Apple’s Taptic Engine in Apple Watch, new MacBook usher in next-gen touchable UIs

“If you’re into magic tricks, stop by an Apple Store and park yourself in front of a new 13-inch MacBook Pro. Click around on the trackpad for a while. Voila! That’s the trick: It’s not actually clicking,” Kyle Vanhemert reports for Wired.

“The illusion is one of Apple’s latest innovations: the Taptic Engine. Relying on a technique pioneered in research labs 20 years ago, it uses an electromagnetic motor to trick your fingers into feeling things that aren’t actually there. The motor’s precisely tuned oscillation makes it feel like you’re depressing a mechanical button, when you’re really just mashing your finger against a stationary piece of glass,” Vanhemert reports. “I tried it at the Apple Store, and to call the effect convincing is an understatement. Within seconds, I was hunched over the machine like a lunatic, scrutinizing the trackpad from inches away, utterly convinced I was feeling a real click even though I knew there wasn’t one.”

“This phantom click is but one trick the haptic trackpad might be able to achieve. A recent update to iMovie shows Apple already is experimenting with others,” Vanhemert reports. “These haptic flourishes are a hint of what’s to come: A future where we feel interfaces with our fingers — not just on desktop trackpads but on smartphones as well… In theory, the trackpad should be capable of yielding all sorts of illusions—clicks, indentations, holes, bumps, and other types of bas relief-like textures.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The potential here is significant. Hopefully, there’s a way for Apple to protect their work from being knocked-off. Apple’s trackpads, even those without Taptic Engines, are already unmatched by the rest of the industry. The MacBook’s new trackpad is so far out in front, some outclassed Windows PC assembler – *cough, Samsung, cough* – might be tempted. We’d suggest patents, but we all know how well those work at protecting Apple’s IP.


  1. There was a rumor a few days ago that the next iPhone’s screen would have the Force Touch feature, like Apple Watch and the new trackpad. I commented that it should not just differentiate between differing force applied by the finger, but also incorporate the “haptic” feature of the trackpad. That would allow the virtual keyboard, numeric keypad, and other on-screen interface elements to “feel” like things are being pressed. I hope this happens… 🙂 It would also be amazing in games.

    1. Yes and the trouble is there have been developments in this area for years now. I remember some 4 or more years ago a company demonstrating advanced feedback of this type on screens which many rumoured at that time would appear in a Mac before long. So I guess only certain implementations can be patented and we all know how clearly they can be protected when you are Apple.

  2. Pretty cool stuff.
    I’m not worried about it being copied, which it surely will be.

    The copiers haven’t been able to match the quality of the previous
    Apple stuff they copied so this will be no different.

    Samesung will advertise their own haptic touch pads and as always you’ll need to buy the Apple version to get the real deal.

  3. I have yet to use a trackpad on any laptop other than Macbooks that are any good. Sure, some have the two finger scroll, but everything feels forced and choppy. No wonder people hate trackpads and want mice for their laptops. Windows-box makers just make junk (with shiny packaging and lots of blue lights).

  4. “….We’d suggest patents, but we all know how well those work at protecting Apple’s IP…..” NOT in this case!! The electromagnetic motor if patented is ‘judge and jury proof’ its solid, touchable and very specialist –ALL characteristics of good protection in patent design.

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