The multi-layer wave launcher that could have been | webOS Nation

The multi-layer wave launcher that could have been

by Derek Kessler Mon, 28 Nov 2011 7:06 pm EST

The wave launcher bar is one of our favorite underappreciated features of webOS (and one we wish would come back to webOS tablets). Don’t know what we’re talking about? Drag up from the gesture area – voilà, there’s your quick launch bar, on top of whatever the other thing you’re doing is. It’s single-gesture launching into your most used apps. But could there be more to it? If Palm’s patent on the wave launcher (no. 12505543 A1, User Interface For Initiating Activities In An Electronic Device) is any indication, yes, there could be more. And it makes us sad that there’s not.

The patent was filed on July 20, 2009, not long after the original Palm Pre launched on Sprint. It describes in typical detailed fashion the wave launched, complete with if/then flowcharts to describe the intended behavior. But things get interesting on page thirteen, where the application starts talking about the next evolution of the quick launch bar: subordinate quick launch bars for apps.

The illustration above demonstrates just one possibility: drag up and hold on Contacts and the launcher opens a second wave above the first with your five favorite contacts. Drag over to Jenny or Roger and release to place a call, send an email, or open that contact (the patent application’s not specific on that, but we imagine you’d be able to program specifically what action to take for each contact). Though not really described in the application, there are also two illustrations of the subordinate wave instead launching as a grid, enabling a user to have more than just the five contacts available for quick action.

If the wave launcher was a bit of “dude sweet” user interface design, the evolution of subordinate launchers would have had us scraping our brains of the back wall. Just a few use cases we can think of that would tickle our fancy:

  • Contacts: Hold on the Contacts app to show your favorite contacts, and then hold on a contact to show phone, text, IM, and email options.
  • Web: Bookmarks!
  • Twitter and Facebook: Hold to show quick launch actions like mentions, messages, new post, etc.

And if we were to go even further, there could be an interesting evolution on top of this by enabling quick display/widgets by holding on an app. For example: holding on Calendar to get a quick Agenda look at your schedule, or holding on a weather app to get the current conditions and forecast.

But alas, this may never be. There’s nothing truly fantastical or futuristic about this patent. Conceptually speaking it’s not much more complicated than the current wave launcher, it just takes that next step to streamline functionality even more. Like the wave launcher itself the operation of the phone is not contingent upon this multi-layer UI. One could go for years without ever knowing that there is a wave launcher, but the experience is enhanced by its existence. Will we ever see the multi-layered wave launcher? Probably not, but one can dream, right?

Source: Google Patents; Kudos to Levi for the find!