Apple Patents Dual-Purpose Fusion Keyboard

A patent application published Tuesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office could give users a glimpse of a new type of keyboard Apple is planning to roll out in the future. The application describes a type of EUfusionEU keyboard that functions as a traditional mechanical keyboard, but also incorporates a touch-sensitive interface.

The keyboard would be able to detect when a user was touching the keys, even if the individual was not fully depressing them as required by a traditional keyboard, according to the application. It can also sense how much force is being used against each key, allowing the device to react differently when keys are struck by a variable amount of force.

A Multitouch Advantage

As a result, each key would be able to accept multiple inputs, rather than only accept a binary choice of depressed or not depressed. Since keys could be depressed at multiple levels -- each level could correspond to a different function depending on the level of depression.

By integrating multitouch input capability into the keyboard without altering its overall appearance or, more importantly, the familiar way in which it is used for typing, many of the benefits of multitouch, gesture-based input capability could be realized without negatively affecting the user's text entry experience.

The design described in the patent application would allow Mac keyboards to accept some of the types of gesture inputs people are accustomed to using with the touch-sensitive displays on devices such as the iPhone and iPad. Potentially, users could swipe, pinch, and expand images on the monitors of their devices using gestures similar to the ones they already use.

Just Like Force Click

The application describes a system in which the keyboard evaluates touch inputs from each key separately. That means theoretically a user could use some keys to move...

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