The Force Touch trackpad and the power of bumpy pixels

Interesting discussion of the latest release of iMovie to show off the new MacBook and its Force Touch trackpad.

From this post by graphic designer Alex Gollner:

When I dragged the clip to its maximum length I did feel a little bump. Without looking at the timeline and looking at the viewer, I could ‘feel’ the end of the clip.

This feature presages the ability for UI pixels to be ‘bumpy’ – for user to feel the texture of application UIs without having to look at where the cursor is. This means that seemingly textured software keyboards and control layouts will be able to be implemented on future trackpads, iPhones and iPads.

And from this Wired piece on bumpy pixels and haptic feedback:

Where might bumpy pixels show up next? Hayward can imagine it accentuating interaction with all sorts of on-screen elements, like buttons, menus and icons. “It could make interaction more realistic, or useful, or entertaining, or pleasant,” he says. “That becomes the job of the user experience designer.” Other haptic research suggests more unusual possibilities. A project from a group of Disney researchers involved a touchscreen environment in which icons felt “heavier” based on their file size.

Another place the Taptic Engine might show up? The iPhone. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Apple is considering Force Touch for the new device, and if it is included, it stands to reason that the Taptic Engine could end up in Apple’s phones in some form as well. (Once you play with a new MacBook, you’ll see why; having multiple layers of touch sensitivity doesn’t really make sense without different types of feedback to differentiate between them.)

Haptic touch research has been around for quite some time. This paper dates back to 1994. It’s amazing how long it took for this concept to make its way into the mainstream.