Hybrid keyboard-touchpad concept feasability?

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by warlun, Jan 9, 2009.

  1. warlun macrumors member

    Jul 16, 2008
    Hong Kong
    For the touchscreen gurus out there, would it be possible to manufacture a touchpad which is positioned directly under a keyboard so that you could navigate the screen by lightly touching the keys with an extra button to press when you want to select something.
    With so many manufacturers going either the touchscreen route or the keyboard route or like the blackberry storm in having a touchscreen that is a button, why not have a keyboard above the touchscreen/pad where the keyboard acts as a touch conductor so that the pad underneath can detect where you are navigating on screen yet when you press a key on the keyboard have it override the selection area and type the desired key input.
    I assume the keypad should be as flat as possible to allow smooth navigation yet have enough seperation for accurate typing. (Should allow multitouch too)
    There should be a cursor on screen that should not be too obtrusive to whats happening on screen.
    The pros for this would be a solution that could incorporate both advantages of the haptic feedback of physical keyboard and the speediness of instantaneous selection and multi-gesturing that a touchscreen can provide.
    The programming required from overiding and remembering/recalling the last point of navigation to detecting a keypress should not be that difficult...
    Any thoughts?
    Sorry, if the english is not that good. It's not my mother toungue.
  2. PoitNarf macrumors 65816


    May 28, 2007
    Northern NJ
    Even if it is possible, creating something like this would be completely impractical and cost prohibitive. I don't want to deal with spaces between keys when I'm sliding my finger across the screen. If someone dislikes a purely touchscreen interface so much then the iPhone is definitely not the phone for them.
  3. spooky2k macrumors 6502a


    Apr 14, 2008
    This is pretty much what Blackberry did with the Storm. And it's funny, because before the Storm it was what everyone thought was the way to go, but once people used it, they hated it.

    What was the Ford quote again? Ah yes...'If I'd have asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse'.
  4. kdarling macrumors P6


    Jun 9, 2007
    First university coding class = 47 years ago
    I've recently seen an article about a concept phone with this kind of idea.

    Let me look around...

    Anything that puts precious mobile space to double use is a good thing.
  5. Thinkstorm macrumors newbie

    Oct 16, 2009
    Any updates to this?


    I had the same thought about a month ago. Some quick research didn't reveal any relevant patents, but who knows... IPs for touchpads and screens might already cover these "touchkeys", I'm not a lawyer. I'll post it here, hoping that it males filing IP a bit more difficult.

    Each separate modifier of a computing input device such as a keyboard would have a touch sensitive surface that can interface with an apparatus to interpret a touch-based input such as position, direction of movement, speed of movement, and force of touch. Many of these modifiers grouped together can act similar to existing touchpads, but could also be configured freely in different touch regions or areas, depending on the layout of the input modifiers (think of different areas on a keyboard for different ways to interact with software; an area for broad mouse movements and another area for very fine mouse movement; an area for fine brush strokes and broad brush strokes; several mouse pointers; etc.) Also: "multitouch" functionality becomes a bit easier to handle software-wise.

    I refer to these touch-sensitive modifiers as "touchkeys".

    I did some testing with having multiple touchpads next to each other, simulating the touchkeys. If the touchkeys are close enough to each other, fingers will always touch at least two, sometimes three and four keys. A first primitive apparatus (in my case software ;)) that computes relative movement on the touchkeys worked seamless and reliable, I could even get a pinching zoom and swipe application switch to work.

    My first thought was also an extra key outside the keyboard, in my case positioned so that I can access it with my left pinky. Key presses would be disabled then, and the touch part of the keys are enabled. That way a "click" or "double-click" or "long-click" can actually click keys, without typing - though not necessary, it makes things easier, you don't have to pay attention how strong you touch the keys for the clicks...

    Another test was to place touchpads where my wrists would rest on the laptop. Touching the pads enables the keyboard, lifting your wrists switches to touch mode of the touchkeys. For me it works so-and-so, the movement of the wrists got uncomfortable after a while, and having the wrist resting on the laptop makes smaller movements easier (because you can relax your wrists as well as having a "reference point" for small movements). Further on, I always had problems with touchpads when sitting in a bus or airplane with concise mouse movements due to the wiggling. Resting the wrists would make that easier...

    Problems with the "external" modifier for activating the touch-mode of the touch keys were programs that used mouse-click modifiers CTRL, SHIFT, ALT (yeah, I'm a MS Windows guy). in that case you A) had to activate the touch-mode modifier and also B) press down the modifier keys. Still using modifier keys as well as other "special" keys like PgUp, Break, etc. while in touch mode is not so much of a problem. It's more pressing the touch-mode modifer as well as the modifier keys for the mouse click operation.

    Cost- and production wise the previous posters are certainly right: it adds complexity to the keyboard, a device that gets hit with all kinds of dirt and pressure. you would need to have either inductive signaling to avoid miniature cables to the keyboard or have the contacts and signaling in the spring mechanism of the keys. All of this adds a good 200 parts to the keyboard that could break - not as elegant as a glass touchpad ;)

    Complexity and parts add costs in production, so when your keyboard breaks it's a big bill for a replacement. I talked to some guys at Adesso about printing on touchscreens - not a problem, so each key still can have the key printed on it ;)

    A fun thing to do was to have different colors for brush strokes on the Enter, Shift, and Backspace key :) because the keys are so large, you can paint some smaller areas with them... :) Another test was horizontal scrolling on the space bar, vertical scrolling over the HOME/PgUp/PgDn/End row on the right of my keyboard - works nicely :)

    The multi-touch application switch was difficult to program, in the beginning I had an application switch simply by swiping over the top row of my keyboard (1 to + keys). Page left / right flips in PDFs and documents was on the F1-F4 and F9-F12 keys - both areas could flip back AND forth, so no need to have a left/right affinity, but I found that two input areas for flipping pages made life easier :)

    Well, that's it for now, I had a lot of other lessons learned, but technology is not the problem, I think - UI design is. and manufacturing costs and how to make this thing manageable and durable....

    Thorsten Claus
  6. ViViDboarder macrumors 68040


    Jun 25, 2008

    Aaaanyways. Interesting UI design and I don't think it's the same as what the storm has.

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