After Perfecting The Buttonless Mouse, Apple Patents The Keyless Keyboard

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The latest patent to surface from the Cupertino camp shows Apple has been working on a physical keyboard that does away with physical keys. That’s right — a keyboard, much like the one you might have in front of you now, but without keys. Instead, you’ll use piezoelectrics, haptic feedback and acoustic pulse recognition to type.

They keyboard Apple illustrated in its patent in completely flat and has keys either painted on its surface or displayed as graphics on a display screen below the surface. It sports the same keyboard layout we’ve all become accustomed to over the years, but it won’t simply be a touch panel that offers a virtual keyboard like that within iOS.

Apple agrees that a touch-sensitive keyboard like this wouldn’t work, as they often fail to distinguish between a user’s typing and when they’re just leaning on the surface accidentally, and they also don’t provide any feedback to the user to alert them that they’ve touched a key. To solve this problem, Apple’s keyboard uses a haptic or tactile feedback mechanism located below the glass surface that enables the users to ‘feel’ each key as they’re typing.

It’s worth noting, however, that these patents are by no means a guarantee of the things that will come from Apple in the future. But they’re a good indication of the things Apple is working on.

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  • CAD4MAC

    Imagine it having a surface much like the trackpad, all silver, milled aluminium! My mouth waters with the thought. This would be one of the coolest Apple items to have!

    http://bit.ly/CAD4MAC

  • oakdesk23

    Buttons are good, and Apple knows this. Why after four years on the market does iPhone have a physical button? Even iPod moved from physical to touch to physical again? Then we got the best of both, the click wheel.

    The Multi-Touch glass touchpad still has a button. So does the Magic Trackpad.

  • imajoebob

    Before the iPad I was the scoffer-in-chief on these things.  The tactile feedback of the keyboard is just too important.  But in about 15 years we’ll have an entire generation whose first experience with a keyboard will be on something like this, and it will be second nature to them.  And I’l be a (I hope) a cranky old man.

    @twitter-202237852:disqus  The really bad-asses won’t have anything printed on their keyboards, using touch-typing to make it look like magic!

  • Samuel John Klein

    Can’t wait for this. I remember it worked so well on the Atari 400.

  • Peter Pollack

    Wow! Can’t wait. http://f-stopdigital.co.uk.

  • Fearless_fred

    Hmm, I’m a little sceptical about how they’re getting around the fact that APR as a touch technology is already covered under a patent belonging to Tyco (as part of their Elo touch family) and Haptics is pretty well covered by a number of companies patents for touch, such as Immersion….

  • Mind WarrioR

    wow.. a keylessboard… cool.. but I bet that it will not make my tpying mcuh fstaer.

  • imajoebob

    Since this technology has been used on elevators since about 1964, I doubt any patent for the touch technology still exists.  Apple’s probably trying to patent a “unique and original” application of it.

  • Fearless_fred

    Not sure which of the two technologies you’re referring to, but I can say from working in the Touchscreen business since since 1996 (yep, back in the old Windows 3.11 days!) that APR is a fairly new entrant onto the scene. Elo put it out in 2006 to begin with. It’s been limited in acceptance to a certain extent, and has seen Projected Capacitive screens steal a march on the market, particularly in the smaller (sub15″) segement.

    BTW, I don’t work for Elo, nor have I ever done so. I worked for one of their main competitors for 12 years, before moving to another company that makes the ICs for Projected Capacitive screens, so I’m not trying to shill on Elo’s behalf.

  • djrobsd

    YAWN….

  • TylerHoj

    All I ever wanted [so-to-speak] was an apple wireless keyboard with black keys and a little backlighting. Apparently this is far too much to ask. 

  • Don Pope

    I had one of those. 
    Writing a long BASIC program made my fingers hurt.

  • Mike Radie

    Why not just instal an iPad type keyboard where the regular keyboard is, now you can switch keyboards designed for editing software short cuts with the flick (or touch) of a button. It can be an intelligent keyboard the can multi function. Email headers scroll across top or a couple of widgets running. This would be of unlimited potential. 

    Steve if you use this idea, I just need a new house and free apple products for life.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a freelance writer based in the UK. He has an interest in all things tech, but most enjoys covering Apple, anything mobile, and gaming. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell, or through his website.

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