Apple Invents & Wins a Patent for future Keyboards with keys that could be Dynamically Adjusted based on user preferences
Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to possible next-gen keyboards for MacBooks and Mac desktops that could provide users with unique adjustable keys that could be applied automatically or otherwise tuned based on user preference.
Apple notes in their patent background that conventional input devices, such as keyboards, are typically static. As such, a user cannot adjust the feel and/or travel of a translatable input mechanism of the input device (such as a key or button). Typically, different users have different typing preferences based on their hand size, gender, typing style and so on. However, because the feel and/or travel of the translatable input mechanism of the input device is static, the user may have to settle for an input device that does not match their typing preferences.
Apple’s invention relates to keyboards providing adjustable keys. When the input device is a keyboard, each individual key of the keyboard (or certain keys of the keyboard) may be dynamically adjusted. More specifically, the travel distance of a key may be dynamically adjusted based on user preferences.
Likewise, a tactile or haptic feel or output of the individual keys may also be dynamically adjusted. The amount of force required to actuate the key may also be dynamically adjusted.
The input device of the present disclosure may include a sensor that determines one or more input characteristics associated with a user of the input device.
In one example, the sensor may be a light sensor that measures a change in detected light as the user moves his fingers and hands over the input device. This information may be used to determine the relative hand and/or finger size of a user and/or preferred hand/finger placement on the input device.
In another implementation, the sensor may be a capacitive sensor that measures a change in capacitance between a user's fingers and/or hands and the input mechanisms of the input device.
The amount of change in capacitance may also indicate the position of the user's fingers on the input mechanisms and/or the relative size of the user's hands or fingers. In yet another implementation, the sensor may also be a force sensor that measures a magnitude of force applied to the various input mechanisms of the input device.
In some embodiments, an input signal provided by the input mechanism when it is actuated may be used to determine the speed at which the user is providing input.
Once this information is collected, it may be analyzed to determine various settings for the input device. For example, in one implementation and based on the analyzed data, the height of one or more of the input mechanisms may be automatically adjusted. In another example, an amount of force required to actuate the input mechanism may be automatically adjusted.
In order to effect the changes described above, each input mechanism (key) of the input device may include one or more magnetic components.
More specifically, in one implementation, a first magnetic component is coupled to or is otherwise associated with an input mechanism of the input device while a second magnetic component is positioned beneath and/or adjacent the first magnetic component. A coil may surround or otherwise be adjacent to the second magnetic component. When a current in a first direction is applied to the coil, an attractive magnetic force between the first magnetic component and the second magnetic component increases. When a current in a second direction is applied to the coil, a repulsive magnetic force between the first magnetic component and the second magnetic component increases. Accordingly, the force of the input mechanism may be tuned or may otherwise be changed in a precise manner. In addition, the height of the input mechanism may change which changes the amount of travel of the input mechanism.
Apple’s patent FIG. 1 & 8 represent Apple keyboards for MacBooks and Desktop; FIGS. 9A-C represent keys in a first, second and third position, controlled via magnets.
More specifically, FIGS. 9A-9C illustrate movement of an input mechanism 900 (keys) in a variety of directions due to varying attractive and/or repulsive magnetic forces between various magnetic components and/or the positioning of various magnetic components within the input mechanism.
Apple’s patent FIG. 14 below illustrates fifth example arrangement of various components of an electromechanical system. In this example, the electromechanical system 1400 includes any number of coils labeled in FIG. 14 as 1410, 1320 and 1430. Although three coils are shown, fewer or more coils may be used; FIG. 15 illustrates a sample cross-section view of an input mechanism of the adjustable input device.
Apple’s patent FIG. 17 above illustrates a method for adjusting one or more input mechanisms of an adjustable input device; and FIG. 18 illustrates example components of an electronic device that may use or incorporate an adjustable input device.
Lastly, Apple notes that although a keyboard is specifically mentioned, the embodiments may be used with a variety of input devices and/or input mechanisms. For example, the input mechanism may be a button on a mobile phone or other electronic device. In other examples, the input mechanisms may be one or more buttons on a remote-control device, a calculator, or any other electronic or mechanical device having a translatable input mechanism.
For more on this, review Apple’s granted patent 11,394,385 that bypassed the application phase publicly. Meaning, this is the first time this invention has been made public.
I think that this is a great idea. I prefer the feel of my new Logitech keyboard and my wife prefers our mechanical keyboard with high keys that clatter. Being able to control the feel of your keyboard keys could be a great feature to look forward to in the future.
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