In a new Apple-filed patent to be uncovered at the USPTO this week, Apple describes its take on the physical key-less keyboard. Taking advantage of multiple techniques, including piezoelectrics, haptic feedback and acoustic pulse recognition, complete with a metal and glass form-factor, Apple’s key-less keyboard is described as detecting your key presses by using its touch sensor-coating glass surface.
While the design will still rely on detecting your key strokes by reading and recognising which area of the keyboard your fingers will touch, the actual layout of the keyboard will be completely flat, with key positions described as being either stamped or micro-perforated onto the keyboard’s glass surface.
Apple lays out the general problem to solve by stating that in general, touch-sensitive surface or related input devices may be less reliable in determining a pressed command or intended input when compared with a traditional mechanical keyboard. For example, some touch screens often require that a user tap on the screen several times before detecting the command. Further, touch-sensitive surface input devices often fail to distinguish between when a user is merely resting on the surface of the device or actively selecting a letter or other input.
Apple’s proposed solution:
In a glass embodiment, the keys may be painted on the surface or provided as graphics on a display screen located below the glass surface. The flat surface keyboard includes an indication of a standard computer keyboard layout including space bar, enter and function keys and so on.
Further, the flat surface keyboard may also include a haptic or tactile feedback mechanism that is activated when the user presses or taps on a key of the keyboard. In general, the haptic response may provide a force, vibration and/or motion to the user’s fingers or hands in response to the user pressing on the keyboard surface.
Acoustic pulse recognition based flat keyboards could be used with computers such as the iMac but could also be implemented with in-vehicle systems, other iOS devices or devices relating to medical and financial fields.
Of course, while patent applications often do not guarantee that this technology, or the method described above, will ever come to fruition, with Apple making waves to move its Mac product line into the “touch” era, (let’s face it, OS X Lion is pretty much designed for touchscreen), these flat, keyless keyboards may just make an appearance in the next several years.[PatentlyApple via Engadget]