New Apple invention would employ multi-axis haptic feedback based on device orientation

By , Jul 19, 2016

iPhone 6s Taptic Engine image 008

A new patent filing by Apple, which surfaced Tuesday in the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) database, provides yet another indication that Apple’s engineers continue work on perfecting haptic feedback in its products. According to the filing, the company has invented a multi-axis haptic feedback solution capable of producing vibrations in different directions, based on whether a user holds the device in portrait or landscape orientation.

Multi-axis Taptic Engine

Titled “Haptic modules with independently controllable vertical and horizontal mass movements”, the invention proposes using a pair of haptic modules instead of just one, each vibrating around its respective axis, depending on how the user is holding the device in their hand. The system would be able to produce a variety of haptic feedback effects not possible with today’s single-haptic modules.

Apple patent dual haptic feedback drawing 004

A device’s central processor would control the two haptic modules. In one example, the processor selectively activates either the first haptic module or the second haptic module based on one or more events or conditions, “such as the current orientation or position of the electronic device.”

Patented by a guy who builds coffee machines

The patent application was originally filed for in February 2014, and credits Apple engineer Douglas Weber as its inventor. Weber spent some time on the iPhone and Apple Watch teams as a design manager before leaving the company in November 2014 to build specialized coffee machines.

Apple patent dual haptic feedback drawing 001

Our take

This invention would help take a next-generation Taptic Engine to a new level.

Today’s Apple-designed Taptic Engine found in the iPhone 6s, Apple Watch and MacBook was designed to provide a limited range of distinct vibrations, depending on context, from gentle taps on the Apple Watch, to click sensation on the MacBook trackpad to various vibration patterns on the iPhone 6s series.

Photo: Taptic Engine in iPhone 6s.

Source: USPTO

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  • Bob

    I am using an iPhone 6S, but am not aware of any haptic feedback. Maybe the only noticable one is when you press and activate 3DTouch to simulate a ‘real button’ press but I guess there must be more than this. Anyone?

    • eXoguti097

      Any vibration is made by the Taptic Engine. The little vibration from 3D Touch actions is the feedback, but it’s no different from a very short notification vibration. I guess the feedback from 3D Touch actions should feel like a button, and to me it kinda does. I’m sure they’ll develop it more to make it feel even more physical.

      • ieatcalcium

        It needs to be more responsive. Doesn’t feel like you’re really clicking anything.

      • eXoguti097

        The only reason why I think it does feel a bit physical is because other phones don’t do that. I honestly feel like 3D Touch and that Taptic Engine make the phone feel a lot more premium, along with the weight they give the phone.

  • Chindavon

    Would be cool for driving games.

  • smtp25

    They should add this to iPad’s.. I know its normally for phones and vibrate mode but I’ve always thought you reduce the gaming experience without it