Apple files patent for dual purpose fusion keyboard

27 May 2015


The future Apple MacBook might not need a track pad for users to move the cursor around the screen.

Published yesterday by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a patent dubbed simply "Fusion keyboard" describes a keyboard with keys that could both insert characters as also deploy touch gestures.

Why create a laptop that would not need a necessarily need a trackpad? A major reason was size.

The trackpad on MacBooks and other laptops took up much space, increasing the overall size of the device, as against a laptop without a track pad, which could shrink in overall size or allow greater space for the keyboard so the keys were not scrunched together and would therefore be easier to type on.

Users would also be able to work faster since their hands would never have to leave the keyboard to move to a trackpad.

The Fusion Keyboard would allow users to swipe their fingers across the keys to move across the screen, just as one could with a trackpad.

The touch-sensitive keys would provide all the functionality of a trackpad, giving users the ability to point and click, select items, zoom in and out and scroll around the screen, all without having to leave the keyboard.

The keyboard would be able to detect when a user was touching the keys, even if these were not being fully depressed them as required by a traditional keyboard, according to the application.

It could also sense how much force was being used against each key, allowing the device to react differently when keys were struck by a variable amount of force.

Consequently, each key would be able to accept multiple inputs, rather than only accept a binary choice of depressed or not depressed. Since keys could be depressed at multiple levels each level could correspond to a different function depending on the level of depression.

With the multitouch input capability, which would not alter its overall appearance many of the benefits of multitouch, gesture-based input capability could be realised without negatively affecting the user's text entry experience.

The patent application describes a design, which would allow Mac keyboards to accept some of the types of gesture inputs people were accustomed to using with the touch-sensitive displays on devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

Potentially, users would be able to pinch, and expand images on the monitors of their devices using gestures similar to the ones they already used.

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