Over the years Patently Apple has covered patents pointing to future iPad covers doubling as a keyboard just like the one for the iPad Pro (see one and two) and today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a new patent application from Apple that reveals yet another iPad cover keyboard design under the title "Fabric Keyboard." The new fabric keyboard design will add illuminated keys and more.
Apple's Fabric Keyboard invention covers systems, apparatuses, and methods related to fabric input devices such as fabric keyboards. An input device including keys that move within apertures of a frame may be covered by a fabric bonded to the keys and frame. The fabric may dampen sound from within the input device and form a barrier that restricts passage of contaminants.
In various implementations, the fabric may include embossed areas or structures bonded to tops of keycaps of the keys and unembossed areas bonded to the frame. Sides of the keycaps may not be bonded to the embossed areas such that unbonded portions of the fabric are able to bend and/or buckle during keycap movement. In some implementations, the fabric and/or flanges of the keycaps and/or the frame around the apertures may restrict movement of the keycaps in various directions.
In our graphic above you can see FIGS. 6A-6D that illustrate a first example of assembly of an individual key that may be backlit by an illuminator. In FIG. 8 we're able to that the cover #105 and flexible keyboard 101 can be rolled up unlike the iPad Pro's Smart Keyboard.
Other Possible Future Applications
While Apple notes in their filing that the main design of this invention relates to a fabric keyboard for an iPad, Apple leaves the door open for the idea to be used in different ways with different future products. More specifically, Apple points to the fabric keyboard invention possibly applying to a jacket, pants, purse, bag, and so on) or other accessory may include a fabric input device with a number of fabric covered buttons (such as five or other numbers of fabric covered buttons) that is operable to wirelessly communicate with an electronic device such as the iPhone stored in a pocket or compartment of (and/or otherwise proximate to) the item of apparel.
Apple patent application 20160049266 was originally filed in August 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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