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.
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.