The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 44 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover Apple's invention related to a new kind of dual purpose keyboard that Apple refers to as a "fusion keyboard."
The invention basically covers one or more of the mechanical keys being able to form dual-purpose mechanical keys being depressed to two or more different levels, or depths, to generate two or more different outputs depending on the depth of the key depression. As noted in our cover graphic, the space bar is considered a dual purpose key that could double as a touch sensitive cursor and could be configured to generate a mouse click upon being depressed to the second level.
With Apple now heavily invested in their new Force Touch trackpad for the MacBook, the current invention may have been sacrificed. However, Apple could technically bring this invention to the iMac's keyboard over time.
Granted Patent: Fusion Keyboard
Apple's newly granted patent covers their invention relating to touch sensitive mechanical keyboards and processes for detecting touch events and key depressions on the touch sensitive mechanical keyboard.
A touch event, such as a tap or a slide, may be detected when a finger or other object is placed near or in contact with a touch sensitive surface followed by a slide or when a finger or other object is placed near or in contact with the touch sensitive surface followed closely in time with a lift of the finger or object (tap). In our cover graphic key 1105 is designated as the touch key with touch control sensitivities.
Apple notes that the touch sensitive mechanical keyboard could include a set of individually depressible mechanical keys having a touch sensitive area located on their surface. A touch sensor can be included to detect touch events on the surface of the mechanical keys.
A keypad can also be included to detect a depression of the mechanical keys. One or more of the depressible mechanical keys can be multi-purpose keys capable of being depressed to multiple levels.
The touch sensitive mechanical keyboard could include a processor for distinguishing detected touch events from detected key depressions. The processor could generate either a touch event command or a key depression command in response to the detected touch events and detected key depressions.
The touch sensitive mechanical keyboard can advantageously allow users to enter textual input using a device having the same look and feel of a conventional keyboard while allowing the users to enter touch events without requiring the users to remove their hands from the keyboard. Moreover, the touch sensitive mechanical keyboard can allow users to enter textual input and/or touch input simultaneously with both hands.
Furthermore, the touch sensitive area of keyboard could be used to detect touch events, such as taps or slides, on the surface of mechanical keys. In this way, the keyboard could be used for cursor input functions, such as point, click, scroll, drag, select, zoom, and the like, without requiring the user to remove their hands from keyboard.
Apple credits John Elias and Steven Martisauskas as the inventors of granted patent 9,041,652 which was originally filed in Q3 2011 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
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