Few hours before the new iPad event, a report claimed that Apple’s third generation iPad will feature Senseg’s haptic feedback touch technology. We soon found out that it was a case of wishful thinking.

However there might be some hope as a patent application titled “Touch-Based User Interface with Haptic Feedback” discovered byAppleInsider reveals that Apple is interested in bringing the haptic feedback technology to iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Apple plans to use actuators in future iPhones and iPads that will allow users to actually feel elements on the screen like buttons or controls etc. In addition to actuators, Apple also plans to use sensors to determine the force at which a users touches a button.

Apple explains the problem with current touch-based interface in the patent application:

Existing touch-based user interfaces do not provide haptic feedback to a user. Haptic feedback may be any type of tactile feedback that takes advantage of a user’s sense of touch, for example, by applying forces, vibrations, and/or motions to the user. The user can typically only feel the rigid surface of the touch screen, making it difficult to find icons, hyperlinks, textboxes, or other user-selectable input elements that are being displayed. A touch-based user interface may help a user navigate content displayed on the display screen by incorporating haptic feedback. For example, localized haptic feedback can enable a user to feel what is being displayed by providing feedback when a user locates a virtual button, selects the virtual button and/or confirms the selection of the virtual button.

Apple has proposed that this can be solved by using one or more piezoelectric actuators that are embedded in a nonconductive material, which forms the outermost layer or below an external protective layer, so that the mechanical stimulation provided by the actuators can be felt by a user.

In addition to the actuators, Apple has proposed the use of “force sensors”, which can be used to differentiate between a click or a scroll command.

the force sensors 315 may allow for distinguishing between various input gestures that may be associated with different commands. In one embodiment, the force sensors may be used to differentiate between a click and a scroll command. As an example, the processing device may associate a higher amount of force, such as from a tapping motion, with a click command and a lower amount of force, such as from a gliding motion, with a scroll command (or vice versa).

This is not the first patent that we’ve seen on haptic feedback from Apple, back in 2009, a patent application had revealed that Apple was actively working on haptic feedback technology for future iOS devices.

It is important to note that Apple like so many other companies, patents ideas, so these features might never see the light of day.

But we won’t be surprised if future iPhones and iPads feature haptic feedback technology.

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