On March 27, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals an all-new iPad smart cover configuration that includes a keyboard panel. One of the aspects of this design which differentiates itself from Microsoft's Surface tablet cover is that Apple's keyboard has been uniquely designed to double as a multi-touch gesture keyboard eliminating the need for a touchpad.
Apple's Patent Background
Electronic devices such as tablet computers and the like may be used in combination with coverings that protect the device. Typically, protective coverings for tablet computers extend over the surface area of the touch screen component of the tablet computer. The need to protect this valuable component of the tablet computer is well understood by makers of protective coverings. However, users may also be concerned with protecting the rear surface of the tablet computer from scratches, dings, or other damage that may create an unsightly appearance for the tablet computer. Thus, there may be a need for protective coverings for all surfaces of an electronic device such as a tablet computer.
Additionally electronic devices such as tablet computers may be configured with peripheral components such as wireless keyboards that provide a mechanism for entering input. In some configurations, the keyboard may be used to enter input in combination with or in lieu of the touchscreen component of a tablet computer. As a component such as a wireless keyboard may also be vulnerable to damage, it may be desirable to have a covering that protects both the tablet computer and an associated keyboard.
Apple Invents New iPad Smart Cover with Keyboard
Apple's patent relates to a new smart cover for the iPad comprising of a cover having an interior surface that attaches to a rear surface of the iPad and to the rear surface of a keyboard that is in communication with the iPad.
Apple notes that a first lateral hinge in the cover will allow the cover to fold such that a first end of the cover rotates about the first lateral hinge from an extended position towards a centerline of the cover; a second lateral hinge in the cover that allows the cover to fold such that a second end of the cover rotates about the second lateral hinge from an extended position towards the centerline of the cover; and a closure configured to disable the keyboard when a first closure component disposed on the first end of the cover meets a second closure component disposed on the second end of the cover, the first and second closure components configured to meet substantially at the centerline of the cover when the cover is folded about the first and second lateral hinges.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a perspective illustration of a new iPad Smart Cover with an attached keyboard; FIG. 10 is a perspective illustration of a standing configuration for the cover shown in FIG. 1.
The keyboard aspect of the smart cover will communicate with the iPad wirelessly. Further, John Elias, one the original engineers for the touch technology behind the original iPhone, notes that the keyboard (#106) may be a Multi-Touch keyboard that is adapted to receive both keyboard input and touch input. In this regard, the keyboard will include a transparent and/or semitransparent touch sensitive panel. In one embodiment, the keyboard includes a smooth surface (#110) that overlays the plurality of keys.
In the standing configuration shown in FIG. 10 above, the second (#314), third (#316), and fourth (#318) cover sections form a triangular shaped stand for the iPad. Here, the second cover section remains fixedly attached to the rear surface of the iPad while the third cover section is allowed to fall away from engagement with the rear surface of the iPad.
Unique Multi-Touch Keyboard
As shown in Apple's patent FIG. 2A below, a user may provide input to iPad by striking the smooth surface overlay (#110) above a particular key and provide input to the iPad by sliding gestures.
In order for the keyboard to receive touch input, the keyboard may be configured to detect the location of one or more touches or near touches at the surface of the keys based on measurements of physical phenomena that occur near the surface when those touches or near touches occur.
For example, the keyboard may be configured to acquire capacitive, resistive, optical, acoustic, inductive, mechanical, chemical, or electromagnetic measurements that indicate the location of touch or near touch on the keyboard surface. Software, hardware, firmware or any combination thereof may be used to process the measurements of the detected touches to identify and track one or more gestures.
As described above, touch input may be entered through gestures entered through either the iPad's touchscreen or through the surface of the keyboard. As used in this invention, a "gesture" may correspond to stationary or non-stationary, single or multiple, touches or near touches on the touchscreen or the surface of the keyboard.
According to Apple, a gesture may be performed by moving one or more fingers or other objects in a particular manner on the surface of the keyboard such as tapping, pressing, rocking, scrubbing, twisting, changing orientation, pressing with varying pressure and the like at essentially the same time, contiguously, consecutively, or otherwise.
A gesture may be characterized by, but is not limited to a pinching, sliding, swiping, rotating, flexing, dragging, tapping, pushing and/or releasing, or other motion between or with any other finger or fingers, or any other portion of the body or other object. The surface of the keyboard will generally function as a touchpad a touch pad that provides indirect interaction with graphical elements.
Various Smart Cover Folding Configurations
Smart Cover Magnets
In Apple's patent FIG. 9 noted below we're able to see a close-up perspective illustration of an end of the proposed iPad smart cover. By way of example, FIG. 9 shows one end (#332) of the iPad cover which includes a closure mechanism #320 that may include a magnet #902.
Apple notes that if magnets are used, the magnets may be permanent magnets that are affixed to the ends of the cover. Alternatively, electromagnets that are enabled by an electrical current may be used. Here, the closure between the first and second and of the cover may be enabled or disabled by enabling or disabling the current between the electromagnets.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 is a perspective illustration of a fully open configuration for the cover shown in FIG. 1.
Apple credits John Elias as the sole inventor of patent application 20140083883 which was originally filed in Q3 2012. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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