With legal wars escalating and patent trolls running amok, technology companies often recourse to patenting even the most outlandish ideas, in a bid to gather as much intellectual property as possible.
In many cases, the applicant is not even close to turning the idea into reality, so we can’t rely on patent applications to predict future products. But from time to time, we can get a tantalizing glimpse of what’s to come.
If a patent uncovered by Patent Bolt is any indication, Google’s future tablets could feature an adaptive user interface that reacts to the way the device is grasped by the user. In other words, the tablet would “feel” how the user holds it, and move UI elements around so they become accessible with one hand.
The recently published patent application was first filed in Q3 2011, and specifically mentions tablets as devices that could make use of the adaptive user interface.
The USPTO application contains the following illustration of the concept.
As you can see, tablets could relocate UI elements on the fly, thus making it possible to use the device with one hand. In the above illustration, the Back, Forward, and Refresh buttons of a web browser are moved to the side, thus becoming easily accessible.
The patent goes on to discuss the technical aspects of the concept, but what is more important in my opinion, is the fact that the idea is easily implementable. I would especially love to see this happen on 7-inch tablets like the Nexus 7, which I often find myself tempted to use with just one hand.
Again, a patent application is no guarantee that a technology will ever make it into a real product. But it’s good to see Google working on improving the way we operate our gadgets.