Apple could have a lot more in mind for the multitouch user interface found on the iPhone.
A recent Apple patent filing spotted by Macsimum News, among others, covers technology described as a "multitouch gesture dictionary." It's basically a way of assigning certain tasks, such as opening an application, to a series of gestures and "chords," according to the patent application.
Right now, iPhone users navigate by dragging a finger up, down, left or right to scroll through contacts, music or e-mail. Zooming in or out of a Web page requires two fingers that either pinch or, uh, do whatever the opposite of pinching is.
The patent filing describes additional gestures that could be set by the user to do whatever they like. This could involve just a single finger, or two fingers dragged in succession, or an actual chord of several fingers applied to the touch screen in a certain way. I'm thinking a cross between the iPhone, Guitar Hero, and the way you can set the trackpad on a Macbook or Macbook Pro to scroll through documents or bring all applications to the front by dragging a finger around the trackpad.
CrunchGear reported earlier this week that Apple is planning to introduce new laptops in October that incorporate multitouch input gestures beyond what you can already do on a Macbook or Macbook Pro. So perhaps the technology described in the patent filing is already in the works.
But the application also talks about other input methods, such as by hovering your hand above a sensor; by using force-sensitive sensors that might do different things, depending on how hard you push; and by using voice-activated commands. The standard Apple patent-filing disclaimer applies: technologies described in patent filings don't always make it into future products; they are just a glimpse at what Apple may be considering for future products.