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New Force Touch patent from Apple might trick your fingertips with temperature and vibration

apple patent material force touch macbook pro  ret trackpad
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Whenever an Apple patent hits the web, it brings with it some revelation about an unfinished project or new concept. This time, a patent has revealed an interesting feature of the Force Touch trackpad that has yet to be implemented. By adding temperature control and an expanded tactile feedback system, the trackpad may be able to simulate different textured surfaces and materials. Rather than just a clicking glass surface, your computer’s mouse could feel like dirt, or vinyl.

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The patent application states that by including a heating and cooling element, as well as a horizontally implemented tactic feedback engine, the trackpad could affect how your finger feels against it. For example, by warming the trackpad up, and vibrating against your finger as it moves, it could trick you into believing you’re touching a textured surface like wood grain. Cool it down and reduce the feedback, and it could be feel like smooth metal or glass.

How that feature would affect everyday use of your computer is unclear, but it’s certainly a cool idea that could have implications for watching movies, browsing the web, and playing games. It also has potential on mobile devices like the iPad and iPhone, where moving your finger across different surfaces displayed on the screen can be replicated in how the device feels too. It seems like it might not be much more than an idea to keep on hold, or a novelty, but it’s something we haven’t seen before.

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Of course, like many of the features listed in Apple patents, this one may never see the light of day. Just since the beginning of April, Apple has had over 100 patents approved, covering everything from iPad smart covers to employee authentication systems. The hardware to pull off this intriguing idea isn’t actually installed in the current Macbooks either, so it’s not a feature we’ll see any time in the immediate future.