Feeds

Apple seeks patent for keyboard that sucks

Or blows. Or both

New hybrid storage solutions

Apple has applied for a patent that describes a novel method for improving the tactile feedback of ultra-thin keyboards: each key emits a puff of air when either approached or touched, and can be pneumatically sucked downward in response to touch.

When we discovered patent application number 20110107958, "Input devices and methods of operation", we checked to see if it had been filed on April 1. Nope: it was filed on November 12, 2009, and published this Thursday.

We also checked out the bona fides of the lead inventor, Aleksandar Pance. He appears legit, having filed 18 patents for Apple since late 2008, mostly focused on input devices.

Apple patent illustration: a keyboard that blows and sucks

As your finger approaches, a puff of air is released to add to tactile feedback and a vacuum pulls the key downward

But the filing itself? Well, that's another matter. It does address a legitimate concern – the fact that thin keyboards with limited key travel can provide less-than-satisfactory user experience – but a keyboard that blows and sucks? Color us unconvinced.

Still, the embodiments – "examples", in patentese – described in patent application 20110107958 are ingenious. In one, proximity sensors detect an approaching fingertip, and emit a puff of air "through openings in a key surface, or through openings adjacent the key assembly."

Another embodiment senses an approaching finger and applies air pressure to the space below the key, causing it to more strongly resist the finger's advance.

Still another embodiment sucks the key downward when it is depressed, causing it to be "thus pneumatically pulled away from the user," with the desired effect being to "provide the user with the impression of a longer keystroke than is actually present."

Apple patent illustration: a keyboard that blows and sucks

In this embodiment, the keyboard merely sucks – the key down into its housing, that is

The application also describes a number of different embodiments that combine blowing and sucking in various combinations, ways to regulate the amount of air pressure used to enhance key resistance, and proximity and contact sensors using capacitance or optical sensing.

Nowhere in the filing, however, is a discussion of how all this keystroke-enhancing technology can be fit into a keyboard without making it bulkier than it would be otherwise, even though the solutions it proposes are specifically targeted at enhancing tactile feedback in low-profile devices. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Why Oracle CEO Larry Ellison had to go ... Except he hasn't
Silicon Valley's veteran seadog in piratical Putin impression
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
Bono: Apple will sort out monetising music where the labels failed
Remastered so hard it would be difficult or impossible to master it again
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.