Apple's haptic touch feedback concept uses actuators, senses force on iPhone, iPad

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014


In an effort to make touchscreens less static, Apple has proposed that future iPhones and iPads could feature actuators that would provide haptic feedback to users, and also include sensors that would 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." The use of actuators underneath a touchscreen could allow users to actually feel elements on the screen, such as buttons or controls.



The timing of the application being made public by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is interesting because one rumor from earlier this month incorrectly suggested Apple would introduce new haptic feedback technology in its third-generation iPad. That rumor was based on technology from the company Senseg, which creates an electric field on the surface of a touchscreen, allowing users to feel complex, context-sensitive textures, such as making a surface feel smooth or rough to the touch.



The concept described in Apple's new patent application is quite different, relying on actuators to physically provide haptic feedback on a touchscreen, rather than giving sensations through an electric field. But it demonstrates Apple's continued pursuit of providing users with some sort of physical feedback when using a touchscreen device.



"The user can typically only feel the rigid surface of the touch screen, 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 user navigate content displayed on the display screen by incorporating haptic feedback."



Rather than simply vibrating the device when a button is tapped, as some touchscreen devices do, Apple's solution could utilize piezoelectric actuators for "localized haptic feedback." This would allow the user to feel a virtual button on their fingertips.



Specifically named as products that could benefit from haptic feedback in the application are the iPhone and iPad, as well as the Magic Mouse and Apple's notebook trackpads.











The application describes a touchscreen with a "haptic feedback layer" that could include piezoelectric actuators aligned in a grid pattern. These actuators could be located below an external protective layer that the user would touch to interact with the device, or the haptic layer itself could be the outermost layer.



The actuators could be used to replace the mechanical "click" of a mouse, or would allow users to "feel" selectable buttons or icons displayed on a touchscreen device.



Another element described in the application is the use of "force sensors" in a touchscreen device. With these, an iPhone or iPad could determine how much force a user is applying to the touch-based user interface, and respond to just how hard the user is tapping the screen.



To allow this, the outer screen of the device would "flex minimally," but enough that the force sensors would be able to detect any pushing or squeezing of the device by the user.



The application, made public this week, was first filed by Apple in September of 2010. The proposed invention is credited to Paul G. Puskarich and Michael Pilliod.











Apple's interest in adding haptic feedback to touchscreen devices is not new. In 2010, the company filed a patent application for what it called a "multi-haptic" system that would detect multi-touch gestures and provide a number of physical feedback responses accordingly.



And in 2009, before the iPad was announced, one application described a tablet-style device with a dynamic surface that would give users tactile feedback when typing in order to identify individual keys on their fingertips.



[ View article on AppleInsider ]

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 20
    This all sounds pretty cool!



    I don't know how keen I am on having a "minimally flexible" screen, but I'm game for the sensation of keys and buttons.
  • Reply 2 of 20
    timmydaxtimmydax Posts: 284member
    Apple already use a lot of "depth" in their iOS UI; from shadows below keyboard keys and the status bar, to the slightly-inset buttons and icons on toolbars. It would be amazing if they were somewhat 3D to the touch, the complete opposite of swype, for example.



    The "shape" of slide to unlock will so be patented
  • Reply 3 of 20
    rabbit_coachrabbit_coach Posts: 1,114member
    Having a company like Apple on our planet, makes the future something very exiting. Looking forward to see what they are going to do with this technology.
  • Reply 4 of 20
    I heard that senseg tried to "sell" their haptic technology to Apple and Samsung but they were not interested. Probably because they have their own R&D looking in to it.

    I can think of one industry that can benefit greatly from this technology
  • Reply 5 of 20


    If they provide an SDK, You could write an app for the iPhone called PocketMassage or iMassage...



    Mmm... Lower, Siri, lower...
  • Reply 6 of 20
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,973member
    Don't BB Storms already do that?
  • Reply 7 of 20
    edrededred Posts: 48member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post


    Don't BB Storms already do that?



    Not exactly.



    What the Storm does is described in the article as:



    Quote:

    Rather than simply vibrating the device when a button is tapped, as some touchscreen devices do



  • Reply 8 of 20
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,973member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by EdRed View Post


    Not exactly.



    What the Storm does is described in the article as:



    Its exactly what the Storm has, piezoelectric actuators and all



    http://www.phonearena.com/news/Apple...system_id28337



    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/BlackBerry_Storm_2
  • Reply 9 of 20


    I have my MagicFingerPhone set at 78... my GF's is set at 62
  • Reply 10 of 20
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,973member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Rabbit_Coach View Post


    Having a company like Apple on our planet, makes the future something very exiting. Looking forward to see what they are going to do with this technology.



    3-4 yr old technology is not exactly futuristic.
  • Reply 11 of 20
    rmb0037rmb0037 Posts: 142member
    I hope this is something that can be turned off in settings or something. The reason I love my iPad is BECAUSE it doesn't give me feedback besides a button going grey when I touch it. Nice and simple. I can't stand typing on an android device and it vibrate, but from what this sounds like this is more of a "button" feel. Idk. Simplicity is key. That's why I enjoy apple products. This doesnt sound beneficial to anyone except someone who wants to "rub" his home screen. Plus the iPad and iPhone already recognize user input force by using the accelerometer. GarageBand comes to mind. Idk. We'll see
  • Reply 12 of 20
    Hard to imagine what this is like. I wonder if one day our devices can give us spot-on sensations/ textures. Or, if we'll be calculating the "definition" of texture the way we do the resolution of a display.



    Computing will eventually be unrecognizable by today's standards, unfortunately for those who don't like change and progression.



    One thing I think really needs to happen soon is an increase in audio quality in the hardware. We're all accustomed to the sound of Apple's cheap earbuds, which haven't significantly improved in ten years. Time for an upgrade!
  • Reply 13 of 20
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Filmantopia View Post


    One thing I think really needs to happen soon is an increase in audio quality in the hardware. We're all accustomed to the sound of Apple's cheap earbuds, which haven't significantly improved in ten years. Time for an upgrade!



    If you just talking about an improvement in the quality of the earbuds, I accept the quality is pretty low but this is not built in hardware and there are pretty good options available on the open market.



    This means that those that are satisfied with the quality of the packaged earphones know that Apple have chosen to spend whatever they do spend on the hardware that is not easily upgradeable, screen, memory, etc.



    This makes sense to me but I accept they earphones are pretty crappy!
  • Reply 14 of 20
    stelligentstelligent Posts: 2,680member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dpnorton82 View Post


    This all sounds pretty cool!



    I don't know how keen I am on having a "minimally flexible" screen, but I'm game for the sensation of keys and buttons.



    I think you are keen on having a minimally flexible screen, because you are already using more than one. All screens are minimally flexible.
  • Reply 15 of 20
    stelligentstelligent Posts: 2,680member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post


    3-4 yr old technology is not exactly futuristic.



    More than 25-year old. Furthermore, this form of haptics has not proven to be largely utilitarian.
  • Reply 16 of 20
    stelligentstelligent Posts: 2,680member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Filmantopia View Post


    Hard to imagine what this is like. I wonder if one day our devices can give us spot-on sensations/ textures. Or, if we'll be calculating the "definition" of texture the way we do the resolution of a display.



    Computing will eventually be unrecognizable by today's standards, unfortunately for those who don't like change and progression.



    One thing I think really needs to happen soon is an increase in audio quality in the hardware. We're all accustomed to the sound of Apple's cheap earbuds, which haven't significantly improved in ten years. Time for an upgrade!



    Haptic feedback that gives you shape and mechanical properties has been available and packaged with desktop PCs for a while now. So far, it has only caught on in niche ways (design, surgical training, dentistry, etc.)
  • Reply 17 of 20
    stelligentstelligent Posts: 2,680member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Granmastak View Post


    I heard that senseg tried to "sell" their haptic technology to Apple and Samsung but they were not interested. Probably because they have their own R&D looking in to it.

    I can think of one industry that can benefit greatly from this technology



    That kind of thinking would suggest larger smartphones are never going to catch on, because they won't fit into the pockets of one's jeans, if you know what I mean.
  • Reply 18 of 20
    More than anyone, I trust Apple to implement this tastefully. I could definitely see this in future Apple products, especially iOS and OS X merge. This would address the dilemma of how to differentiate between a mouse-over and a click. That, or some combination of proximity sensors and haptic feedback would be nice, if done in a subtle way.



    In any case, this would mitigate the issue of using touchscreen buttons. Even veteran Multi-touch users hit the wrong buttons sometimes. Not to mention new users.
  • Reply 19 of 20
    stelligentstelligent Posts: 2,680member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by acslater017 View Post


    More than anyone, I trust Apple to implement this tastefully. I could definitely see this in future Apple products, especially iOS and OS X merge. This would address the dilemma of how to differentiate between a mouse-over and a click. That, or some combination of proximity sensors and haptic feedback would be nice, if done in a subtle way.



    In any case, this would mitigate the issue of using touchscreen buttons. Even veteran Multi-touch users hit the wrong buttons sometimes. Not to mention new users.



    Hit the wrong buttons? Dude, it just works. It's magical.
  • Reply 20 of 20
    This talk about the tech being around for x years doesn't mean much does it. All the basic tech for an iPad has been around for over a decade but the refinement of the idea and the tech and the utility, not to mention the focus of the software all came together to make a highly desirable device.



    Its not much of a stretch to imagine that someone can still take these haptic feedback technologies and make something much more useful and desirable than has been previously implemented.



    Personally, I'd like to be able to feel the corners of a NES-style control pad on the surface of an iPad or iPhone and have it essentially work the same as one. That would require quite a few changes in the way input is handled on the devices though and a real physicality to the raising of portions of the screen.



    How would pressure sensitive buttons be added to the current design? I'm imagining that a "raised" item would need pressure to activate, but a flat-to-the-screen button would behave just like current apps do. This way all previous apps can behave the same and new apps would be easy to learn. There are exceptions of course. Drawing apps would want to take advantage of the pressure without raised buttons for instance.



    It all feels a couple years out to me, at least, though.
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