Surface keyboard could be slimmed down using haptic feedback

Another Surface-related patent has emerged – following the potential Surface Dial and Pen innovations we saw last week – and this time it appears Microsoft is hoping to improve the keyboard of its hybrid laptop.

As the patent (spotted by Windows Latest) outlines, the idea is to use keys with haptic feedback rather than traditional mechanical means (i.e. “rubber or metal dome switches along with scissor mechanisms” as Microsoft puts it).

The idea is that haptic feedback could still give the user a pleasant typing experience in terms of key travel and overall feel, while not requiring any actual physical travel for the key, therefore meaning the keyboard base can be made thinner (as the key mechanism is slimmer).

The trick, of course, is to achieve haptic feedback technology which can successfully emulate the feel of a ‘real’ keyboard with physical travel, and it seems Microsoft is confident in achieving this.

The patent observes: “Implementations described and claimed herein provide a push button comprising a spring element with a user-perceptible physical travel upon depression of the push button, and a haptic element that simulates additional travel of the push button upon depression of the push button.”

Svelte Surface

And, when combined with the great quest to also make the tablet section of the hybrid thinner, the end result could be a much more svelte Surface 2-in-1. Or indeed a thinner standalone keyboard if Microsoft applied this trick to those products.

The patent in question has just been published, but was first filed back in July 2017.

It’ll be interesting to see if Microsoft can make progress down this particular avenue, but as ever with the development of technology, many would-be or prototype products are discarded before they ever see the light of day.

As we mentioned at the outset, the Surface Dial could also be in line for a nifty improvement, namely the addition of a touch sensor to the top of the peripheral, allowing for multiple gesture-based controls.

Furthermore, the Surface Pen could also benefit from the inclusion of haptic feedback in the future.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).