Where did fingerworks go. Investigation

Facts, rumors, speculations about the past, present and future of FingerWorks.

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Where did fingerworks go. Investigation

Postby isaacs » 21 Oct 2005, 18:35

Well Here is the beginning of the thread that will seek to document my investigation into where fingerworks went.
Here is the initial email trying to obtain information.
>>
Dr. Elias and Dr. Westerman,
I have been doing some research on the fingerworks product. I currently own a device and love it. I appreciate your excellent work on this amazing product. I was sad, however to learn that the company was acquired. I am interested to find out who acquired the company so that I can better know what will become of the keyboard. I understand that the University of Delaware netted about a million dollars from the sale of the patents.
I am sure that you know who acquired the company but I also understand that there may be nondisclosure agreements involved. Would you be able to point me in the right direction of who I should contact regarding records of the university's patent sales? Or maybe you would be able to explain the situation better yourself.
Thanks in advance for your time,
Isaac.S


And the response that I got. :( Kind of disappointing but I think this is public information. After all the patents were developed using state money.
>>
Hi Isaac,

Sorry, but confindentiality agreements prevent us from disclosing
information regarding the acquisition of Fingerworks.
Thank you for your show of appreciation for our products - we like them too.

Best Regards,
John Elias


I really liked how he said we like them too. :evil: I am just worried when mine dies I will have to go back to the old keyboard mehtod.
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Postby VaderPi » 25 Oct 2005, 19:00

This is the same thing that I thought a while back. It seemed to me that at least some information regarding a one million dollar sale would be listed in an annual report. I scoured the web in general and the university web site and came up with nothing. I was not able to find an annual report anywhere, or any general information about the sale.

I did not try anything as direct as contacting Elias and Westerman, but I laud your efforts to do so. I only hoped to find a file lying around with some information in it.

I also tried finding people to contact that might not be bound by a confidentiality agreement. The way I did this was by looking for people that mentioned that worked for Fingerworks. I was not able to find any resumes or bios to that effect, however.

Man, I feel like a stalker all of a sudden.

Best of luck to you. Let us know what you find! I am really surpised that more information has not seeped out.
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I'm also interested to know what you find out...

Postby goldfish » 26 Oct 2005, 07:30

I've been googling this more than I ever reasonably should. In case you're wondering, this is what I found in my own investigations (Sorry, this is long, and repeats alot that you already know).

So we know that Apple dumped Synaptics, Inc., who traditionally provided them with trackpads, in early February (Synaptics shares tanked on Feb. 9th on the news), as they had been developing their own trackpad in-house. We also know per nomaded that
Around the middle of February 2005, it was noticed that FingerWorks Support was not returning email messages/support requests in a timely manner. Inquiries were made to the Official Forums, with no responses from anyone from FingerWorks.
So it looks like Apple acquired the fundamental patents, dumped Synaptics, and then because there were problems (posted Feb. 9th) with their own trackpad using Fingerworks technology they hired Westerman and Elias full time to fix them. As what Mr. Peanut originally linked to stated:
Apple paid them to use this technology in the iPod mini and the 4th Gen. Apple also used their technology in the powerbook scroll trackpad. Because of the recent problems with the powerbook trackpads, Apple just hired these two guys full time to design the next Apple trackpad.
Of course nomaded confirmed that Dr. Westerman is now remotely employed by Apple.

Fingerworks was always looking to be acquired (from 2002):
The company has recently started to sell four types of keypad commercially and dream of a contract with the likes of Dell, Gateway or IBM. Perhaps that's one reason why the University of Delaware which is a shareholder in the startup venture, has given its full support to the team from the start.
So it's no surprise they sold the patents when the opportunity arose. A U of D newsletter (that you've undoubtedly seen) states:
When the company was acquired this winter, the fundamental patents on MultiTouch input netted the University of Delaware more than $1 million. Collaborations between Westerman and Elias, however, are far from over. As Westerman puts it, their "symbiotic two-man hardware/software R&D partnership" continues to thrive today.
Also per Westerman's email to barbara,
if we all cross our fingers, maybe the basic technology will not disappear forever
So we know Westerman and Elias are still working on something hardware/softwarish, but that only the basic technology may survive. On the other hand, Mr. Peanut's other post indicates Westerman and Elias will be at Apple for two years or more, so maybe that's enough time to do more than just implement the basic technology.

What I would like to look into is what the "fundamental patents on MultiTouch input" that Apple acquired consist of, as the content of the patents might reveal how Apple could use them? I personally don't expect any new iGesture pads or TouchStream LP-like products out from Apple, seems that would go beyond the "basic technology." I'll have to make do with my iGesture (Human Solution still has a few left, btw).
Last edited by goldfish on 26 Oct 2005, 17:58, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby ivanw » 26 Oct 2005, 09:36

goldfish wrote:I personally don't expect any new iGesture pads or TouchStream LP-like products out from Apple, seems that would go beyond the "basic technology."

The facts is that The Fingerworks Adventure has been broken anyway. You can't look at it anymore as the early stages of some success-story.
The magic is gone, it feels this way at reading each post on the subject.

Despite the fact you can feel that this technology might become the universal mean to communicate with computers, history just stalled.

Nowadays, as for too many human things that really count, money is the bad guy, you can bet on that :twisted: (...get your share of the bargain...)
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Postby Rqyteqto » 26 Oct 2005, 20:46

Let's just hope they have not sold out in vain.

As you say ivanw, "this technology might become the universal mean(s) to communicate with computers". However, if history stalls long enough, other, better, technology will supplant it. Or not.

Meanwhile, we gots what we gots and we can try to make the most of it.

I still have an extra iGesture that I am willing to donate to the cause. Only conditions are it gets treated with respect, it doesn't get disected without very good reason, I get it back when you're done and whatever you find out becomes public domain and gets posted to this forum or whatever other forum I choose and I and anyone I choose get full use of the data and findings. I'll even pay the postage both ways.
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Postby isaacs » 09 Dec 2005, 17:18

Hi all,
I still have not forgotten about my quest to find fingerworks but I got a new job so I have not been able to pursue it as much as I would have liked. I just stubled across this again this morning. I know the lemur has been talked about before but I am pretty sure it doesn't use fingerworks technology. It requires a 20 Newton force to activate it. It does do multi finger gestures though so maybe it is similar.
http://www.jazzmutant.com/lemur_faq.php
Keep on searching, we'll find it someday.
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Postby Rqyteqto » 09 Dec 2005, 19:16

That is certainly one sweet little board, though if you think Fingerworks are a bit orugh on the finances, these little doggies redefine the concept.

I don't see much of FW/TS in these beauties (its more object oriented, less gesture based) and the touch mechanism is apparently completely different, plus you have the visual feedback which is really sensational.

I'd love to have one of these to play with. Forget music, think of everything else they could be applied to.

I don't think there's any question about it, there is definitely a desire to improve on the keyboard/mouse input and there's a lot of folks working on it.
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Meaningless nonsense re: Fingerworks

Postby goldfish » 19 Jan 2006, 05:56

I was bored today, and spent a couple of hours googling Fingerworks. More than you ever wanted to know about Apple's use of Fingerworks technology below...

Per Fingerworks' website:
FingerWorks products include a low-power on-board microprocessor whose first job is to collect and process image data from the MultiTouch sensing surface. It then recognizes, tracks, and interprets finger and hand motion, ultimately generating mouse or key sequences for the host computer's USB port.
I wonder if that microprocessor was provided by Cypress Semiconductor Co.? It seems to be in the new Apple products...

Apple Powerbook
Per Sven of Drunkenblog re: trackpad (2/7/05):
From what I've been told, there is new hardware in the new PowerBooks, it looks as though Apple has moved to new USB-based hardware. Yes, that can be confusing, but remember these things are connecting internally and not externally. These new 'features' are basically hardware based on the new PowerBooks, and rely on the 'enhanced' firmware in the newer models to tell the OS what's going on.
...
Apple has a little blurb saying they have a patent pending on the two-fingers scrolling thing.
Per Bear Stearns via Forbes (2/10/05):
Apple introduced a new touchpad (TrackPad) for its PowerBook notebooks last week that uses Apple's own solution using Cypress Semiconductor chips," said Bear Stearns. "More importantly, we believe that Apple will use an Apple/Cypress solution in its fifth-gen iPod rather than Synaptics', as well as in the subsequent generations of iPods.

iPod Nano
Per Businessweek re: Nano (9/22/05):
Synaptics specializes in touch-sensitive technology that forms the basis of the click wheel used to navigate between songs on previous iPods. But Santa Clara (Calif.)-based Synaptics lost out to an Apple-designed click wheel that contains a 55-cent chip from Cypress...
per iSuppli, re: teardown of Nano, reports (9/26/05):
The use of the Cypress chip confirms the months-old rumor that Apple was abandoning Synaptics Inc. in favor of its own proprietary solution based on the Cypress part. ...However, the nano utilizes Cypress’ CapSense technology, which relies on the company’s CY8C21x34 family of Programmable System-on-Chip (PSoC) devices to convert signals relating finger position into digital-control functions. A PSoC is a programmable chip that integrates a microcontroller with several analog and digital components that can be configured for specific applications.
Per Electronic Business Asia:
The... Nano teardown also revealed that Apple Computer has made some surprising choices regarding its semiconductor suppliers, the firm said. These choices include... Cypress Semiconductor Corp.' s CY8C21434 for the circuitry behind the iPod Nano's trademark click wheel interface. ...Previous iPods utilized Synaptics' technology for the circuitry behind the click wheel. However, the Nano utilizes Cypress ' CapSense technology, which relies on the company's CY8C21x34 family of programmable SOC devices to convert signals relating finger position into digital-control functions. A programmable SOC is a programmable chip that integrates an MCU with several analog and digital components that can be configured for specific applications.

iPod Video
Per Consumer Electronics Stock Blog (10/26/05):
Synaptics CEO Francis Lee commented on competitor Cypress’ PSoC solution, which is in the Apple iPod Video: "we respect all competition, and we’re not taking Cypress lightly. But, we really believe in strategy in terms of offering total integrated solutions with all the pieces of the technology together… We can confirm that the most recent [iPod] product launches announced do not include Synaptics’ solutions."
Per AudioDesignLine (10/21/05):
The old suppliers include... Cypress Semiconductor Corp., which scored its first iPod win with the nano, according to the research firm. ... Cypress once again is supplying its Programmable System-on-Chip (PSoC)-based CapSense solution for the Click Wheel circuitry that translates user finger movements into digital signals.
Per EMSNow regarding Video IPod (10/24/05):
Meanwhile, Cypress once again is supplying its Programmable System-on-Chip (PSoC)-based CapSense solution for the Click Wheel circuitry that translates user finger movements into digital signals. Apple chose Cypress when it switched from long-time supplier Synaptics Inc. to its own propriety solution for the Click Wheel.

Cypress PSoC CapSense Tech.
You can read about the Cypress Semiconductor Programmable System-on-Chip Capacitative Sensing technology (the technology being used in the iPod Video and Nano in conjunction with Apple's proprietary solution, most likely Fingerworks tech.) at this site.

Sssshhhhh!!!!!
Apple is secretive. Per Forbes (10/31/05):
Apple also forced Synaptics to take its logo off its circuit boards and forbade it to discuss the relationship in public or with other customers--a restriction that remains in effect even today.
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Postby ken gray » 19 Jan 2006, 14:14

wow!! really nice job.
now all we have to do is find out if cyprus is inside these keyboards.

has anyone cracked one of these things open?
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Postby ivanw » 20 Jan 2006, 10:39

+1
goldfish, your report would pretty well fit in a page of its own in the fingerfans wiki.
I know, easier said than done :wink: but you won't be alone for long in this quest.
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Postby goldfish » 20 Jan 2006, 23:53

Per Google Cache of Cypress' Japan website:
2004-10-15

Capacitance sensors can be used as non-contact switches. These switches, when protected by an insulating layer, offer resistance to severe environments. The PSoC CY8C21x34 family has an architecture that is well adapted to scanning arrays of this type of switch.

This Application Note implements the principles of US Patent 6,323,846 by Elias and Westermann. Use of the designs in this note should be under license of said patent.

Download application note files:

The original website is no longer available (at www.cypress-japan.co.jp).

Google cache of application note (html format) here. It says:
This Application Note outlines theory and design techniques for implementing arrays of
capacitively actuated switches using the unique features of the CY8C21x34 PSoC™ Mixed-
Signal Array.

So, this seems to prove that Fingerworks technology is in at least the new iPods, if not the Powerbook.

Read (and save a copy of) the caches of these while they're still available, I don't know how long they last for. Maybe they're stored in some web archive somewhere?

I'll look into doing a wiki page on this in the near future. I had no idea you guys had one going. Good idea!
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Postby ivanw » 21 Jan 2006, 01:07

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Postby goldfish » 21 Jan 2006, 01:19

Interesting. The PDF you posted says "revision B," 4/14/2005. The google cache is "revision A," 10/15/2004. The cache of revision A has the Patent warning mentioning Westerman and Elias in the introduction, the revision B doesn't.
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Postby jmadison » 23 Jan 2006, 20:59

Amazing... you guys are regular detectives. I use my TS daily, and read this forum daily, and am very thankful for both of them. I do wish that FingerWorks would come back to life I was hoping they would make a fundamental change to the way that people interact with a computer. But, I am very impressed with your dedication to the details nonetheless.

Keeping it light...
-Jason
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Postby Louis » 15 Feb 2006, 14:51

Mmmm. Combine this with Apple's latest patent applications and rumours of a touch-screen virtual click wheel in Apple's next video iPod ... I can't wait to see what comes from this. Especially after seeing other research with multi-touch screens - http://mrl.nyu.edu/~jhan/ftirtouch/ has a great video - and other Apple dreams, like the Apple Knowledge Navigator video I first saw about two years ago. Even though Vista has better handwriting recognition and a better Media Center interface, with TV and Xbox, I wouldn't put it past Apple to try something oddball and win, like with the iPod and iTunes.

Now if only I could have some of that natural language processing in the Apple concept video ... sigh.
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Further Proof!

Postby only120xs » 23 May 2006, 18:09

New Lawsuits

The most interesting new item involves Quantum Technology Management, Ltd. v. Apple Computer, Inc., which alleges Apple has infringed upon U.S. Patent number 5,730,165, "Time Domain Capacitive Field Detector". In the filing, Quantum also named Fingerworks Ltd. a defendant, lending further confirmation of Apple's acquisition of that firm. Fingerworks developed innovative touch-sensitive input solutions; Apple is said to have scooped up the company as well as its two founders, Dr. Westerman and Dr. Elias—former professors at the University of Delaware—to advance the company's touch-pad technologies in both its laptops and iPods. Quantum's complaint seeks unspecified damages and other relief. Apple's response is not yet due.


Full article here: http://thinksecret.com/news/0605sec10q.html
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...latest lifesign

Postby ivanw » 20 Jun 2006, 00:47

Found some recent trace of existence there:

[url=http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/sol/og/2006/week12/patreis.htm]Image United States Patent and Trademark Office
Reissue Applications Filed - OG Date: 21 March 2006[/url]

...see 10th record
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Re: ...latest lifesign

Postby -jeffB » 20 Jun 2006, 14:53

He's not dead yet!

I seem to recall that the lead time on patent processing can be several years, so I'm not sure how significant this really is. I wonder if it'll be possible to track assignment of this patent -- since FingerWorks doesn't exactly exist any more ("Address unknown"?), will it be assigned to Apple?
-jeffB (Jeff Brandenburg, Durham, NC, USA)
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Wayne Westerman at Apple

Postby goldfish » 10 Sep 2006, 07:08

A few Wayne Westerman (co-founder of FW) sightings at Apple:

Speaker: Wayne Westerman, Apple Computer

http://www.ee.udel.edu/HighTechE/schedule.html

Westerman, Wayne
San Francisco, CA 94107 Apple Computer/Engineer 250 03/09/2006

http://www.campaignmoney.com/apple_computer.asp
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Postby ken gray » 10 Sep 2006, 21:10

:D :D :D :D
oh, man that campagin contribution list was a real find!!! you have yourself a career in private security industry.
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Re: Oh dear.

Postby TorbenGB » 15 Sep 2006, 19:28

goldfish wrote:Apologies, I was trying (and failing apparently) to be humorous. I'll edit out the potentially inflammatory statements.

That's quite all right, I thought you didn't mean it in an aggressive way. To clear things up, I've now removed all the off-topic posts and left all those that are relevant. I hope nobody minds - it's just to keep things nice. Do carry on with all your postings, please!
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Postby goldfish » 16 Sep 2006, 07:09

So apparently Apple is coming out with an updated version of the iPod Video. "The new iPod features Apple's patented Click Wheel for precise, one-handed navigation..." I just had a look at Apple Insider, and they had a teardown of the new Video iPod on there. It says
...and Cypress contributing a Click-Wheel PSoC mixed signal controller ($0.90).

If you look at this picture, in the bottom right hand corner, you can see the chip labeled "CY8C21434" (it's surrounded by orange). That's the same chip that was in the old iPod Nano. Of course, we know the "PSoC CY8C21x34 family ... implements the principles of US Patent 6,323,846 by Elias and Westerman." So they're still using FW tech in this version of the iPod video.

Apparently they're working on tear-downs of the new iPod nano--I don't see the chip though in the pictures they give.

Meanwhile, Synaptics, who lost the Powerbook trackpad/iPod clickwheel business to Cypress/Fingerworks/Apple, isn't taking this lying down:
The Onyx concept is enabled through Synaptics ClearPad technology, a new capability under development within Synaptics. ClearPad is a thin, high resolution capacitive touch screen that can be placed over any viewable surface for finger input.
...
ClearPad is based on Synaptics' proprietary sensing technology, and will offer unique capabilities such as two finger input, proximity sensing, text entry and high resolution finger input that can dramatically improve and enhance the user experience with a touch screen.
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