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
104 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
104 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
104 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
104 months ago
I just love touching hot cement.

?
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
A MacBook lover Avatar
104 months ago
Not sure how I 'feel' about this ;)
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kdarling Avatar
104 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)

Popular Stories

apple tv 4k yellow bg feature

When to Expect a New Apple TV to Launch

Tuesday April 9, 2024 8:30 am PDT by
It has been nearly a year and a half since the current Apple TV was released, so the device is becoming due for a hardware upgrade. Below, we recap rumors about the next Apple TV, including potential features and launch timing. The current model is the third-generation Apple TV 4K, announced in October 2022. Key new features compared to the previous model from 2021 include a faster A15...
iPhone 16 Camera Lozenge 2 Colors

iPhone 16 Plus Rumored to Come in These 7 Colors

Wednesday April 10, 2024 3:52 am PDT by
Apple's iPhone 16 Plus may come in seven colors that either build upon the existing five colors in the standard iPhone 15 lineup or recast them in a new finish, based on a new rumor out of China. According to the Weibo-based leaker Fixed focus digital, Apple's upcoming larger 6.7-inch iPhone 16 Plus model will come in the following colors, compared to the colors currently available for the...
iPhone 16 Pro Sizes Feature

Alleged iPhone 16 Battery Details Show Smaller Capacity for One Model

Tuesday April 9, 2024 3:46 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 16 lineup will feature bigger battery capacities compared to previous-generation models with the exception of the iPhone 16 Plus, which will have a smaller battery than its predecessor. That's according to the Chinese Weibo-based leaker OvO Baby Sauce OvO, a relatively new source of supply chain leaks with an as-yet unproven track record for accuracy. The iPhone 16 ...
apple silicon feature joeblue

Macs to Get AI-Focused M4 Chips Starting in Late 2024

Thursday April 11, 2024 10:10 am PDT by
Apple will begin updating its Mac lineup with M4 chips in late 2024, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The M4 chip will be focused on improving performance for artificial intelligence capabilities. Last year, Apple introduced the M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chips all at once in October, so it's possible we could see the M4 lineup come during the same time frame. Gurman says that the entire...
M3 iPad Feature 3

Apple Event for New iPads Still Considered 'Unlikely' Following Delays

Tuesday April 9, 2024 6:37 am PDT by
Apple is "unlikely" to hold an event to announce new iPad Pro and iPad Air models, according to sources cited by Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman already said Apple was not planning to hold an event for the new iPads, but he made this claim back in early March, before it was reported that the devices were postponed due to manufacturing delays. With the...
iOS 18 WWDC 24 Feature 2

iOS 18 May Feature All-New 'Safari Browsing Assistant'

Wednesday April 10, 2024 6:11 am PDT by
iOS 18 will apparently feature a new Safari browsing assistant, according to backend code on Apple's servers discovered by Nicolás Álvarez. MacRumors contributor Aaron Perris confirmed that the code exists, but not many details are known at this time. Álvarez said it seems like the browsing assistant will use iCloud Private Relay's infrastructure to send relevant data to Apple in a...