Apple to Bring Haptic Technology to the iPhone

As most anyone who follows iPhone news is surely aware, a new iPhone which uses 3G data (as opposed to EDGE) is expected to arrive soon.  All signs from the rumor mill point to a June 9th announcement at Apple’s WWDC conference.  We can’t wait.

3G isn’t the only thing expected from the soon-to-be newest member of the iPhone family; rumors point to a true GPS, as well.  And then there are all the software advances that the “iPhone 2.0" firmware will bring to the equation.  But it’s another rumor that has particularly piqued our interest.

There is talk of Apple licensing haptic feedback technology from Immersion for integration into future touchscreen devices.  Palluxo claims that a source within Apple indicates that the two companies met twice last week to discuss the matter.  What’s more, Immersion announced last week that former Apple exec Clent Richardson has been appointed President and CEO of the company.

As Wikipedia defines it,

Haptic technology refers to technology which interfaces the user via the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations and/or motions to the user. This mechanical stimulation may be used to assist in the creation of virtual objects (objects existing only in a computer simulation), for control of such virtual objects, and to enhance the remote control of machines and devices (teleoperators).

An obvious reason that Apple is pursuing this technology is the criticism the iPhone receives for the lack of tactile response associated with its on-screen keyboard.  With integrated, localized haptics, the iPhone (or other, future touchscreen device) could provide a real tactile feedback experience with each keypress, and from the particular screen region where the keypress took place.  This would obviously be a true user interface win for the iPhone, but the benefits would not end there…

Immersion’s technology is behind the rumble feature of Sony’s new DualShock 3, a game controller some critics consider to be the best designed controller ever devised.  The potential for the use of localized haptics in gaming is immense.

It’s worth reiterating that the next generation iPhone that’s only weeks away may not include this technology, but it seems clear that before long the iPhone’s cold, glass screen will sport a great deal more character.