While the "multi-touch" iPhone screen
might lay claim to a nice collection of patents, XM is putting a whole new spin on the term with its "multi-finger" patent for satellite radio operation. The patent, which was filed in June '05 and published this last December, describes "context sensitive data input using finger or fingerprint recognition." Basically, instead of having to look at the device and punch the correct part of the screen with your finger, the screen can tell which finger you're tapping it with, and perform an operation based on whatever finger you're using. As illustrated above -- we use the term "illustrated" loosely here, it looks like the picture was drawn by a blind man using his feet -- the thumb could automatically mute the device, while other fingers coud be set to preset channels or to menu shortcuts. We're not super clear on the actual method of finger recognition, or if there is one as of yet, but the system will supposedly be able to work with multiple users, each with unique fingerprints and particular shortcut setups. Naturally, no word on when this might hit devices.