Apple finds a way to revolutionize the haptic keyboard

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on-screen haptic keyboard patent
An on-screen haptic keyboard proposal
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

Apple invented an on-screen haptic keyboard with virtual keys that simulate movement, which should make typing a better experience.

A laptop’s hardware keyboard is great for text entry but is in the way when reading websites, watching movies, playing games, etc. That’s why Apple is exploring options for getting rid of the keyboard while maintaining the ease of typing offered by a physical keyboard.

The company today added an update to a 2018 patent application for “Static Pattern Electrostatic Haptic Electrodes.” This describes a system of electrodes embedded into a touchscreen that vibrate a specific area of the screen when it’s touched. These would be in the shape of a keyboard, so each key could react individually.

It goes well beyond the simple buzzes provided by the Haptic Engine built into iPhones today. That can only shake the entire handset, while Apple’s proposed system would be able to make a specific key vibrate.

Clearly, this wouldn’t be the same as typing on a hardware keyboard because the keys can’t depress when touched. Still, a haptic keyboard is potentially better than typing on an iPad today with no physical feedback at all.

Looking ahead to a dual-screen MacBook with a haptic keyboard

Many people are wedded to their MacBook keyboards, but Apple has long looked ahead to a dual-screen future. This is just one of the patents it has received over the years for systems to make on-screen keyboards easier to use. It was awarded one just this summer on a method to give a flat touchscreen raised keys.

Apple received a patent just this summer on a method to give a dual-display laptop or tablet an on-screen keyboard with raised keys.

Other companies are planning their own dual-screen devices, like the just-announced Microsoft Surface Neo. That won’t debut until late next year, and might be out at the age time as a rumored foldable 5G iPad.

Whether a future foldable iPad or MacBook will include Apple’s proposed haptic keyboard is something that can only be speculated about. This company regularly files for patents on technologies that never leave the lab.

Source: USPTO via PatentlyApple