Like many of you, I've been reading news stories for a while now about all the new haptic components in Apple devices. I'm embarrassed to say, though, that while i've been doing a ton of research about the world of futuristic technologies to enhance our tactile experiences, I hadn't actually gone to check out what's available now. That is, until last weekend when I finally had the chance to drop by an Apple store.
What I saw was very cool. The new Macbook has what's called a "force touch" trackpad. though it looks and feels like just the old trackpad we're used to, it doesn't actually have any moving parts. When you press down on it and feel a click, that's not a mechanical movement that you're feeling but the magic of haptic feedback. Force touch uses sensors to detect how much downward pressure is being applied. when there's enough pressure (and you can adjust the sensitivity levels), a motor under the trackpad pushes up against the finger and vibrates to simulate a click.
The new haptic sensors giver users a slew of new ways to control functions on the computer. For instance, tapping the pad versus pressing down on it are interpreted by several programs as separate commands. One of the coolest applications I saw was for drawing. depending on how hard I pressed, I could draw a thick or a thin line, thanks to its sensing capabilities.
The new Apple Watch also uses force touch. But another thing it does is provide you little haptic nudges, basically buzzes and rumbles, to provide reminders about things, like making it to an appointment or taking a right turn at the next traffic light. it's a subtle but effective use of touch to replace all those annoying beeps and chirps used in usual alerts.
It will be interesting to see what comes out next, as universities are now creating touch pads that use vibrations and static electricity to produce the illusion of images and 3-D effects on the screen. It's just a matter of time before these new features are available for all of us to use. I'm now fantasizing about getting an Apple Watch, but I'm thinking I'll wait until the next generation comes out.
Sending you all a virtual high-five!