Apple has Won a Patent for a next-gen iPad Keyboard Accessory that may provide a Mechanical or Virtual Keyboard
In February, Patently Apple posted an IP report titled "Apple Files for a Patent covering a Hinged Keyboard Accessory for iPad that provides a Notebook Feel with Superior Flexibility." Our report noted that the new accessory device for iPad could include a base portion and a coupling mechanism. The base portion may include a keyboard having a set of electromechanical keys. The coupling mechanism may be positioned along a side of the keyboard and may be configured to rotatably couple the base portion to the tablet computing device having a touchscreen display.
Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to the same project with a twist. In today's granted patent, Apple notes that the keyboard could be mechanical. In another segment of the patent Apple notes that the accessory could provide a virtual keyboard with a softer surface than that of the iPad's virtual keyboard that is hard on a user's fingers.
For example, with the new keyboard accessory the user can press a key on the keyboard that enables an electrical connection between a capacitive load (e.g., a connection to ground or a source with low impedance to ground) and electrodes at the touch-sensitive interface to simulate the user's touch without actually transferring the user's capacitive load to the interface. In this case, the user can type at a comfortable angle and with the tactility and audible feedback that cannot be provided by a flat, hard touch screen. Additionally, the keyboard does not need to draw any power from the device or have a power source of its own.
Apple further notes that in one case, the input device is held to the touch screen device by magnets, clips, straps, or other housing or case portions attached to the keyboard that help orient the input device relative to the touch screen device and help to keep the input device in proper alignment with the touch-sensitive interface.
Apple's patent FIG. 6 below illustrates an exploded perspective view of an embodiment of a computing device and an input device.
(Click on image to Enlarge)
More specifically, the contact section #318 can have a front-facing surface #321 configured to contact a rear-facing surface #350 of the iPad. The rear-facing surface can therefore comprise a touch-sensitive interface #309 corresponding to the front-facing surface in size and position. Accordingly, the input device #304 can transfer capacitive load from the keys #314 to the touch-sensitive interface via conductive leads similar to the traces.
For more details, review Apple's granted patent 11,435,840.