Apple Wins Patent for an Adaptive Input Surface that could represent a Virtual Keyboard, Game or Music Controller & more
Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple relating to a touch-sensitive input device with an adaptable surface. While the input device may represent a virtual keyboard having haptic feedback, it may also provide users with a variety of interfaces that could control music or video applications, for instance.
Apple's invention granted to Apple today covers an input device having an adaptive input surface and providing tactile feedback to a user. The input device may include, for example, a touch-based input surface over an adaptive display.
Haptic feedback may be provided to a user through a controllable array of electrostatic electrodes which cause a user to perceive varying levels of friction across the surface. This way an input device may define one or more user input regions corresponding to alphanumeric keys, and may further have an increased area of friction defining the input regions or the edges of input regions.
Further feedback may be provided through additional haptic feedback elements, such as an actuator which produces the sensation of input surface movement.
An example embodiment may be an adaptable keyboard. The adaptable keyboard includes an enclosure housing a display and a cover sheet over the display defining an input surface. The display visually renders two user input regions defining keys of the adaptable keyboard. An array of electrodes between the cover sheet and the display provides variable frictional feedback to tactilely indicate the locations of the user input regions on the input surface. The adaptable keyboard further includes a force sensor which measures an amount of force applied to the input surface and a processing unit.
In some cases, the keyboard further includes a touch sensor, and the processing unit indicates actuation of a first user input region in response to the touch sensor detecting a touch within the first user input region and the force sensor detecting an amount of force above a threshold value.
In some cases, the processing unit causes the frictional feedback within a user input region to change in response to the amount of force measured by the force sensor. In some cases, the keyboard includes memory storing multiple keyboard layouts, each defining locations of the user input regions.
Apple's patent FIGS. 7A and 7B below depict input device #700 in the shape of a keyboard with an adaptive input surface #704. As depicted in FIG. 7A, the input surface may initially be inactive, with no defined user input regions or visual or tactile indications of input regions. As a user's fingers approach the input surface it becomes active as shown in FIG. 7B.
The input surface may incorporate proximity sensors, such as touch sensors, which detect the presence and location of the user's fingers. These sensors may detect a desired location for defining input regions, such as virtual keys #706. The input regions may alternatively be defined in response to additional user action, such as the performance of a gesture, touching or pressing the input surface.
Apple's patent FIG. 8 below depicts an example software interaction with the adaptive input surface, illustrating a music playing program; FIG. 9 depicts another example software interaction with the adaptive input surface, illustrating a web browser.
Apple's patent FIG. 10 above depicts an example embodiment of the present invention, illustrating a desktop computer and keyboard; FIG. 11 depicts an example embodiment of the present invention, illustrating a tablet computing device and keyboard.
Apple's granted patent 10,845,878 was published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. For more details and patent figures you could check out our original patent application report posted in 2018 titled "Apple Invents Keyless Keyboards for Macs and iPad Pro with Morphing Interface Options for Gaming, Music & more."