Apple Patents Switch-Less Force Touch Keyboard, Could Lead to Thinner Macs

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted Apple a patent for a low-travel keyboard design with Force Touch-like sensors that measure the pressure placed on a key when a user presses or rests a finger on it.

Force-Touch-Keyboard-Patent
As summarized by AppleInsider, the exhaustive patent filing details how the keyboard would have a switch-less QWERTY input mechanism, rather than mechanical switches, allowing for less key travel and potentially thinner Mac keyboards.

Apple's current MacBook and Mac accessory lineups employ modified scissor switches, or butterfly switches on the 12-inch Retina MacBook, nestled within hollow key caps. Today's patent mirrors the aesthetic of existing designs, but deviates from established technology by replacing mechanical switches for a stack of sensors, actuators and supporting circuitry.

Theoretically the system operates akin to Apple's Force Touch trackpads, but on a much larger scale; one force sensor package for each keyboard key. Force sensors configured to measure downward pressure are integrated beneath the keyboard's key caps, while integrated actuators — part of the key stack — generate haptic feedback.

The patent filing does not guarantee that Apple will release a Force Touch keyboard, but a pressure-sensitive keyboard is plausible alongside the Magic Trackpad and Force Touch trackpads on MacBooks.

Apple's new Retina MacBook has been criticized by some over its all-new butterfly mechanism keyboard, which has low key travel, so whether Apple implements this new keyboard design into the rest of its MacBook lineup remains to be seen.

Apple was granted U.S. Patent No. 9,178,509, and credits Jeffrey T. Bernstein as its inventor.

Related Roundups: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
64 months ago
Thinner macs? How much thinner can they get? Invisible computing? Wtf..
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
64 months ago
Why not an OS X tablet with a keyboard that can be added or detached?

Oh... "no one wants that", right-right, got it.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
64 months ago

('https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/Atari_400_keyboard.jpg')

Are you trying to give me a Vietnam-style horror flashback?! The lag on those damn things were horrendous. I remember punching the keys, screaming with frustration as they wouldn't accept the characters.

Hmm, maybe Apple are going to do a similar thing.

"To ... create ... this product, we asked ourselves: what do consumers most want from a notebook? The answer, of course, is not more power, or better battery life, but a biblically unreliable keyboard. The user will ... sympathetically press each key, enjoying not only the feel, but the experience, of typing. It's unapologetically laggy.

We, at Apple, feel that life sometimes moves too ... quickly. By ... distilling the user experience, refining the joy of pressing a key, users can once again learn to type. To ... condense the encounter between the finger and the key, our engineers had to start from the beginning -- quite literally.

Put simply, it's the best keyboard we've ever made."

Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
64 months ago
I've got a fever, and the only cure is........ MORE ADHESIVE!
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
64 months ago
The Macbook keyboard feels awful (and I'm sure I'll get some heat for saying so on here) so I hope this new patent if it gets used by Apple results in a better typing experience when dealing with such a thin keyboard structure.

EDIT:// Just to stop any confusion from people replying to me, I am referring to only the 12" Retina MacBook keyboard and not the Airs or Pro notebooks which have perfectly fine keyboards in my opinion.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
64 months ago
Key travel is already too short in the newest Macbooks. This sounds awful.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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