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Haptics, iPads and all that jazz


Mike Rose posted earlier about the possible introduction of haptic features on the next generation iPad. Here at TUAW, we've been waiting for haptics to officially hit the iPhone and its iOS cousins for years.

Haptics, the overarching term for technologies providing tactile sensory feedback, may seem like the natural evolution for touch screens. Haptic feedback is something more than a gimmick. It solves a real problem -- the lack of physical response on the otherwise featureless glass interface between the user and the device. Haptics can provide a sense of physical location and texture enhancement that can be used to create more realistic experiences.

If you've used a Wii, you're more or less familiar with the idea behind haptic interfaces. On the Nintendo system, the rumble motor in the remote responds physically to the on-screen pointer position, letting you feel when you're hovering over buttons and other on-screen elements.

On the Mac keyboard, little nubbins on the j and f keys allow touch-type users to instantly orient hand positions. On a hypothetical haptic iPad, these same kinds of touch cues could align fingers to onscreen elements.

A basic iPad haptic interface would work in a similar manner to these buzzes and nubbins. An advanced one would expand the notion to include even more texture elements that provide sensory output for different kinds of on-screen features. Haptics are a clear win for the visually impaired, but they also expand the user experience for the young and the elderly, as well as the "standard" iPad owner, through location feedback and texture.

Today's Guardian article has a very good write-up about the current state of the technology and what we may yet see on the iPad.

Will it happen today? All of us at TUAW hope so.

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