Pinch-to-zoom may soon go the way of the original iPhone according to new patents filed by Apple with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office.
The new invention described in the paperwork (filed in May 2011) would use a sensor to determine the proximity of a user's face, and automatically zoom and focus what was on the screen accordingly.
The invention would come with two modes, comfort and zoom, which work as analogues to one another, and provide user's with a tailored viewing experience without having to touch the screen at all.
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In your face!
The technology would use either a camera, infrared proximity sensor, or SONAR sensor to detect the closeness of a user's face to the display.
Calibration for the system would require the user to hold the applicable device at various distances while it gathered data to establish the proper display scale size as it pertained to that user.
The patent described the ability to potentially use facial recognition software to establish a better sense of distance, and thus provide more accurate reference data for the proper dynamic scaling.
Once all the test data was stored, the device would be able to more accurately provide readability and comfort to the user based on whatever mode was selected.
Comfort vs. zoom
Apple's invention features two different modes that offer variations on the same techniques.
As described by the patent paperwork, comfort mode is designed to "maintain the visual content at a comfortable size for the user regardless of how far the display is from the user's face."
If using the comfort mode, the content on screen would shrink as the user's face comes closer to the device, and would enlarge as the screen was moved further away.
Zoom works in the exact opposite fashion, and "provides a convenient way to zoom in and out of visual content."
As the screen is moved closer in zoom mode, content visible scales larger, with the on-screen content diminishing in size as it is moved farther away from the face.
Like any other patent, there's a chance this technology may never see the light of day.
Until Apple actually begins touting the technology as a feature in the next wave of iPhones or iPads, this auto-zoom will just remain a good idea we hope to see implemented soon.