The world was first introduced to the concept of a touch-driven radial menu through an experimental “Labs” feature in Google’s AOSP browser in Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Affectionately known as PIE Controls, this radial menu allowed users to perform various browser navigation tasks easily and efficiently—all while saving valuable screen real estate in the process.
Since the dark days of Honeycomb, PIE Controls have been implemented in several custom ROMs starting with Paranoid Android, as well as a few aftermarket applications. A similar implementation was even included in Samsung’s Air Command on the Galaxy Note 3. Now, Google has patented an new implementation of the radial menu, but it’s not quite what any of us are used to. But rather than a simple one-finger gesture, Google’s freshly patented radial menu relies on two fingers: your thumb, which serves a a permanent anchor point, and your index finger, which calls a secondary menu and then selects from the available options.
Because of the inherent differences, it’s impossible for this patent to be used to go after existing applications using current generation PIE Controls. Rather, it’s far more likely that Google is planning an entirely new UI paradigm for use in Android—one that could potentially deliver the versatility of on-screen navigation, but without the wasted space of a dedicated navigation bar.
Ultimately, this is most likely a good thing for Android. It likely signals the coming of a “best of both worlds” approach combining the best from hardware and on-screen navigation. What do you think Google’s up to with this new patent? Let us know in the comments below!
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