Apple Patents Hybrid Keyboard With Touch-Sensitive Mechanical Keys

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today published a patent application filed by Apple in September 2011 (via AppleInsider), detailing a new keyboard that includes inputs for both traditional mechanical keystrokes along with a new touch-sensitive interface laid over each individual key.

The so-called "Fusion keyboard" would be able to detect the traditional swipe and zoom inputs of a MacBook trackpad, simply spread across the touch-sensitive interface of individual keys. The keyboard - noted to be both an integrated or external accessory, meaning the feature could come to both iMac and MacBook - could also allow for a sort of multi-touch input, meaning a user could simultaneously type something with their left hand while using a touch gesture for cursor control, for example, with the other.

keyboard patent
Notably, the new keyboard patent also includes two-position mechanical switches that perform certain tasks at different levels of pressure, unlike the single-position design of not only the Mac line but most keyboards used today. The first level of pressure could act as a normal text input, while the second level could generate some alternative command similar to that of a mouse click. Although no indication of increased forceful pressure is described in the new patent, the two-position switches do sound akin to Apple's new Force Touch technology which debuted on the Apple Watch and is now found on the company's MacBook trackpad.

Although Apple debuted a new kind of lighter butterfly mechanism keyboard with the new 12-inch Retina MacBook, the patent described today could be aimed at either the beefier line of MacBook Pro and iMac models, or some unannounced update yet to come. Like with every other patent, it'll be quite a long time before we see any tangible manifestations of today's patent, if ever, but it's still an intriguing glimpse at the company's possible future.

Tag: patent

Top Rated Comments

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68 months ago

They need to go back to the drawing board and replace the new keyboard that's on the MacBook. The lack of travel on those keys makes it extremely difficult to type on. I'm surprised that design actually made it into a product that shipped.


Have you actually tried the keyboard? How does it feel?


I actually prefer the new keyboard - it felt fantastic to type on. there's an adjustment, definitely, but within a few minutes I was loving it.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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68 months ago

Have you actually tried the new MacBook keyboard? How does it feel?


Speaking as someone who loves buckling springs most, and is slumming it with a matias tactile pro on my desktop now...

I'm fine with it. When I tried it at the Apple Store, yes, the action was very light, the travel was very short, and I wasn't at all sure, but when I looked back over several paragraphs of touch typing and saw *zero* errors, I reckoned I had something to think about. I don't get zero errors on the Matias...

I think, although the action is very light, the actual actuation is nice and sharp and well defined, not at all the kind of spongy, squidgy mess you get from dirt cheap keyboards that are hell to type on.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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68 months ago

Have you actually tried the [new MacBook] keyboard? How does it feel?


I have. It's definitely different, but I found it quite easy to get used to and am starting to prefer it to that of my MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro keys now feel small and squishy, by comparison.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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68 months ago

I actually prefer the new keyboard - it felt fantastic to type on. there's an adjustment, definitely, but within a few minutes I was loving it.

I had a brief time to try the new keyboard... I thought it was great to type on. But then again I'm one of those weirdos who greatly dislikes mechanical keyboards that seem to be all the rage these days.

I've spent DECADES using mechanical keyboards and found the Macbook keyboards to be superior and the newest one the best yet.

Using a mechanical keyboard is like running a 440 with ankle weights.

now get off my lawn!
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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68 months ago
ohh!!! push hard for caps that would be cool
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
68 months ago
They need to go back to the drawing board and replace the new keyboard that's on the MacBook. The lack of travel on those keys makes it extremely difficult to type on. I'm surprised that design actually made it into a product that shipped.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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