Google patent reveals radial menu design for Android

by: Robert TriggsMarch 17, 2014

Google logo aa

At the end of last week a new Google patent appeared at the US Patent and Trademark Office, which shows a touchscreen radial menu that Google may have been working on for Android. The menu may seem somewhat familiar to Paranoid Android and CyanogenMod users, as it bears a few resemblances to PIE controls. Interestingly, Google filed for this radial menu patent all the way back in Q3 2012.

So radial menus aren’t particularly new, even for Google. The old stock Android 3.0 web browser for tablets arrived with pie-like controls, and the feature is also tucked away as an experimental option in the AOSP browser. Google also replaced its stock camera app with a semi-circle menu system back in Android 4.3, and used a full circle system for the Android 4.2 camera app. Samsung has also been experimenting with similar features, with its Air Command feature for the Galaxy Note 3.

air command

So what’s so different about Google’s menu? Well, for a start the design is split into different segments, each of which controls a different set of options. Once activated, each segment then splits down into further options for the user to select.

The patent describes this as a three stage process. The first stage involves “pinching out” from a point using two fingers to create a menu which looks very similar to PIE. From there users can select one of the options by dragging their finger further past the menu, which then opens up stage three where users can select the option they desire. It looks quite a lot like a combination of PIE and Google’s stock camera app. Simple enough on paper, but I’m not sure how well a two finger system would work on a smartphone.

Google Patent Radial Menu Android

This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen Google patent a radial menu technology, back in the middle of 2012 Google patented a similar menu system. Before we get ahead of ourselves, patents don’t necessarily translate into actual pieces of software or products. There’s no indication that Google has any plans to put this menu into practice, at the moment, but you never know what Google is working on for future Android releases.

  • Bradley Uffner

    That “Stage 3” diagram in the patent picture makes it looks like it would be really hard on the wrist getting to some of those menus.

    • Dwight Flakus

      Why couldn’t you use 2 thumbs??

      • Bradley Uffner

        Then what would I use to steer? ;)

  • guy with guts

    Google must patent all android’s killer features, but open for only android OHA and developer communities. So that evil companies like apple and microsoft cant rip off and copy them and call their own ‘innovations’.

    • joser116

      I’m still pissed off that Google did nothing when Apple decided to “invent” the pull-down notification shade.

  • silenz

    so.. they patented PA’s Pie?

    • Dwight Flakus

      Did you read that this was filed back in 2012
      Even the web browser had it way back when. It was an experimental feature in the web browser

  • MasterMuffin

    I don’t see the use for phones (yet), but I can see how that would be useful on tablets!

  • Cao Meo

    Not sure why 2 fingers, 1 is enough

    • xlSamsonlx

      Sorry I’ll show myself out.

  • Jens Oddershede

    Ever tried the app Splay, looks like the same, but only with one finger

  • Extirpator

    Could it be UI for wearables? ie a radial smartwatch interface?

  • Srini

    Else mobile had this kind of interface back in 2010..but it failed to gather any attention..