This could be applicable to touchscreens, such as those on the iPhone and iPad, and trackpads, like those on Apple’s various MacBooks, since the patent notes the technology would be able to work with touch surfaces made of both glass and metal.
Here’s how Apple describes the system in its patent (emphasis is our own):
In some cases, the vibrations may be varied over time, such as in response to one or more touches detected using one or more touch sensors (such as position sensors, force sensors, capacitive sensors, and/or other sensors capable of detecting one or more characteristics of a touch). For example, the vibrations may be varied over time in response to detection of a touch moving across the touch surface in order to simulate the grain of a wood surface.
It sounds like the touchscreen or trackpad would give off certain vibrations in response to touch, which would create a sensation that makes it feel like wood rather than metal or glass.
Based on the description in the patent, it sounds like this could be a more advanced version of Apple’s Force Touch trackpad, which ships with Apple’s new MacBook. The Force Touch trackpad simulates the feeling of a click, even though the actual trackpad doesn’t feel much different than a touchscreen.
It’s important to keep in mind that this is just a patent, and it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the technology will actually show up in any of Apple’s products. It does come at a time, though, when Apple has been experimenting with different types of touch-enabled technology. The Apple Watch, like Apple’s new MacBook, also comes with a Force Touch screen, which means it can not only detect where you’re pressing the screen, but how hard you’re pressing it, too.
It’s unclear exactly why Apple would want to make your iPhone or MacBook feel like wood, but the idea that they’re looking into that type of technology is still impressive. And, if KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is to believed, we can expect more from Apple in terms of applications for Force Touch, too. Kuo, who has a great track record when making predictions about Apple products, says the next iPhone will come with Force Touch, but it will be different than what we’ve seen on the Apple Watch.
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