News of an Apple patent application for a “keyless keyboard” has emerged, pointing to the fact that our friends at Apple could well be weighing up a big shake-up to its peripherals and MacBook hardware. This would effectively see their products using a touchscreen, in turn creating a keyboard with increased adaptability than a physical version has the capability to provide.
The application was actually filed back on August 31st, 2017, with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filing for a “keyless keyboard with force sensing and haptic feedback”, and was published yesterday (March 15th, 2018). The filing goes on to outline the notion of replacing the existing physical keys of a keyboard, which would be replaced by a proposed glass display, kitted out with numerous touch sensing systems.
More on the Application
The submission of the patent cites that the classic, traditional key-based inputs “lack the flexibility to accommodate expansive features offered by newer devices, operating systems, and software,” while also being “unable to adapt to different user needs and preferences.”
What Apple is getting at here is that touchscreen inputs have the conceivable capacity to offer alternative inputs to the user, whereas the “flat, inflexible input surface” delivers little or no tangible feedback to users.
The keyboard would comprise of a top glass layer that features two force sensing systems for different “input regions,” along with a touch sensing system that would be used to establish just where the user’s fingers are on the keyboard. Haptic feedback is provided by one or more actuators, as a means of providing a response for each key “press.”
Insiders have said that the images included in the application show a keyboard peripheral that features a long touch panel where the key images appear. Also, there’s an illustration of a notebook that appears to have the lower section replaced by a single large panel. This is obviously usually reserved for the keyboard and the trackpad.
In both of those instances, there’s a depiction of the keyless keyboard changing what is shown depending on the user’s need. This can include showing a trackpad area in the middle of the keyboard and rearranging the layout to one that is more ergonomic for the user’s hand positioning.
While there’s no solid ground to suggest Apple will go ahead with the production of the keyboard anytime soon; after all, they file so many patents all the time for ideas, it could feature in the not so distant future.
There’s the scope for this to have a multitude of professional usability functions to get excited about, but for now, we’re just going to have to use our imaginations on that one… but just think of the potential that not just new, but used Apple computers could have!
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