shonangreg

      As several others have pointed out, the motorola backflip also had this years ago.

      Also, the Notion Ink Adam original design envisioned a trackpad on the back. I don’t know if it made it into the final project.

  • Havoc70

    Uh what if you have a case on your phone, does this negate the ability to do backside touch controls? Interesting to see how they handle that.

    • redspear2

      I imagine you would need to get bumper cases. Same with the eink/lcd dual display prototypes.

  • NathanRadebaugh
    • coybot

      Totally. My sister had this phone, Great Idea, kinda crappy phone though.

  • kwaping

    “Backside touch”? Not going there. :D

    • Alexander Ramirez

      At least it’s not “grab”.

  • redspear2

    This has been down before but Motorola was one of the first to bring it to a semi-mainstream device with the Backflip almost 5 years ago(Geez has it been that long?) so while I think its a bogus patent they own Motorola so I guess it isn’t that bad.

    • Caleb Loop

      It hasnt, haha. Its only been 3 years.

  • thedicemaster

    I’d rather see LG’s side touch in more devices(tapping the side of an LG optimus 2x moves the cursor when typing)

  • Dokan

    Playstation Vita already has it. And its uncomfortable as hell. Not needed at all.

  • zin11

    I hope all this touch input craze gets old soon or at least gets way better soon. Where am I supposed to keep my fingers w.o accidentally hitting something now.

  • camelsnot

    die patents die.

    • Jason Farrell

      The only thing that’ll kill patents — (well, make them irrelevant at least) — will be desktop molecular manufacturing. When people can “print” a phone and a burger at the same time, what’s a patent good for?

      • Dan

        Can you “design” the phone on your desktop computer that your fancy desktop 3D printer will print? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

        Have a look at any of those makerbot type websites, endless page after page of useless plastic junk.


        • Jason Farrell

          We can and we will. These early plastic printers are only capable of junk atm.

          • Dan

            This 3D printing technology has been around for about 30 years.

            Every couple of years we get a new song and dance about how this or that company will provide the second coming of modern production. I just keep putting those flyers in the garbage.

          • Jason Farrell


          • Dan

            Ahh… Like those fancy Khakis that repel wine stains…. …well, I see your point. /sarcasm.

  • Brett Packard

    A smart way to determine touch strength without even more hardware would be to rely on the gyro. A substantial enough peak in forward velocity or force could trigger a “strong” touch command.

  • Matt Maerli

    That’s a lot like the back touchpad of the old Motorola Backflip.

  • Tony Stark Tran

    Sweet. Put holes in my phone case. Really it sounds like a cool idea but I need a case and this seems like it may cause some issues.

  • coybot

    The Motorola Backflip had a touchpad on the back of the phone. If something like that were to be utilized I think it could be kinda cool.

  • david brand

    Anyone else think upon reading the title that “backside” meant something to do with a persons “backside” ?? lol

  • Jroc869, Nexus-Life

    Apple already has that patent locked down as the are a bunch of ass puppets

  • RitishOemraw

    Would make for a great camera button in the camera app :D

  • irishrally

    “So hot, want to touch the hiney”

  • Blah Blah Blah

    I didn’t know breaking your finger was part of the process

  • Victor Ng

    Hmmm.. i dun really like people accidentally controlling my phone when they touch my backside…

  • thatcrazyone

    Um how do u patent something that already exists? Aka playstation vita….

    • John Kiser

      we could all ask apple this very same question could we not? :-P The patent office really doesn’t check patents being filed well at all until they are disputed.

  • BĂ©ranger

    Can’t anyone patent the idea that when you knock on a door, someone inside would come and open it? C’mon, this patent is ridiculous, it patents AN IDEA, no specific implementation at all (which would be a software patent anyway).

  • Flamez

    This was on the Motorola backflip (First AT&T android phone with a 5mp camera, epic keyboard, but slow) but never really saw the light of day. I think Motorola and Google should have made some agreement there.

  • moopuna

    So there goes my protective case then?

  • Ghostghoul

    Shouldn’t Sony already have these patents or similar. I’m sure they have some type of pat pend for the PSVita and its backside touch controls. I don’t know how prior art works with regards to patents, but hey WWAD (What would Apple do); file it anyway and say no one ever though about until they did it, and then try to sue Sony saying that they found this thread via a Google search?