Apple Patent Application Details In-key Displays, Keyboard Gestures

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Apple may be looking to make your next Mac's keyboard interactive, assuming a just revealed patent application is any indication. A filing released on Thursday describes a keyboard where the keys pack in built-in displays, haptic feedback, and touch sensors.

The keyboard design sounds strikingly similar to the Optimus Maximus from Art Lebedev Studios with its OLED display keys. Each key can dynamically change based on the apps you are running, plus users can program function keys for specific jobs, like launching Web browsers and email clients.

Apple files patent for keyboard with built-in key displaysApple files patent for keyboard with built-in key displays

Apple's patent, however, goes beyond the Optimus design by including gesture-based controls and haptic feedback such as increased resistance and vibrations.

The concept of keys that can dynamically change what they show is pretty cool, and if done right, very useful. Imagine, for example, seeing on-key what different keyboard shortcuts do in complex applications like Adobe Photoshop.

Filing for a patent doesn't guarantee what Apple has in store for future Mac models, but it does offer some interesting insight into where the company may be headed. In this case, it may be farther away from IBM Selectric and closer to Star Trek.

[Thanks to Patently Apple for the heads up]

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Little displays in your Mac's keyboard that dynamically change based on what you're doing? Yes, please!



This has kind of been done before..

No doubt Apple could make it better…. but this isn’t new…


Yeah, sounds like lots of similar, previous ideas.

I would be more interested in knowing:
1. How are they affordably fitting the screens, key resistors (?), vibrators, and gesture sensors in there? Is that what makes the patent unique? or that they include all of them together?
2. What “gestures” do they mean? Is this like the Microsoft keyboard with short-range IR proximity sensors to detect 3D gestures waved over the keyboard, or is it something else?

Bill Nash

webjprgm: It’s effectively an ipad in the dimensions of a keyboard. The haptics will be interesting, but my ipad mini is only slightly thicker than a mac keyboard.


Although it’s been a concept since 2006 or 2008 (if I remember correctly), the more accurate comparison would be to this concept keyboard by Art. Lebedev Studio:

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