Apple Patents Hybrid Keyboard With Touch-Sensitive Mechanical Keys
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.
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.
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