With all of the talk about the possibility of a new iPhone coming next summer, or the potential introduction of an Apple tablet within weeks, the guys at Cupertino might have left a hint about what changes we might find in regard to virtual keyboards on a new iPhone or on a tablet. A patent application filed on August 28th of this year called “Keystroke Tactility Arrangement on a Smooth Touch Surface”, shows how a surface on a device would be smooth while the user was using swipes or gestures. When in "keyboard" mode, bumps and dots appear to help the user type faster and with more accuracy. According to the application, "The articulating frame may provide key edge ridges that define the
boundaries of the key regions or may provide tactile feedback
mechanisms within the key regions. The
articulating frame may also be configured to cause concave depressions
similar to mechanical key caps in the surface." Another part of the application discusses how the keys on the keyboard wild have harder resistance on the outer edges of the key with softer resistance in the center of the virtual keys, guiding users to the correct key that you want pressed. The application also notes that pointing is easier on a smoother service with little friction while typing is best on keys with hard edges that fingertips can detect. Putting a dot on every key would help users find their location. The patent gives the user of a device equipped with this technology, the best of both worlds.
Another Apple patent application revealed this week deals with multi-touch sensors that use a transparent touch surface and does not require an opaque surface as is necessary with current technology because of the way that circuitry must be placed behind electrodes. This patent application, called "Multipoint Touch Surface Controller" includes drive electronics that stimulate the multi-touch sensor and circuits for reading the sensor together in one integrated package. The difference to current multi-touch tech has to do with the limits of today's circuits to detect touch because of the larger size of the unit.
The two patents mesh with one found in October that showed how ten individual fingers and two resting palms could be identified separately which would allow for unprecedented integration of typing, resting, pointing,
scrolling, 3D manipulation, and handwriting into a versatile, ergonomic
computer input device." Put this all together and it seems that Apple is about to rock our world again.