Apple ‘Reinvents’ our 12 year-old ActiveEdge UI

activeedge
Apple – Active Edge UI

Way back in 1998, Jobe and I dreamed up a new type of interface – perfectly suited for mobile devices. We called it Active Edge. The patent was granted in 2002. It resembled the touch interface that is currently the rage, but was confined to the 4 borders of the display. The user could control the device simply by interacting with the bezel of the display. (Above are sample screens and a device prototype by industrial designer Laura Mahan)

An active edge user interface includes dynamically configurable flexible touch areas positioned near the perimeter of a display to support interactive communication between a user and a user environment for flexible active touch areas surrounding a display. The interface allows for multiple levels of sensitivity, texture, key travel, and varying widths of active touch areas based on the user environment.

As a bonus, the Active Edge UI contained piezo-electric plates to simulate effects such as physical bumps or accelerating scrolling. Alas, Nortel decided not to build this.

Today, Apple is granted a patent on essentially the same invention – 12 years after our original filing! Their ‘touch sensitive bezel’ is described as

An electronic device has a display and has a touch sensitive bezel surrounding the display. Areas on the bezel are designated for controls used to operate the electronic device. Visual guides corresponding to the controls are displayed on the display adjacent the areas of the bezel designated for the controls. Touch data is generated by the bezel when a user touches an area of the bezel.

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