If Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has its way, current touch screens will soon seem like plain vanilla. The company is rumored to be incorporating visual textures or reactions to user force within its screens, but maybe none of those has come to fruition yet because Apple is actually working on something even more intelligent.
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An application Apple filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday describes a touch technology that would have the screen actually pushing back against user touch through the use of an added elastic sheet with sensors, with varying degrees of reaction. It would be different from previously-described models because the screen would be formed of multiple layers of haptic elements rather than just one, helping in physically changing the surface of the touchscreen device.
The haptic screen would let a user feel three-dimensional contours, shaped buttons, or other multi-scale features. If, for instance, there is a contoured geographical map visible on the screen, the new touch technology can theoretically allow portions of it to be raised, corresponding with real elevation data.
According to Patently Apple, “the multi-tiered haptics system…will actually allow an iDevice display to deform so that it could provide the user with a button, an arrow or even a geological map to physically pop right out of the screen to give it 3D depth.”
The technology could be applied so as to create raised buttons, depressions, patterns, or moving features such as cursors. It could three-dimensionally display graphics, images, video, tables, or text. The haptics system, if it becomes reality, could be used on mobile devices like the iPad and iPhone, as well as a computer monitors, television screens, or video projectors.
Apple also hopes to control the screen’s displacement, or any other physical response, through the amount of user pressure. That would mean that, depending on the stimulus, the physical response of the system would alter and the virtual display would change accordingly. That is, if the user’s touch has created a contoured surface on the screen, the display would then alter by stretching, compressing, or rotating. Such an application could affect painting and drawing apps such as Zynga’s (NASDAQ:ZNGA) recently-acquired Draw Something, as well as video games controls. Impressed yet?
Apple’s application includes a patent request for an organic light-emitting diode display screen that could be used to make video glasses. When used with a clear protective cover, it could be used to manufacture a head-mounted display or video glasses with the same haptics technology. Cooler than Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Project Glass, don’t you think?