More Apple gestures. Warning: post may contain the p-word!

7 Aug 2007 - 2:28pm
769 reads
Morten Hjerde

Apple has applied for a patent of a gesture dictionary. This has spurred
some debate in the community. Can you patent a language? Is it good? Is it
evil? Etc. etc.

1) Gestures used for controlling machines via touch screens do not
constitute a language, linguistically. Gestures are simply a collection of
commands. No language has ever been patented, not braille, not sign
language, not esperanto etc.
There is 20+ years of prior art in this field (research on touch screens and
gestures) and anyone trying to patent a set of gestures will have a really
hard time finding gestures that are not already "prior art". All the good
ones are already "taken".

2) Many of us have tried our hand at designing icons and know how hard that
can be; very few commands can easily be visualized iconically. The best
touch screen gestures are symbolic/iconic. A symbol/icon is based on
imitation; the "flick" scroll gesture is one example. You might argue that
Option-C or Ctrl-C are symbols as well, they "imitate" the word "Copy".
Trouble is that you soon run out of "symbolic"/iconic gestures and you have
to use signs instead. Signs have an arbritrary relationship to their
'meaning' - the command they signal, and they have to be learned and
memorized. What is the relationship between Option-V or Ctrl-V and "Paste"?
(The only "relation" is spatial on a qwerty-keyboard: the V key is next to
the C on the keyboard, and "Paste" often follows "Copy".)

And this might just be the point of the Apple patent! Apple seeks to patent
every imaginable way to assist learning sign gestures. Since there are so
few symbolic gestures, Apple knows you are going to have to start learning
the sign ones. And they want to ensure that you can't get help without some
money tickling into the Apple bank account.

I believe they simply want to patent how to learn gestures.

Morten Hjerde

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