Apple has been granted a patent today for an invention that enables a touchpad or touch surface to simulate textures like cool metal and hot cement.

The patent, originally filed in 2013 and called "Touch Surface for Simulating Materials" (via Patently Apple), appears in a series of 62 others published today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and includes details on the mechanisms that would allow the touchpad to vibrate and change temperature.

Touch surface texture patent
An "actuator" would allow at least a part of the surface to vibrate and simulate the tactile sensation of the texture, with rougher surfaces simulated by stronger vibrations. By varying the vibrations over time in response to a finger moving over the touch surface, the control actuator would even be able to simulate irregular textures such as wood grain.

In combination with the actuator, a temperature control device could control the heat or coolness of the glass touch surface relative to the temperature of the detected contact. In one example, a layer of diamond material in the touch surface provides extremely high thermal conductivity, exceptional wear resistance and optical transparency.

As with any filed patent, the technology is unlikely to appear in any product soon, if at all. But it does offer some insight into Apple's ideas about how it might innovate upon haptic technology in its devices with simulated touch.

Last-minute rumors prior to the release of the third-generation iPad in 2012 suggested that the device could include haptic technology that would give on-screen objects texture, but the feature never appeared.

Tag: patent

Top Rated Comments

smacrumon Avatar
69 months ago
I think this will be great for individuals who may be visually impaired, allowing a greater sensory experience while using their device. This is the kind of Apple I'm waiting to see again. New progressive technology.

Yes! Bring on new meaningful device upgrades!

Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
demodave Avatar
69 months ago
I think this will be great for individuals who may be visually impaired, allowing a greater sensory experience while using their device. This is the kind of Apple I'm waiting to see again. New progressive technology.

Yes! Bring on new meaningful device upgrades!
I agree. In principle, this could simulate braille.

That would be pretty bad-ass, and I think Apple would be the company to do it.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
notjustjay Avatar
69 months ago
While initially this sounds silly, I could see some interesting feedback that could be built into the UI. Someone already mentioned Braille. Maybe as I'm moving the cursor around, when the cursor slams into the edge of the screen I feel the edge with my finger. Or as it hovers over buttons I feel the button as a different texture than the rest of the window.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Aston441 Avatar
69 months ago
I just love touching hot cement.

?
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Amacfa Avatar
69 months ago
Not sure how I 'feel' about this ;)
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kdarling Avatar
69 months ago
While that would be a great use of it, the most obvious use is outlawed because of Apple political correctness.
Yeah, when it's able to simulate lubrication, THEN it'll be a hugely popular breakthrough.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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