Apple iPad 3 may have new textured touch interface

Finnish tech firm, Senseg, named as haptics supplier for iPad 3

Apple may be about to introduce a new wrinkle in its iPad touch interface - a wrinkle you can actually feel.

The iPad 3 may feature what's known as a haptics screen - one that gives your fingers the sensation of different physical textures, depending on the image they're touching. The supplier named, in a news story by the British mobile website Pocket-Lint, is Finland-based Senseg, which acknowledged in a separate story last year that it's "working with a certain tablet maker based in Cupertino," Calif. Apple is headquartered there.

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Pocket-Lint's Stuart Miles stitches together some suggestive "no comment" comments from Senseg executives, with a hands-on experience of the technology at Mobile World Congress in Spain earlier this month.

Apple's invitation to today's event in San Francisco reads ""We have something you really have to see. And touch." Most speculation centered on "see" and many observers concluded that Apple will double the iPad's screen resolution for the new tablet. But as Miles notes, the "touch" has been all but ignored.

Pocket-Lint asked Senseg for comment and a spokesman replied: "We won't be making any statements until after Apple's announcement."

Miles tracked down a June 2011 story which mentioned Senseg, as a company "working on creating complex textures rather than simply buzzing your fingertips." At Mobile World Congress, Senseg was demonstrating its technology. Miles writes of his experience: "an image of the kitchen tile that felt smooth until you hit the bump of the grout and a representation of a solid bit of slate-like material which had a missing part so as when we slid our finger over it, it almost felt as if the tablet gave way and our finger dropped a bit."

A textured-touch interface would be more than a gimmick. Like the Siri voice control on iPhone 4S, texture creates new navigational cues and options, and potentially a stronger, more immersive, and even more intimate physical connection between the user and an app or image. It also has the potential to create yet another distinct difference between iPad and the rivals struggling to emulate its success.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

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