One of the biggest criticisms of virtual keyboards on a touchscreen display is that they offers users no feedback, making them more difficult to type on than a traditional keyboard. Designers have attempted to provide solutions to this problem with third-party accessories that clip onto your display, but Apple may be working on its own solution using coded magnets and ferrofluids that could be built into future iPads.
Patently Apple points to an Apple patent that details a system employing coded magnets and ferrofluids to provide haptic feedback on a touchscreen or virtual keyboard:
As one example, a coded magnet may be activated when a proximity sensor detects a finger approaching a touchpad or other surface capable of detecting a touch… As the finger (or other object) approaches the surface, the proximity sensor’s output may activate a coded magnet beneath the portion of the surface about to be impacted. This coded magnet may draw ferrofluid to it, resulting in an upper portion of the surface rising or bulging.
This would provide the user with a touch-sensitive surface that actually visual feedback as it senses it keystroke. In another embodiment, Apple explains how the technology could be used in virtual keyboard for a computer. By using the same principles, it explains that keys may be inflated with ferrofluid as they’re touched, or as your finger approaches each key.
This isn’t the first Apple patent that details methods of providing feedback on a virtual keyboard or touchscreen display. Last July, another filing detailed a method that employed piezoelectrics and “acoustic pulse recognition” to provide users with feedback as they type.
As with all of these patents, we can’t be sure that they’ll ever make their way into future Apple products. But it’s promising to see that the company is working to improve the typing experience on touch-sensitive displays.
[via Patently Apple]