Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 30th Apr 2015 17:53 UTC
Apple

Right now, virtually all reporting about Apple focusses on its biggest new product in years - the Apple Watch. It's the centre of the Apple media show, and no matter where you go on the web, there's no way to get around it or avoid it - even here on OSNews. Apple is the biggest company in the world, so this makes perfect sense, whether you like it or not. Even if the Apple Watch does not sell well by Apple's standards, it will still be a billion dollar business, and it will still leave a huge mark on the industry.

However, I think Apple has a much more interesting new product on the shelves. This new product got its stage time during the various keynotes, and it sure isn't neglected by the media or anything, but I think its potential is so huge, so game-changing, that it deserves way, way more than it is getting.

I've been using touch devices for a really long time. From Palm OS and PocketPC devices, to iPhones and Android phones, and everything in between. I've used them with styluses, my fingertips, my fingernails, but there has always been a hugely important downside to touch interaction that made it cumbersome to use: the lack of any form of tactile feedback. In all these years, I've never learned to type properly on touch devices. I still regularly miss tap targets, and I still need to look at my device whenever I want to tap on something. It's cumbersome.

Apple's new Force Touch and Taptic Engine technology has the potential to change all of this.

This week, I bought a brand new 13.3" retina MacBook Pro, equipped with the fancy new trackpad technology. Remember the hype on stage as Apple unveiled this new technology? For once, they weren't overselling it. This really feels like some sort of crazy form of black magic. The trackpad does not move; it does not physically depress, and yet, when you use it, it's indistinguishable from a traditional trackpad.

When the device is off and the trackpad is, thus, unpowered, "clicking" on the trackpad feels just like trying to click on any other rigid surface. A blind person would not know she is touching a trackpad. Turn the device on, however, and the technology comes to life, turning this inanimate piece of glass into something that feels exactly like a traditional trackpad, clicks and all.

Using Force Touch - where you press down a little harder - is an even stranger sensation; it feels identical to a camera's two-stage shutter button, even though there's no actual downward movement of the pad. My brain still doesn't quite comprehend it. I know how the technology works and what's happening, but it's still downright amazing.

With the ability to give this kind of detailed tactile feedback to your fingers, Apple is on the cusp of solving the problem of the lack of tactility on touchscreens. Once this technology is further refined, it will surely find its way to iPhones and iPads, allowing you to feel individual keys on the virtual keyboard, and buttons in the user interface. Not only will this allow people to type more accurately and find their way around their device, it will also mean that one of my best friends, who is suffering from a very rare degenerative eye condition that will leave her close to blind within 15-20 years, could possibly continue to use an iPhone.

Force Touch and the Taptic Engine are, despite their horrible names, the most exciting products Apple has unveiled since the original iPhone. I'm excited to see where Apple takes this, and once it makes its way to the iPhone, I will have to think long and hard about my choice of mobile platform.

Order by: Score:
v Comment by birdie
by birdie on Thu 30th Apr 2015 18:03 UTC
RE: Comment by birdie
by Thom_Holwerda on Thu 30th Apr 2015 18:06 UTC in reply to "Comment by birdie"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

There are several different ways to measure the biggest company. On several of them, Apple is the biggest.

Whether you like it or not.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by birdie
by Carewolf on Thu 30th Apr 2015 19:40 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by birdie"
Carewolf Member since:
2005-09-08

There are several different ways to measure the biggest company. On several of them, Apple is the biggest.

Whether you like it or not.

Not really. I wouldn't call virtual market capitalization a form of size.

They are not the biggest in revenue, in number of employees, or number of shops they don't even qualify as big.

Edited 2015-04-30 19:41 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Comment by birdie
by techfan on Thu 30th Apr 2015 20:22 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by birdie"
techfan Member since:
2015-04-07

According to the Forbes Global 2000 Leading Companies http://www.forbes.com/global2000/list/ Apple is number 15 (this is from a year ago so it may have changed). All of the companies on this list that are higher than Apple are banks, or fuel companies, with the lone exception being GE. But, when you consider that this website is a website geared towards computer technology I think that one could consider Apple the biggest based upon the target audience of this website.

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: Comment by birdie
by Carewolf on Thu 30th Apr 2015 22:12 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by birdie"
Carewolf Member since:
2005-09-08

In theoritical market capitalization, yes, but that is not size, that is wealth. Saying Apple is the biggest company is like saying Bill Gates is the worlds biggest man. You can use the term "big" about somebody rich and wealthy, but not biggest. It just sounds like you talking like a preschooler.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by birdie
by Soulbender on Fri 1st May 2015 01:38 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by birdie"
Soulbender Member since:
2005-08-18

Actually, no. They are not. Apple used to be the biggest in market cap but was overtaken by Exxon Mobile a few days ago.

Edited 2015-05-01 01:40 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by birdie
by trfc714 on Fri 1st May 2015 06:38 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by birdie"
trfc714 Member since:
2015-03-25

Umm, no. Not even freaking close, no.

AAPL has a market cap north of 740 billion.
XOM has a market cap north of 368 billion.

Apple, even after a 6% sell off in recent days has more than DOUBLE the market cap of Exxon Mobile. Troll harder.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Comment by birdie
by kristoph on Sun 3rd May 2015 18:24 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by birdie"
kristoph Member since:
2006-01-01

Umm. Apple has twice the market cap of Exxon Mobile. I could give you links but you could just, you know, google it?

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by birdie
by portagekix on Thu 30th Apr 2015 18:09 UTC in reply to "Comment by birdie"
portagekix Member since:
2009-02-04

Yeesh...that escalated quickly. I think I heard you grinding your teeth as you wrote the comment. Maybe a little chill is order.

Reply Score: 3

v Amused
by darknexus on Thu 30th Apr 2015 18:15 UTC
Agree
by ryak on Thu 30th Apr 2015 18:28 UTC
ryak
Member since:
2015-04-20

I have to agree with Thom here, and I rarely do ;)

I have the watch and I'll be replacing my 15" MB Pro once it gets the taptic trackpad like the 13"

Put simply, I can't believe how accurate the feedback is, even on the tiny watch. Amazing stuff.

Reply Score: 2

Questions
by Bobthearch on Thu 30th Apr 2015 19:01 UTC
Bobthearch
Member since:
2006-01-27

So is there any tactile or audible feedback at all?

What happens when you accidentally tap it or brush against it; can it distinguish between an accidental and deliberate touch?
The last Mac mouse I used was a nightmare for this reason. Also, why do moron designers place touchpads right in front of the keyboard where it's easy to accidentally touch, causing random productivity-destroying events? This is why I normally disable laptop touchpads and use a mouse instead.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Questions
by jackeebleu on Thu 30th Apr 2015 19:05 UTC in reply to "Questions"
jackeebleu Member since:
2006-01-26

So is there any tactile or audible feedback at all?

What happens when you accidentally tap it or brush against it; can it distinguish between an accidental and deliberate touch?
The last Mac mouse I used was a nightmare for this reason. Also, why do moron designers place touchpads right in front of the keyboard where it's easy to accidentally touch, causing random productivity-destroying events? This is why I normally disable laptop touchpads and use a mouse instead.


I have the watch. The taptic engine can definitely distinguish between a light brush, passing touch, and a press. You "press" to activate it on force touch capable modes in the phone. It really is amazing to experience. the level of depth displayed here is remarkable.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Questions
by Thom_Holwerda on Thu 30th Apr 2015 19:18 UTC in reply to "Questions"
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

It feels and sounds exactly like a regular touchpad. So yes, there's both and audible and tactile click.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Questions
by Bobthearch on Thu 30th Apr 2015 19:23 UTC in reply to "RE: Questions"
Bobthearch Member since:
2006-01-27

I look forward to trying it.

Reply Score: 2

Touch typing
by Alfman on Thu 30th Apr 2015 19:10 UTC
Alfman
Member since:
2011-01-28

With the ability to give this kind of detailed tactile feedback to your fingers, Apple is on the cusp of solving the problem of the lack of tactility on touchscreens.



While this certainly adds a new element to touch screens, we shouldn't overlook the fact that physical buttons can also provide very important static feedback at rest (ie not pressed). So, I don't think this is going to address usual shortcomings of touch screen touch typing.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Touch typing
by darknexus on Fri 1st May 2015 00:21 UTC in reply to "Touch typing"
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

While this certainly adds a new element to touch screens, we shouldn't overlook the fact that physical buttons can also provide very important static feedback at rest (ie not pressed). So, I don't think this is going to address usual shortcomings of touch screen touch typing.

Agreed. Also, part of what makes touch typing work is that you can position your hands and type anything without having to look at the keyboard. Until they figure out a way to actually raise the screen to provide this kind of tactile positioning, they're not even close to solving that problem. It'll give some additional feedback perhaps, but will never allow full touch typing without tactile positioning.

Reply Score: 0

Comment by mdsama
by mdsama on Thu 30th Apr 2015 22:58 UTC
mdsama
Member since:
2005-07-08

Interesting article! Shame the comments are so petty!

Reply Score: 1

Comment by kittynipples
by kittynipples on Fri 1st May 2015 00:56 UTC
kittynipples
Member since:
2006-08-02

If not the screen itself, I feel certain that the mechanical home button is soon to be a thing of the past.

Reply Score: 2

iMovie provides a preview
by leos on Fri 1st May 2015 03:22 UTC
leos
Member since:
2005-09-21

iMovie on OSX provides a preview how this can be used. When you move around the timeline the trackpad can give you a little bump when you hit the end.

It will be interesting how apps leverage this new form of feedback.

But really this is not critical technology for the blind. iPhones have been very accessible to the blind for years. This will help a bit but it's not the difference between being accessible or not.

Reply Score: 1

Yes and no
by Chrispynutt on Fri 1st May 2015 09:44 UTC
Chrispynutt
Member since:
2012-03-14

Yes it does give amazing feedback. I am an uber Apple skeptic and I have to agree yes it feels just like a click.

It doesn't solve texture, ie feeling for a button. It does give excellent feedback.

Another option I am sure they are thinking about is a solid keyboard. You know its coming, they want those Macbooks impossibly thin.

I can see per key being expensive.

Another would be the touch ID button.

Reply Score: 2

Taptic is the new phone
by ezraz on Fri 1st May 2015 13:01 UTC
ezraz
Member since:
2012-06-20

Simplification, sure.

But I think the next couple years will show more advancement in "taptic" interfaces -- touch, vibration, movement -- than anything on the screen to be manipulated by your fingers.

There are so many input methods available to send commands to the watch that we have just started to use: wrist roll, shake, tap, lift arm, all the touchscreen inputs, the digital crown.

Good to see a reasoned response to these new UI's, not the anti-apple or anti-america bloviating that any apple thread seems to elicit.

As an american and an apple user since the 80's I'm like public jackass #1 on this site, I must be a masochist to hang around ;-)

To put some fuel out there -- as Android builds out it's wearables and apes Apple, it will probably come up with some ridiculous (untested) concepts where people have to deal with bad tactic design.

That should be good for some laughs (like the google glass needing you to wave your hand in front of it to get it's attention)

Reply Score: 0

Not for me
by netpython on Fri 1st May 2015 13:06 UTC
netpython
Member since:
2005-07-06

Unles i would realy have to use OSX imho, i think one would get more bang for the buck with the Zenbook PRO UX 501.There aren't that many windows laptops around with thunderbolt,usb3, x4 pcie ssd,quad core i7, 16GB RAM and a gtx 960m graphics card and a 4k display with a higher resolution than the MBP for around 1600-1700 euros.

Reply Score: 0

RE: Not for me
by puenktchen on Fri 1st May 2015 13:54 UTC in reply to "Not for me"
puenktchen Member since:
2007-07-27

Let me guess, you didn't even read the fucking article before commenting.

Reply Score: 4

Ergonomics?
by sirtoast on Sun 3rd May 2015 15:18 UTC
sirtoast
Member since:
2013-12-09

Is there an ergonomic impact of requiring varying amounts of pressure to be applied to an unmoving/solid surface? Either positive or negative?

Reply Score: 2