In an effort to make touchscreens less static, Apple has proposedthat future iPhones and iPads could feature actuators that wouldprovide haptic feedback to users, and also include sensors thatwould measure the force at which a user touches the screen. The concept was unveiled this week in a patent application discovered by AppleInsider entitled “Touch-Based User Interface with Haptic Feedback.” Theuse of actuators underneath a touchscreen could allow users toactually feel elements on the screen, such as buttons or controls. The timing of the application being made public by the U.S. Patentand Trademark Office is interesting because one rumor from earlier this month incorrectly suggested Apple would introduce new haptic feedbacktechnology in its third-generation iPad. Cummins Turbo Kits
That rumor was based ontechnology from the company Senseg, which creates an electric fieldon the surface of a touchscreen, allowing users to feel complex,context-sensitive textures, such as making a surface feel smooth orrough to the touch. The concept described in Apple’s new patent application is quitedifferent, relying on actuators to physically provide hapticfeedback on a touchscreen, rather than giving sensations through anelectric field. But it demonstrates Apple’s continued pursuit ofproviding users with some sort of physical feedback when using atouchscreen device. “The user can typically only feel the rigid surface of the touchscreen, making it difficult to find icons, hyperlinks, textboxes,or other user-selectable elements that are being displayed,”Apple’s filing reads. “A touch-based user interface may help a usernavigate content displayed on the display screen by incorporatinghaptic feedback.” Rather than simply vibrating the device when a button is tapped, assome touchscreen devices do, Apple’s solution could utilizepiezoelectric actuators for “localized haptic feedback.” This wouldallow the user to feel a virtual button on their fingertips. China Iveco Turbocharger
Specifically named as products that could benefit from hapticfeedback in the application are the iPhone and iPad, as well as theMagic Mouse and Apple’s notebook trackpads. The application describes a touchscreen with a “haptic feedbacklayer” that could include piezoelectric actuators aligned in a gridpattern. These actuators could be located below an externalprotective layer that the user would touch to interact with thedevice, or the haptic layer itself could be the outermost layer. The actuators could be used to replace the mechanical “click” of amouse, or would allow users to “feel” selectable buttons or iconsdisplayed on a touchscreen device. Turbo Gasket Kit
Another element described in the application is the use of “forcesensors” in a touchscreen device. With these, an iPhone or iPadcould determine how much force a user is applying to thetouch-based user interface, and respond to just how hard the useris tapping the screen. To allow this, the outer screen of the device would “flexminimally,” but enough that the force sensors would be able todetect any pushing or squeezing of the device by the user. The application, made public this week, was first filed by Apple inSeptember of 2010.
The proposed invention is credited to Paul G.Puskarich and Michael Pilliod. Apple’s interest in adding haptic feedback to touchscreen devicesis not new. In 2010, the company filed a patent application for what it called a “multi-haptic” system that would detectmulti-touch gestures and provide a number of physical feedbackresponses accordingly. And in 2009, before the iPad was announced, one applicationdescribed a tablet-style device with a dynamic surface that wouldgive users tactile feedback when typing in order to identify individual keys on theirfingertips.