Patent number 8648836 is assigned to
The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "This invention generally relates to a hybrid pointing device and, more particularly, to a hybrid pointing device including an optical navigation module configured to sense a gesture of at least one finger and a pointing module configured to sense a movement of the hybrid pointing device relative to a surface.
"For a conventional pointing device, e.g. an optical mouse and a trackball mouse, a pointer shown on a display of a host is controlled by a relative displacement between the pointing device and a surface. The pointing device generally includes two buttons (left and right buttons) for activating commands associated with the movement of the pointer on the display. Usually, when a user wants to execute a program, drag an icon, modify a picture, etc., the user moves the pointer on the display and points the pointer on a particular graphic user interface (GUI) then presses at least one button to activate commands. To enhance the applications of conventional pointing devices, some pointing devices are provided with more than two buttons; therefore, the user may define particular functions activated by pressing the additional buttons or by pressing several buttons simultaneously associated with moving the pointer on the display.
"However, too many buttons integrated on a pointing device may confuse the user since the user can only operate the buttons with at most five fingers one time. For example, when the user tries to press as many buttons as he or she can, the user may hardly move the pointing device to move the pointer on the display.
"There is another kind of pointing device which applies an optical sensor module in replace of the conventional mouse. The optical sensor module is configured to emit light to the finger and receive the reflected light from the finger for sensing a movement of the finger thereby controlling the pointer on the display. This kind of pointing device is compact and the sensing area is relatively small, which is disadvantaged in low resolution, hard to precisely control the pointer, hard to move the pointer fast, etc.
"Besides, the aforementioned conventional mouse is difficult in controlling the pointer to move very straight toward a direction, to move along a particular path, to draw a fair arc or to have an accurate fine movement due to the unstable operation of human hands and fingers.
"Recently, a kind of pointing device having a capacitive touch module (CTM) or a resistive touch module (RTM) is provided. The CTM or RTM is applied to sense the touching motion of fingers for activating commands. More particularly, the CTM or RTM includes a sensor array uniformly distributed over a sensing area. When the fingers properly touch on the sensing area, the touching motion will cause an electrical variation of the sensor array that indicates the touched position on the sensor array. However, to ensure correct detection of fingers, the whole CTM or RTM has to maintain in function-well condition. Once a portion of the CTM or RTM is failed, the movement of fingers cannot be detected correctly. Furthermore, fingers have to substantially touch the CTM or RTM strong enough to be sensed by the pointing device. All of these properties limit the application of the technologies.
"Thus, it is important to provide a pointing device that may activate commands in various ways without using buttons and move precisely for better control."
In addition to the background information obtained for this patent, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "The present invention provides a hybrid pointing device including an optical navigation module and a pointing module. The pointing module is configured to sense a movement of the hybrid pointing device relative to a surface for moving a pointer on a display. The optical navigation module is configured to replace the conventional buttons (such as left button, right button, or rolling wheel) of a conventional pointing device, such as an optical mouse or a trackball mouse. The optical navigation module is configured to sense gestures of at least one finger of a user to activate commands associated with particular programs running on a host. Since the optical navigation module is only configured to sense gestures of the finger but not the movement of the hybrid pointing device relative to the surface, the resolution of the optical navigation module is aimed to be sufficiently high enough for sensing gestures and no need to relatively high.
"The present invention further provides a hybrid pointing device including an optical navigation module and a pointing module. The optical navigation module is configured to assist in moving the pointer more close to the user's demands. By sensing a particular gesture of at least one finger, the optical navigation module may be configured to activate a command for limiting the moving direction of the pointer so as to move the pointer in a straight line on the display, or to roll the window up-down, or to roll the window left-right. Therefore, the user may operate the pointer very precisely along a desired direction better than a conventional pointing device. Besides, by sensing a particular gesture of at least one finger, the optical navigation module may be configured to directly move the pointer, to move the pointer at a relatively higher speed on the display, or to directly move the pointer in a limited range or to move the window in different speeds with the assistance of at least one key on a keyboard.
"The present invention further provides a hybrid pointing device for being operated by a user to work on a surface and result in a relative movement between the hybrid pointing device and the surface. The hybrid pointing device includes a first module, a second module, an operation field and a processor. The first module is configured to sense the relative movement of the hybrid pointing device relative to the surface. The second module includes a light source configured to emit light and an image sensor configured to capture an image containing at least one light spot of at least one object operated by the user from reflecting the light emitted by the light source. The operation field is for the object to be operated thereon. The processor is configured to identify a relative distance between the object and the light source according to a variation of the light spot in the image and to generate a distance signal, wherein the processor generates the distance signal indicating that the object touches the operation field or the object is above the operation field within a certain range.
"In one aspect, the processor does not generate the distance signal when the relative distance is identified to be between a surface of the operation field and the certain range.
"In one aspect, the processor identifies that the relative distance is within an ignored range when an intensity of the light spot is within a predetermined intensity range and/or an area of the light spot is within a predetermined area range.
"Since the optical navigation module may be operated in many ways, such as sliding at least one finger, posing a gesture, multi-touching of fingers, clicking of at least one finger, rotating at least one finger, etc., the optical navigation module provides a more instinctive way of operating the pointer or the window on the display rather than conventional pointing devices in which a user may only choose press or not to press buttons thereon to activate commands.
"The optical navigation module of the present invention includes at least one image sensor and at least one light source. The light source emits light and at least one object operated by a user reflects the emitted light to be received by the image sensor. Since different motions of gestures of the object cause different images on the image sensor, the optical navigation module then transforms the images into electric signals for controlling the pointer shown on a display or for activating particular programs running on a host.
"The hybrid pointing device of the present invention is for being operated by a user on a surface. The hybrid pointing device includes a first module, a second module and a processor. The first module is configured to sense a movement of the hybrid pointing device relative to the surface. The second module includes a light source and an image sensor. The light source is configured to emit light. The image sensor is configured to capture an image containing at least one light spot of at least one object operated by the user from reflecting the light emitted by the light source. The processor is configured to identify gestures according to a position information of the light spot on the image.
"In an aspect of the present invention mentioned above, the position information of the light spot on the image is retrieved from a look-up table formed by dividing a field of view of the image sensor into a matrix of many sub-areas and pre-stored in the processor.
"The present invention is able to be integrated with the conventional structure of optical mouse or trackball mouse by adding the optical navigation module of the present invention and changing related periphery devices. In an aspect of the present invention, the first module and the second module included in the hybrid pointing device may share the same light source."
URL and more information on this patent, see: Kao, Mig-Tsan; Hsu, En-Feng; Chang, Yen-Min. Hybrid Pointing Device. U.S. Patent Number 8648836, filed
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