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Apple files for patent on illuminated, colorful touch pads

The company's patent describes a method for illuminating the touch pad when it's touched, as well as changing colors across the pad, depending on pressure and intensity.

Apple has filed for a patent on a touch pad that both lights up and responds to varying pressure.

Dubbed "Illuminated Touchpad," the patent, which was applied for in April but published today, describes a technology that will deliver "improved feedback mechanisms for touch pads." A key component in that mechanism is backlighting, which illuminates the touch pad when a user interacts with it. Apple's technology also appears to allow for illumination when the person is not interacting with the respective device.

"One aspect relates to devices capable of illuminating the touch sensitive surface of the touch pad," Apple writes. "Not just in backlighting so that the user knows where the touch pad is located in low light conditions, but also to give other feedback related to how the touch pad is being used."

The patent was first spotted by Apple Insider.

The big draw in Apple's patent application, however, might be the technology's other function: response to pressure and motion characteristics. According to Apple, depending on how hard a person presses on the touch pad or the way in which they move their finger across it, the technology would modify its appearance.

"Another aspect relates to methods for providing feedback at the touch pad," Apple writes. "For example, changing intensity or color based on motion characteristics- and/or pressure, providing an illumination point that follows a finger as it is moved about the touch sensitive surface, showing different states with varying levels of brightness or color, etc."

Apple didn't say the products that might use the technology. However, the company's art accompanying the patent application includes drawings of a person holding their finger on what could be a MacBook trackpad. Apple's images also show its now-legendary iPod scrollwheel.

However, before we start counting the days until Apple's new touch pad technology launches, it should be noted that the company files for boatloads of patents for technologies that never launch.

CNET has contacted Apple for comment on the patent application. We will update this story when we have more information.