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macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

In the wake of yesterday's provocative hint suggesting that users would be "surprised how you interact" with Apple's much-rumored tablet, speculation has begun about what that surprise might be. Conveniently enough, a patent application published today entitled "Keystroke tactility arrangement on a smooth touch surface" revisits previously-revealed technology from Apple regarding possible tactile feedback for a touchscreen device such as a tablet.

The technology described in the patent application addresses several mechanisms for providing tactile feedback for a keyboard displayed on a smooth touchscreen surface, including: 1) use of protruding bumps to identify keys; 2) use of an "articulating frame" that can raise and lower depending on whether the screen is being used for gesturing or typing to offer the user a frame of reference for key edges; and 3) use of fixed key edges below a compliant gel or foam surface that would be smooth when subjected to light pressure of gesturing but offering tactile ridges under harder pressure of typing.
Disclosed are four arrangements for providing tactility on a touch surface keyboard. One approach is to provide tactile feedback mechanisms, such as dots, bars, or other shapes on all or many keys. In another embodiment, an articulating frame may be provided that extends when the surface is being used in a typing mode and retracts when the surface is used in some other mode, e.g., a pointing mode. The articulating frame may provide key edge ridges that define the boundaries of the key regions or may provide tactile feedback mechanisms within the key regions. The articulating frame may also be configured to cause concave depressions similar to mechanical key caps in the surface. In another embodiment, a rigid, non-articulating frame may be provided beneath the surface. A user will then feel higher resistance when pressing away from the key centers, but will feel a softer resistance at the key center.


"Articulated frame" for demarcating key edges in raised (top) and lowered (bottom) positions
The patent application also describes the use of automatic methods for activation and deactivation of the articulated frame, utilizing the touchscreen capabilities to sense sliding or mouse-click-like tapping as requiring the frame to be deactivated, and "home row" positioning of fingers or asynchronous tapping as requiring the frame to be activated.

This new patent application, filed in August, is actually a divisional of a previous application filed in April 2006, with the new application focusing only on touchscreen-based keyboard applications. The patent application is credited to Wayne Westerman, founder of FingerWorks, the company acquired by Apple in 2005 that is responsible for the multi-touch technology used in the iPhone and a number of other Apple products.

Article Link: Apple's Research on Tactile Feedback for Touchscreen Keyboard Revisited


macrumors regular
Jul 28, 2008
Manhattan, NYC
I'll just leave the surprise for next January, whatever it may be.. Expect something great, since Apple has a knack of introducing things that competitors can't achieve as quickly or successfully.


macrumors 6502a
Apr 25, 2008
sounds good but you'll need a special screen that can flex while providing an image. So yeah, that dimple thing sounds great but what about the screen.


macrumors 68040
Oct 3, 2009
Wow I guess we've never seen that implemented anywhere... if the screen is glass, how will anything change its surface? Glass is kinda rigid... So I guess this can only work with some thin plastic... But let's just trust Apple, I'm sure they won't make a bad compromise...


macrumors member
May 19, 2008
I have no idea what it would be like to type on such a surface...but wow thats some incredible technology. I can't begin to imagine what life will be like 20+ years from now...


macrumors newbie
Jan 25, 2006
Two screens, hinged

Two screens, hinged, one with tactile feedback that can be oriented anywhere, left-side, right-side, below like a keyboard or flipped all the way around for reverse side input with visual and tactile feedback. This is the only design that a answers all the questions for use as a netbook with keyboard, a media player with stand, a touch screen game system, an ereader with lots of screen space and a tablet with surprising interaction.


macrumors newbie
Aug 4, 2009
iPhone 4G

I bet they'll use the same technology on the iphone 4g. it'll b so cool!


macrumors 65816
Apr 26, 2005
Regarding January, anybody think we are all up for a huge dissapointment? (i.e. January will have nothing to do with a tablet or tactile feedback at all...)


macrumors regular
Jun 7, 2009
My English isn't that good and this article uses extremely complicated words - could somebody please try to explain this in simpler English or maybe in Dutch?
Thank you!


macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
Neat concepts, but none of them sound useful/practical to me, at least in the short term.

I expect any innovation to come in what’s ON the screen. More screen area could facilitate more complex operations.


macrumors regular
Jul 4, 2008
Apple's Tablet Surprise

I think the surprise is that the tablet will be managed using a stylus, using the notepad paradigm. The lack of handwriting recognition has been a persistent weakness in the iPhone & I believe that Apple have finally cracked it - they got very close with the final version of the Newton.


Sep 4, 2009
Nice implementation

Graphical displays with a transparent and software adjustable tactile feedback surface has had limited use in military and some specialized laboratory environments for at least ten years. However, this will be the first mass market implementation of it that I know. There may be some asian market novelity app using this. If anyone knows, please post here.

Heifer's Law will be in full force here. All of these cybergirl app authors on the iPhone will go all over this where now you can give selective texture to different parts of the screen. I'm sure you all can go from there.

My guess is the screen quality will be compromised a bit for the selective texture and the first round will only be a one-bit smooth / rough implementation with next generations offering different levels. Perhaps you can "half tone" it in a way with dimple patterns to give different feelings.

One big question I have on this is how long will it last before these adjustable dimples wear out? You are talking very small parts that are transparent here.


macrumors 601
Jun 22, 2006
The thick of it
If I'm truly going to be surprised by how I interact with it, there'd have to be something more than a new surface that I interact with in the same old way. Just as how gestures on the iPhone created a whole new paradigm for interactivity, I'm hoping for an extension of those concepts, somehow taking gestures to the next level.


macrumors G5
Nov 7, 2007
New Sanfrakota
I think the surprise is that the tablet will be managed using a stylus, using the notepad paradigm. The lack of handwriting recognition has been a persistent weakness in the iPhone & I believe that Apple have finally cracked it - they got very close with the final version of the Newton.

Difficult to believe considering that Steve publicity criticized the stylus.


macrumors member
Jun 2, 2008
I dont get it, how large are those "riser parts" going to be?
Are they supposed to be as small as a pixel?
Or really large which means that we lose alot of screen real estate...
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