The patent, which was filed in April and published on Thursday, is titled “Illuminated Touchpad,” and covers an invention that covers devices capable of “illuminating the touch sensitive surface of the touch pad,” or “providing visual feedback at the touchpad,” the patent abstract reads.
Apple Insider reports that the invention may have originally been developed for use in the iPod’s scroll wheel, but the April 2012 filing date suggests that Apple is still interested in implementing the technology in future devices.
In its patent description, Apple notes that, while current touch pads work well, “improvements to their form fell and functionality are desired.”
“It may be desirable to provide visual stimuli at the touch pad so that a user can better operate the touch pad,” the description continues. “For example, the visual stimuli may be used (among others) to alert a user when the touch pad is registering a touch, alert a user where the touch is occurring on the touch pad, provide feedback related to the touch event, indicate the state of the touch pad, and/or the like.”
One embodiment of the invention indicates that it could be used to display the time, or could be used as “an indicator for a handheld computing device such as a media player.”
The touch pad could provide feedback by changing colour or brightness according to the gesture used, and it could detect and give feedback when objects are near but not touching. Also, the area that has just been touched by a user could remain illuminated afterwards, or could show a trail revealing the path a finger made over the touch pad.
Apple also notes that the touch pad could “ebb in and out” in a similar fashion to the white status LED on MacBooks when in sleep mode.
For further information, refer to Apple’s original application document.