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Apple still exploring haptic touch for iPhones, iPads

The brain power in Cupertino, Calif., seems to have no end as another patent application has surfaced that shows Apple's interest in haptic technology for its touch-screen iOS devices.

Patently Apple

Haptic technology allows users to "feel" buttons on a touch-screen device by providing localized feedback when users' fingers touch button or control areas. A patent application filed in late March showed Apple's version of haptic technology, a process that would use piezoelectric actuators under the display to provide feedback.

A new patent application, uncovered by Patently Apple, shows that Apple is taking its haptic inquiry a step further. Apple's new displays for touch-screen devices would be flexible, allowing for a layer of the screen to actually raise itself when a button or control area is available for use.

This multitiered haptic system would allow for an even smoother user experience, especially for users who are visually impaired.

But Apple's system is much more advanced than just raising a button. The displays Apple is envisioning include the ability to flex and bend to the point of creating multilevel topographical maps, a series of buttons, or a control pad for gaming or navigation.

According to Apple's patent filing, "a control system of a tiered haptic system may determine the amount of pressure, force, displacement, or other physical response associated with the user stimuli. For example, a tiered haptic system may distinguish between relatively light contact and a relatively heavy contact on the screen surface. In some embodiments, a tiered haptic system may perform particular tasks depending on the physical response of the stimuli."

Patently Apple

If any readers are familiar with Wacom's tablets and pens, these screens could provide similar functionality, allowing a user's finger to become a realistic paint brush or pressure-sensitive editing tool for images.

Clearly this technology is incredibly advanced and is unlikely to make its way to an Apple device in the next couple years, but rumors of Apple including haptic response in its devices will undoubtedly remain in circulation around the tech Web. Is this feature worth exploring for Apple or do normal consumers not care? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!