CROSS REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/351,096, filed on Jan. 16, 2012 and published on May 10, 2012 as U.S. Patent Publication No. 2012/0113009, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/731,118, filed on Mar. 30, 2007 and issued on Jan. 17, 2012 as U.S. Pat. No. 8,098,233, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/927,575, filed on Aug. 25, 2004, and issued on Nov. 16, 2010 as U.S. Pat. No. 7,834,855, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety for all purposes.
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The invention relates generally to portable computers, and in one embodiment, a portable computer having a wide touchpad.
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Advances in technology have enabled the size of personal computers to decrease. As a result, the use of portable computers, such as notebook computers, laptop computers, and notepad computers, is rapidly increasing. The portability of notebook computers and notepad computers enables a user to keep his or her computer readily accessible such that computing resources are effectively always at hand. FIG. 1 illustrates a typical notebook computer with two folding halves, with a display assembly in one half and a base assembly with input devices in the other half. Input devices include, among other things, a keyboard for inputting data and a touchpad for navigating a cursor control. Palm rest areas are areas positioned on the upper surface of the base assembly below the keyboard. They allow a user to rest the base or palm of his or her hands comfortably during typing activity. The vast majority of conventional touchpads that are integrated into portable computers are, in one way or another, isolated from unwanted contact with the user's hands (e.g., during a typing activity). This is usually done by centering the touchpad below the keyboard, and minimizing the size of the touchpad, for example, by not extending the touchpad to the palm rest areas to be formed on either side of the touchpad. The touchpad is also recessed beneath the plane of the palm rest, so that palms, the most common cause of unwanted activation of the touchpad, do not come in contact with the touchpad.
One trend in portable computers has been to make them as desktop computer replacements, which requires them to be larger, while still maintaining their portability features. The display assembly in particular, that includes a display screen, has become larger, to become comparable to the sizes of desktop computer monitors. This has caused the housing of the base assembly to increase proportionally. Large base assembly housings can easily accommodate full-size keyboards, but the size of the touchpads must still be limited because of the high risk of unwanted activation, as discussed above, as well as providing the necessary space for palm rests.
Moreover, in order for larger portable computers to be practical for portability purposes, they must still be relatively thin and light. One conventional method to reduce the overall thickness of portable computers is to mount the touchpad flush with the top surface of the base assembly housing (e.g., the palm rest areas). However, this increases the likelihood of accidental brushing by a user's palms, especially during typing.
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Embodiments of a portable computer having one or more input devices including a keyboard and an enlarged or wide touchpad are described herein. A portable computer includes a display assembly and a base assembly coupled by hinge assembly that allows display assembly to change (i.e., rotate) between an open position and a closed position. The display assembly includes a display screen which displays images, data, and a moveable cursor. The wide touchpad and keyboard disposed on the base assembly allow a user to interact with the display screen (e.g., enter data). In one embodiment, the wide touchpad may be a cursor control device having the capabilities of conventional computer mouse devices, such as the ability to point, drag, tap, and double tap objects on a graphical user interface, as well as more general purposes such as scrolling, panning, zooming, and rotating images on display screen. The wide touchpad extends into the areas on the surface of the base assembly that are normally reserved for palm rest areas (e.g., flat areas on the surface of the base assembly that support a user's palms and/or wrists while typing).
In one embodiment, the wide touchpad filters each contact or contact patch sensed to either accept the contact as an intentional input command (e.g., cursor control command), or reject the contact as unintentional (e.g., when operating as a palm rest). The wide touchpad can filter multiple contact patches in order to accept a particular contact patch in one area of the touchpad while rejecting a second contact patch elsewhere on the wide touchpad. In one embodiment, a sensor is disposed between the keyboard and touchpad. The sensor defines a planar sensing region extending upwards from the top surface of the base assembly. The sensor detects a user's hand that may be resting on the base assembly with a palm portion making contact with a portion of the wide touchpad and the fingers extending toward keyboard. When this detection is made, any contact made with a corresponding portion of the touchpad is rejected, having been interpreted as unintentional contact by the user. Alternatively, detection of fingers extending toward the keyboard may be evaluated as one of many factors used to decide whether and what significance to accord to contact with the touchpad. For example, other factors may include the profile of the contact with the touchpad, the level of keyboard activity at the time of contact, etc. In this way, the touchpad may effectively serve as a palm rest (e.g., the user may intentionally rest one or more palm or other part of a hand or aim on a portion of the touchpad, which is recognized as an unintentional input) in addition to a functional touchpad when an input is interpreted as being an intentional contact by the user.
There are numerous other embodiments which are described herein, and these embodiments generally relate to portable computers having a wide touchpad and the accepting or rejecting of contact patches on the touchpad based on, in one example, hand location.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
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The present invention is illustrated by way of example, and not limitation, in the figures of the accompanying drawings in which:
FIG. 1 illustrates a conventional portable computer.
FIG. 2 illustrates one embodiment of a portable computer having a wide touchpad.
FIG. 3 illustrates a top view of the portable computer of FIG. 2 in the open position with a touchpad that extends into the palm rest areas.
FIG. 4 illustrates one example of a hand position during user activity with a portable computer.
FIG. 5 illustrates another example of a hand position during user activity with a portable computer.
FIG. 6 illustrates another example of a hand position during user activity with a portable computer.
FIG. 7 illustrates a side view of a hand in a typing position with the portable computer of FIG. 2.
FIG. 8 illustrates a cross-sectional view of FIG. 7 taken along line A-A through the base assembly, sensor, and hand with showing one embodiment of a sensor.
FIG. 9 illustrates a cross-sectional view of FIG. 7 taken along line A-A through the base assembly, sensor, and hand with showing another embodiment of a sensor.
FIG. 10 illustrates a logic diagram of one embodiment of a portable computer system that supports a wide touchpad and/or hand sensor.
FIG. 11 illustrates a flowchart of one embodiment of an operation for rejecting or accepting a contact patch.
FIG. 12 illustrates an alternative embodiment of a hand detecting sensor that may be disposed on a portable computer.
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In the following description, numerous specific details are set forth such as examples of specific, components, circuits, processes, etc. in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. It will be apparent, however, to one skilled in the art that these specific details need not be employed to practice the present invention. In other instances, well known components or methods have not been described in detail in order to avoid unnecessarily obscuring the present invention.
The term “coupled” as used herein means connected directly to or indirectly connected through one or more intervening components, structures or elements. The terms “above,” “below,” and “between” as used herein refer to a relative position of one component or element with respect to other components or elements. As such, one component disposed above or below another component may be directly in contact with the other component or may have one or more intervening component. Moreover, one component disposed between other components may be directly in contact with the other components or may have one or more intervening components.
Various embodiments of a portable computer (also referred to as notebook computer or laptop computer) having enlarged touchpads are described. The touchpad provides input and conventional cursor control capabilities such as pointing, dragging, tapping, scrolling, panning, rotating, and zooming. In one embodiment of the present invention, the touchpad serves as palm rests for a user\'s hands during a typing activity. In another embodiment of the present invention, the touchpad is enlarged so as to expand along a substantial width of the portable computer base assembly, extending into the palm rest areas. The palm rest areas include those areas on the front, top portion of the base assembly, and the keyboard is located behind the palm rest areas on the base assembly. Thus, in normal use by a user, the palm rest areas are closer to the user than the keyboard, which is normally adjacent to the hinge which couples the base assembly to the display assembly. The palm rest areas typically include a left palm rest area and a right palm rest area with a central portion separating these left and right palm rest areas. In prior art portable computers, this central portion typically includes a touchpad or other cursor control device. Advantages of a large touchpad for a portable computer include increased area for dynamic input ranges, two-handed control of the touchpad, and advanced input based on more than one finger on the touchpad.