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MacRumors
Nov 1, 2007, 02:51 AM
http://www.macrumors.com/images/macrumorsthreadlogo.gif (http://www.macrumors.com)

During the build up to Leopard's release, we overlooked a very interesting patent application from Apple that appeared last week. This latest application is another product of Apple's Fingerworks (http://fingerworks.com/) acquisition from 2005. Fingerworks had commercialized versions of multi-touch interface input devices, such as this TouchStream keyboard.

http://images.macrumors.com/article/2007/11/01/frontlp_300.jpg

The TouchStream keyboard served a dual purpose, acting both as a keyboard as well as a multi-touch gesture surface.

While this design is space-efficient, the use of one surface to accomplish both typing and touch-sensing is less than ideal. Apple notes that traditionally, membrane or surface keyboards used raised ridges to denote key edges, however, this disrupts the surface when it is used as a touch device. Meanwhile, users have a hard time typing on a completely flat surface, so some form of key detection needs to be offered.

The solution they come up with is quite interesting. They go through the motions of describing other possibilities, including small bumps on the surface of the keys as well as a mechanical actuator system in which small bumps protrude at the corners of the keys when needed.

In the end, however, what they describe is a flexible surface which lays completely flat over the keys, and can be used as a smooth flat-surfaced touch-pad. When used as a keyboard, however, small bumps rise up under the flexible surface in each of the four corners of each key. This causes a tenting effect which provides a concave surface for each of the keys. By being tied to a mechanical system, the keys can effectively appear and disappear on demand. They even describe the software being able to tell when the keys are needed based on detecting typing motions (keyboard) vs swiping gestures (touch pad).

Article Link (http://www.macrumors.com/2007/11/01/apple-researching-touch-surface-keyboard/)



koobcamuk
Nov 1, 2007, 02:53 AM
This looks funky... give it the 'Apple touch' and it might be something I'd want... maybe :) I like the new aluminium wireless keyboard I have :D

This is yet another reason why we won't get multi-touch on the display of a computer. It's not practical.

Prof.
Nov 1, 2007, 02:54 AM
I always wondered when a computer company would come out with a "touch keyboard"

Now we will have to wait five years until we can buy one :p

JSpence
Nov 1, 2007, 02:57 AM
Idk, it kinda looks. . . squishy.

Like a chew toy. lol but I'm sure it's great. Just weird. Maybe i'll stop looking at picture's at 4 am and go to bed already.

thasan
Nov 1, 2007, 02:58 AM
err.... looks a strange (in a negative way) design to me :rolleyes:

andy721
Nov 1, 2007, 03:00 AM
looks like its from the 80s

arn
Nov 1, 2007, 03:04 AM
the photo is of an old keyboard made by fingerworks. read the patent description.

arn

Phormic
Nov 1, 2007, 03:05 AM
Bare in mind that the picture above is not actually the keyboard described in the patent.

Tremendous idea but sounds hideously complicated. The mechanical part of it sounds like a reliability issue.

ravenvii
Nov 1, 2007, 03:08 AM
the photo is of an old keyboard made by fingerworks. read the patent description.

arn

lulz, strong fail at reading comprehension (@ posters above, not you, Arn)

This could actually work. With the keys raised, I could see it looking a lot like the current aluminum keyboards. Might even feel almost the same if Apple does it right.

Could be an interesting keyboard if they actually make it for sale.

kresh
Nov 1, 2007, 03:09 AM
Bare in mind that the picture above is not actually the keyboard described in the patent.

Tremendous idea but sounds hideously complicated. The mechanical part of it sounds like a reliability issue.

I was thinking the same thing, unless they use air or a fluid to cause the bumps on the keyboard to inflate when needed.


edit: sorry if it was disclosed how the mechanicals operated. I didn't read the filing. The air/fluid thing just popped into my head.

BIK
Nov 1, 2007, 03:10 AM
I guess I didn't know what to expect from these rumors of adding touch to apple's computer line. I was expecting something more along the lines of zoom and pinch gestures added to the touchpad.

Ideally i'd like to see the same touch interface on the iPhone (and iPod touch) implemented on the laptop/iMac screen, relegating the actual use of a keyboard only to textual input scenarios, but we all know its not cost effective to pull that off yet (can't wait to get a MB Pro running OS 10.8 with all these features hahah :D)

irun5k
Nov 1, 2007, 03:13 AM
I'm all for innovation and continuing to think outside the box. But there are some things that work pretty darn well as-is. Traditional keyboard, for example. It seems like a stretch that some other device could end up being as useful or productive. True, there are niches, like portable situations, or in different industries. But for an average Joe sitting and typing like I'm doing right now, I think we're a long way away from inventing something that would let me input my thoughts as quickly as a tactile feedback keyboard.

It is kind of like the wheel. It is round, rolls well, and works pretty darn good. Probably not much use in trying to improve it. But it doesn't mean we can't make better cars, engines, etc.

Of course every once in a while there is an exception that will inevitably prove me wrong. Someone may come up with some kind of keyboard tomorrow that leaves us all stunned. Something that makes us all 200 word per minute typists. I just don't think it will be the type of device in this patent.

koobcamuk
Nov 1, 2007, 03:13 AM
looks like its from the 80s

Ha. Nicely read there.

arn
Nov 1, 2007, 03:17 AM
I'm all for innovation and continuing to think outside the box. But there are some things that work pretty darn well as-is. Traditional keyboard, for example. It seems like a stretch that some other device could end up being as useful or productive.

There are a small but dedicated following of TouchStream/Fingerworks keyboard owners that would disagree with you. I haven't used it myself, but I do find some promise in it.

For example, you would be using two hands on a flat surface, moving windows around, double tapping, opening images. then once an image is up you can drag it around on your flat keyboard surface. do the whole multitouch bigger/smaller thing. decide you want to write a caption, and you tap in the right area, and then just start typing in place.

like I said, there are people who love the gesture keyboards that fingerworks made.

arn

thasan
Nov 1, 2007, 03:21 AM
lulz, strong fail at reading comprehension (@ posters above, not you, Arn)

This could actually work. With the keys raised, I could see it looking a lot like the current aluminum keyboards. Might even feel almost the same if Apple does it right.

Could be an interesting keyboard if they actually make it for sale.

nope...i talked about the 'design'...not the appearance.. :p

bartelby
Nov 1, 2007, 03:26 AM
NOoooooooo, I hope they're not like, so called touch sensitive, membrane keyboards of the past!!

koobcamuk
Nov 1, 2007, 03:27 AM
There are a small but dedicated following of TouchStream/Fingerworks keyboard owners that would disagree with you. I haven't used it myself, but I do find some promise in it.

For example, you would be using two hands on a flat surface, moving windows around, double tapping, opening images. then once an image is up you can drag it around on your flat keyboard surface. do the whole multitouch bigger/smaller thing. decide you want to write a caption, and you tap in the right area, and then just start typing in place.

like I said, there are people who love the gesture keyboards that fingerworks made.

arn

Anyone that's used an iPhone or seen Han's work will know exactly what kind of treats we may have in store :)

abrooks
Nov 1, 2007, 03:38 AM
we overlooked a very interesting patent application from Apple that appeared last week.

You might of but [URL="http://hrmpf.com/wordpress/147/multitouch-coming-to-macbooks-or-macbook-mini"]hrmpf.com (http://www.macrumors.com) didn't, give credit where due.

Also link to the patent application, some of us don't want to read the poor summary.

MattJessop
Nov 1, 2007, 07:10 AM
If Apple actually managed to get this work and put this in commercial use, then hell, it would in my opinion be revolutionary. The one thing that has always put me off using these kind of touch keyboards typically has been a lack of edges for the keyboard, and this sounds fantastic. This really could push Apple's laptops years hardware speaking ahead of Wintel ones. (We already know the softwares years ahead anyway :P)

One problem? The lack of feedback from pressing a key. I like to feel the key press down and respond. Maybe they'll do the same as on the iPhone/touch and have it give a sound feedback. That'd work fairly well too I guess.

But yeah, go :apple:

twoodcc
Nov 1, 2007, 07:46 AM
wow. seems interesting. i would like to try something like this out one day...

mergatroidal
Nov 1, 2007, 08:29 AM
Waking from slumber, the giant Apple is rising up ..., looking around at the world, again. :rolleyes:

eric_n_dfw
Nov 1, 2007, 09:04 AM
... of the Atari 400 and my old Timex Sinclair 1000 keyboards come flooding back to mind.

Sbrocket
Nov 1, 2007, 09:32 AM
You might of but hrmpf.com (http://hrmpf.com/wordpress/147/multitouch-coming-to-macbooks-or-macbook-mini) didn't, give credit where due.

Also link to the patent application, some of us don't want to read the poor summary.

You don't give credit to someone just because they're the first to report it, you give credit when you actually get the article from them. Now, that might be the case, but MR is usually pretty good about citing its non-anonymous sources.

skellener
Nov 1, 2007, 10:00 AM
I must be the only one in the world who doesn't care for touch screen anything. I was hoping Apple's incarnation in the iPhone/iPod Touch might change my mind. Sure on big buttons it seems to work fine, but I couldn't type worth a damn at all on that thing. Now they want to introduce a touch keyboard? No thanks. I like the tactile feel of real buttons.

Avatar74
Nov 1, 2007, 10:06 AM
As Apple has a tendency to obfuscate the true application of a particular feature they patent, I don't think we're talking about a keyboard for a full desktop device here, folks.

I think this application is specifically with larger portables in mind like tablets and PDA's. It would be monstrously difficult for the iPhone, but given that Apple appears to have plans for a PDA and a tablet and/or sublaptop ultraportable, I would suspect very strongly that is where they're going with this.

They are merely describing the concept as a standalone feature/device to conceal its real purpose from competitors.

mikeinternet
Nov 1, 2007, 11:24 AM
I personally would gladly give up any kind of feel indication when typing, for a completely multitouch keyboard that could change to suit the task.

MikeTheC
Nov 1, 2007, 11:37 AM
Sounds like what Mr. Fantastic would have come up with if someone asked him to design a keyboard.

CatharticFlux
Nov 1, 2007, 12:03 PM
I personally would gladly give up any kind of feel indication when typing, for a completely multitouch keyboard that could change to suit the task.

I would tend to agree, but without any kind of tactile feedback, I'm forced to *look* at the keyboard, which would slow my work waaaay down.

ebouwman
Nov 1, 2007, 01:01 PM
It is kind of like the wheel. It is round, rolls well, and works pretty darn good. Probably not much use in trying to improve it. But it doesn't mean we can't make better cars, engines, etc.


You can re-invent rubber though :rolleyes:
Like every has said, i think it'd be pretty hard to type with no tactile sensation, i'd probably end up getting frustrated with it and either chuck it out or throw it across the room.
- "There you go keyboard, you can torment me NO LONGER!!" lol ;)

Or i could avoid the anger and frustration and just go out and buy a regular keyboard instead!

Sbrocket
Nov 1, 2007, 01:48 PM
I'm all for innovation and continuing to think outside the box. But there are some things that work pretty darn well as-is. Traditional keyboard, for example. It seems like a stretch that some other device could end up being as useful or productive. True, there are niches, like portable situations, or in different industries. But for an average Joe sitting and typing like I'm doing right now, I think we're a long way away from inventing something that would let me input my thoughts as quickly as a tactile feedback keyboard.

It is kind of like the wheel. It is round, rolls well, and works pretty darn good. Probably not much use in trying to improve it. But it doesn't mean we can't make better cars, engines, etc.

Ah, but I'm sure that you would agree that the wheel has been been massively improved over the millennial even if the original concept was first discovered long ago. Similarly, I think a modification to the keyboard such as is proposed here wouldn't be so much "redesigning the wheel" (that pun fits nicely) as it would be improving on it. I mean, we have to get beyond the typical keyboard eventually; input devices have to keep evolving into new and better things. This would still be a keyboard, but it would be an evolution of the traditional keyboard so to speak.

However, I agree that a keyboard with no tactile sensation would be extremely annoying. For some reason the iPhone works ok once you get used to it, but such a thing on a full size keyboard would be utter hell.

hherhold
Nov 1, 2007, 03:52 PM
I had some arm pain a few years back and bought one of these in an attempt to alleviate it. Not reaching for a mouse every 10 seconds was very nice.

I wound up going for a different solution, but the keyboard was pretty darn cool. The "gesture" interface was particularly powerful - e.g., you could program it such that touching down with your thumb and index finger and then twisting right would fire off a macro to do some action. The learning curve was a little steep but if you spend a lot of time writing code it could be a real time saver.

I wound up returning it primarily because of:
- The price tag at the time (I think it was around $300+)
- I had several machines I was using at the time in various locations and would have had to cart it around
- Switching back to a non-touch keyboard after using it for a long time was a bit of a bother.

It was pretty darn cool, though. Glad somebody's looking into improving the tech with better tactile response.

Xtremehkr
Nov 1, 2007, 07:37 PM
I wonder how long it will be before we can just plug ourselves into our computers. There is more and more development going into how we interact with our computers to exchange information. It would be cool if we could just think about what we wanted it to do.

ibrandt
Nov 2, 2007, 02:03 AM
I switched to a TouchStream LP in 2002 in an effort to combat RSI issues, which had gotten so bad I couldn't type for more than three hours a day (a serious problem for a programmer). I also have a MacNTouch that now resides in my MacBook Pro for when I'm away from a desk. It definitely took some getting used to, but after a few weeks I was typing more accurately and faster than I ever had before, and for up to 8 hours a day no problem. I was a terrible typist prior. I didn't use the right fingers for the right keys and had to look most of the time. Having only the 5 small bumps on the home row and thumb keys as tactile feedback for each hand forced me to start using proper form, and now I don't have to look at all. I only find hand drift to be an issue if I'm not using proper posture, and since I have a bad back that's not a bad thing either.

YMMV, but don't knock it until you've tried it. I can imagine some people may not be able to adapt to the lack of tactile feedback, but given a real try I bet most would surprise themselves. The gestures for arrowing, selecting, paging, mousing, scrolling, tabbing, cut/copy/paste etc., and the chords for Ctrl/Cmd/Shift/Alt all work incredibly well. When I go back to a regular keyboard and mouse it's like my thumbs were cut off. If you're already a fast touch typist your words per minute may not go up, but your overall interaction rate with the computer should. I see this first hand when pair programming, where it's hard not to get frustrated when observing faster typists with noticeably slower overall productivity.

As some in this thread have already commented there's a lot of room for improvement on the classic TouchStream designs. Better construction, slimmer aluminum design, Bluetooth on the externals, factory option on the laptops, or even backed by a display a la iPhone. If anyone could execute that it's Apple. I really wish they'd bring this back to market, or at least license the patents they scooped up from FingerWorks to a small third party manufacturer at a reasonable cost. Otherwise it's going to be a very bad day for me when mine eventually break.

offwidafairies
Nov 4, 2007, 07:47 PM
thats one funky looking keyboard. i love the feel of my new aluminium keyboard. i have discarded the dell one and am using this now with my pc :)

coolvibes
Nov 4, 2007, 09:05 PM
I always wanted a keyboard like in startrek :D
http://i22.tinypic.com/xrf39.gif

In near future it will be everywhere.
But we dont have to wait until Apple develop this

This year Amex digital presented in taipei the world first True Touch keyboard
is wireless and operates at 2.4GHz RF range Modell Amex digital "TSK-VX7 "
It will be avaible on the marked in 2008...

This is realy cool
http://i23.tinypic.com/2qvgjyt.jpg
http://i23.tinypic.com/20gboli.jpg
http://i20.tinypic.com/f3i1ww.jpg

source:
http://www.techfeed.ca/?q=node/124

Now if APPLE could contact Amex or make a similar keyboard
but without those plastic buttons around it would be cool

Belive me Touch buttons can be Stable, i am a happy owner of mp3 player samsung K5 which has stable and very confortable touch buttons technology (I never have missed the buttons)
http://www.generationmp3.com/images/News/00_aout/SamsungK5-thumb.jpg

And i expect to get an Ipod touch to christmas.

I realy would like to see Touch keyboards and Multi-touch screens
as soon as possible.

Samsung and Amex digital and some others do have touch technology
but today Not a single keyboard exist that look like Startrek and are true touch keyboard, except of the comming Amex digital one.

AMEX digital web:
http://www.amexdigital.com

To contact amex:
Phone : +852-2503 3889
Fax : +852-25033816
E-Mail : kelvin@amexdigital.com

coolvibes
Nov 4, 2007, 09:56 PM
Raizlabs is also studing a concept of Multi-touch keyboard
maybe apple will be intressed Talking with them.

As you know multi-touch is the ability to detect more than one finger movement just like iphone/ipod touch.

Now would you buy a Laptop like this? i know i would
http://i24.tinypic.com/m79bbc.jpg

Now this is not only a Touch keyboard using led light this is Multi-touch.

Anyone remember the Benq Blackbox mobile phone?
the touch-technology adapted to what thing you used:
http://i22.tinypic.com/j9ra8h.jpg

Now Raizlabs apply the same, say you want to use your Keyboard
as a sintesizer one button click and the touch-keyboard change to this:
http://i20.tinypic.com/33e4vmc.jpg

Raizlab try to work with someone to develop this
price will be under 500Dollar.

Read more here:
http://www.raizlabs.com/blog/?p=182

Feeling the buttons is not a problem:


"Tactile feedback is the largest potential problem. Since you don’t feel the key go down the interface will need to compensate with subtle audio and visual cues to show you when a key has been pressed. There’s a lot of research that shows that this type of feedback works and can overcome some of these drawbacks. It may also be possible to have the keyboard ‘push-back’ offering some haptic feedback as well."

machatch
Nov 4, 2007, 10:15 PM
cool!
very cool pictures coolvibes,..yeah i would defintly buy a mack with that toucpad:D:D(make a poll;)...
and the keyboard are not bad either..
just wondering how's it like to use it for a long time..
like you punching the table/on air..:D
cool indeed...

coolvibes
Nov 4, 2007, 11:42 PM
Also If Apple is going to release a Multi-touch computer in the Iphone/ipodtouch spirit they have to hurry

Microsoft is already testing their "Surface"
you probaly have watched it but if not go here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttgx9ygMXz8

machatch
Nov 5, 2007, 12:27 AM
Also If Apple is going to release a Multi-touch computer in the Iphone/ipodtouch spirit they have to hurry

Microsoft is already testing their "Surface"
you probaly have watched it but if not go here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttgx9ygMXz8


cool "table".But hey 5000$?
like they said it's only for comercial use not personal yet..Maybe in the near future 2011...
liked how you could just put your digital camera/cellphone on the "table" and it just automatic detected the pictures..so easy..no strings..
And the pictures was so real..
my dime..:):)

VoodooDaddy
Nov 5, 2007, 01:22 AM
Terrible idea. I STILL am not used to the iphone keyboard. I have WAY WAY more typos that I have to backspace and correct than I did with my Blackberry. Leave well enough alone.

hartwork
Nov 5, 2007, 04:45 AM
I must be the only one in the world who doesn't care for touch screen anything. I was hoping Apple's incarnation in the iPhone/iPod Touch might change my mind. Sure on big buttons it seems to work fine, but I couldn't type worth a damn at all on that thing. Now they want to introduce a touch keyboard? No thanks. I like the tactile feel of real buttons.

I agree, what's wrong with what we have now? The latest keyboard from Apple are as good as it gets - you no longer have food getting stuck and it's got a nice ergonomical streamline design.

I can't imagine how one would practically utilise a touch keyboard, it would be strange tapping without registering what it is you're actually typing. There is a lack of feedback between fingers and keyboard.

Macinposh
Nov 5, 2007, 07:25 AM
This is realy cool.
http://i23.tinypic.com/2qvgjyt.jpg



I tried a similar keyboard (working prototype of a study) and lo-and-behold : It was abysmal.

Since it was a flat glass pane,it was void of any feedback.
Every type you made,you had to look directly at your fingers and then confirm by looking in the display if it had been registered..
It was literally typ-raise head-look-confirm-lower head-type etc...
I consider myself as a quite good at typing,but using 10-finger system was inpossible.

Found out that the study uses the keyboard to study tactile input for users..
:)
So they can make the keyboard to emit sounds,light,vibration etc and then study how the users get feedback of them.
If I memeber correctly, light was poorest (you have to look at the keyboard to see the "key" get lit for a fraction of a second), sound was good but lacked specification if the "right" key was pressed.Vibration of keyboard was allso good but same problem as sound.
The most promising was a small tap/vibration under the pushed key.
Apparently the problems are in the technical area as small enough servos/stuff is hard to place on the top of the screen while keeping the invisible/unnoticeable and make them durable enough for long time use.

But,intresting *****.

Especially for the laptops.

coolvibes
Nov 5, 2007, 08:19 AM
I tried a similar keyboard (working prototype of a study) and lo-and-behold : It was abysmal.

You dont have such proptype to sell me ? :D

chappel
Nov 6, 2007, 01:40 PM
I've got a Dvorak mac-n-touch in an old Titanium Powerbook - it's a drop-in replacement for the original keyboard. It did take some getting used to typing without any tactile feedback, but I love how only the slightest touch is required to register a key press, you don't have to go back and forth for the mouse, and the corded short cuts are awesome (ie - three fingers and a thumb swept upward to 'previous page' in Safari - no driving the mouse pointer all over). It has built-in circuitry to compensate when you get a little off-center on the keys - I touch-type exclusively (usually using a QWERTY keyboard with a DVORAK keymap, so looking at the keys isn't much of an option). The multi-touch keyboard is still almost impossible to use if you aren't sitting squared up to it - you end up missing keys around the edges of the board, and the extra electronics do seem to drain the battery faster. Also, it won't register two simultaneous key presses - so pressing 'up' and 'left' to move diagonally in a game just won't work - although I'm sure you could define custom movements for anything.

Overall I'll really miss it (and the native dvorak layout) when I eventually upgrade. I'd be ecstatic if Apple offered an updated version. I'd be really happy if I could just order a standard keyboard hard-wired to dvorak. I was ready to buy a desktop multi-touch keyboard (just like the one pictured) when I found out Fingerworks had vanished - stupid expensive price tag and all. It was a sad day for gadget freaks everywhere. It's depressing to see the paltry couple multi-touch features on the macbook touchpads (three-finger scrolling and one other?).

I don't think I'd like a multi-touch display on a laptop anywhere near as much as having it on the keyboard.

ch

Manic Mouse
Nov 6, 2007, 01:50 PM
The next Mac laptops will have two screens like the DS and multitouch, there really is no other way to go. The problem with no tactile feedback can be easily overcome by having a small text bar above the keyboard on the bottom screen so you can see as you type.

They will be awesome.