A recently uncovered patent filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office reveals that Apple is working on a keyboard with integrated gesture control. Sounds familiar? The idea isn't too far off from the keyboard on the BlackBerry Passport smartphone. However, Apple's patent covers a full-sized, not a mobile one, designed for laptops and desktops.
Like the existing wireless keyboard that ships with the iMac with Retina 5K display, or the keyboards on the MacBook and MacBook Pro, the Fusion keyboard described in the patent comes with mechanical keys. However, as the keyboard integrates a touch sensitive layer on the key's surface, the keyboard can be used like a trackpad to scroll, perform gestures, click, select and zoom.
If adopted by Jony Ive's design team at Apple, this design would allow Apple to create smaller and even thinner notebooks as it could abandon the trackpad.
The similar technology on the BlackBerry Passport allows BlackBerry to replicate the functionality of the mini trackpad on its smartphone without requiring space on the phone to accommodate a separate trackpad.
Additionally, the design change would make accessing the trackpad even more convenient – users won't have to move their fingers to the trackpad to scroll or zoom as they can do it all from the keyboard.
Each individual keys of the keyboard would have two positions to click. This design is similar to dual-stage camera shutter buttons, like those on phones such as the Nokia Lumia 930 and the Sony Xperia Z3.
You can press the key into the first position to type like a normal keyboard. However, if you press the key harder into a second position, it could be used for different functionality, such as for typing alternate characters, accents or using a foreign alphabet. When combined with the embedded trackpad on the keyboard, this second click position can also replicate a click on the trackpad.
It's unclear if this patent, filed in 2011, will make its way into future Apple products. Currently, Apple is making a big push behind its Force touch trackpad technology. Force touch initially debuted on the 12-inch MacBook and the Apple Watch, and now the technology has made its way to the MacBook Pro with Retina display models and is rumored to arrive with the next version of the iPhone.
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