Apple Researching Touch Surface Keyboard

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Nov 1, 2007.

  1. macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    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 acquisition from 2005. Fingerworks had commercialized versions of multi-touch interface input devices, such as this TouchStream keyboard.


    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
  2. macrumors 68040


    Oct 23, 2006
    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.
  3. macrumors 601


    Aug 17, 2007
    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
  4. macrumors regular


    Oct 4, 2007
    Orlando, FL
    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.
  5. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 19, 2007
    err.... looks a strange (in a negative way) design to me :rolleyes:
  6. macrumors 6502a


    Sep 29, 2007
  7. arn
    macrumors god


    Staff Member

    Apr 9, 2001
    the photo is of an old keyboard made by fingerworks. read the patent description.

  8. macrumors regular

    May 24, 2007
    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.
  9. macrumors 604


    Mar 17, 2004
    Melenkurion Skyweir
    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.
  10. macrumors 6502a


    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.
  11. BIK
    macrumors member


    Oct 28, 2007
    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)
  12. macrumors 6502

    Jan 14, 2005
    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.
  13. macrumors 68040


    Oct 23, 2006
    Ha. Nicely read there.
  14. arn
    macrumors god


    Staff Member

    Apr 9, 2001
    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.

  15. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 19, 2007
    nope...i talked about the 'design'...not the appearance.. :p
  16. macrumors Core

    Jun 16, 2004
    NOoooooooo, I hope they're not like, so called touch sensitive, membrane keyboards of the past!!
  17. macrumors 68040


    Oct 23, 2006
    Anyone that's used an iPhone or seen Han's work will know exactly what kind of treats we may have in store :)
  18. macrumors 6502a

    Sep 18, 2004
    London, UK
  19. macrumors regular


    Apr 24, 2007
    Manchester, UK
    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:
  20. macrumors P6


    Feb 3, 2005
    Right side of wrong
    wow. seems interesting. i would like to try something like this out one day...
  21. macrumors newbie


    Mar 18, 2007
    New York
    Ah ...!

    Waking from slumber, the giant Apple is rising up ..., looking around at the world, again. :rolleyes:
  22. macrumors 65816


    Jan 2, 2002
    DFW, TX, USA
    Horrible memories...

    ... of the Atari 400 and my old Timex Sinclair 1000 keyboards come flooding back to mind.
  23. macrumors 65816


    Jun 3, 2007
    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.
  24. macrumors 65816


    Jun 23, 2003
    So. Cal.
    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.
  25. macrumors 65816


    Feb 5, 2007
    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.

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