Apple looks to patent chameleonic keyboard with OLED key faces

An Apple patent application (20080001787) for “Dynamically Controlled Keyboard” published today describes a chameleonic keyboard with changeable OLED key faces. The patent app was filed on March 13, 2007.

Apple’s Abstract:
Methods and apparatus, including computer program products, implementing and using techniques for providing a computer peripheral including one or more keys. Each key has several light emitting diodes disposed on a face of the key. Each of the light emitting diodes can switch on or off in response to a data signal received from an application specific integrated circuit dedicated to the key. A corresponding key and manufacturing method, as well as a computer system including one or more such keys are also described.

Apple’s Description, in part:
Broadly speaking, the present invention provides methods and apparatus for dynamically altering the key faces of keyboard keys, such that they show an accurate representation of what action will occur when a particular key is depressed. In one embodiment the altering key faces are accomplished by placing a number of organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) on each key face, and using an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) placed inside each key to turn on and turn off the respective diodes. The respective ASICs are controlled by signals originating from the software application in which the user is currently working and by the selected language locale. As a result, the users always have current and accurate information in front of them about what will happen when a particular key is depressed on the keyboard, and there is no need to memorize what actions particular key depressions will cause.

In general, in one aspect, the invention provides methods and apparatus, including computer program products, implementing and using techniques for providing a computer peripheral including one or more keys. Each key has several light emitting diodes disposed on a face of the key. Each of the light emitting diodes can switch on or off in response to a data signal received from an application specific integrated circuit dedicated to the key.

Full U.S. patent app here.

MacDailyNews Take: If it comes to fruition, hopefully it’ll cost a fraction of the Optimus Maximus LED keyboard which is currently going for US$462.27.

52 Comments

  1. chameleonic – so it can change… nice

    To me this is simply a patent for the UE (user experience) UI to be used on the up coming MacSlate” and the “iJesture” *

    A totally virtual keyboard on the upcoming ultra-slim sub-notebook for sure… Many laughed at the iPhone keyboard. Yet it is extremely accurate and in some cases better to use then the HackCherry’s keyboard. But also… the “iJesture” this will bridge new meaning for the rest of us and light will shine once 10.5.2 is provided. Expect “INK” to be enabled always after 10.5.2 is running.

    Apple slimmed the iMac keyboard – the silver aluminum keyboard is very nice and clean. Yet the GOAL when introduce was not only to style the keyboard with the iMac Aluminum BUT to eventually make it almost disappear.

    Dougless, ” In 2008, APPLE will delete the KEYBOARD as we once knew it from the face of computing. All input shall embrace this virtual chameleonic keyboard adaption. Soon we will be using our iPhones and MacSlate if we don’t own the new device called the “iJesture” *. This will stand to be a commading move for Apple to lead the industry in MULTI-TOUCH – UE for OSX 10.5.2 — as they will.” The revolution is peaked!

    So you heard it hear… Apples goals for 2008 are:

    1) no traditional keyboard or mouse to be sold
    2) 10.5.2 to become heavily Multi-Touch empowered

    chameleonic – because they will let you change the colours or appearance, yet it will always remain a QWERTY input UI system.

    For me, this is just more PROOF that the MacSlate is coming!!!!
    And a second extremely important cool device not many have dreamed of yet have tapped into on occassion.

    MEET the all new

    * “iJesture” :

    A input device to eliminate the MOUSE and KEYBOARD forever. This shall be a fun (jester) device due to programability and personal customization. Just imagine creating function keys to do what you want. Like the iPhone front screen – KEYS are the way of the PAST… want a new function – need to tool new keyboard… lack of space… painful for engineers… this is why virtual makes super sense. Plus tactile feed back will be used when typing with “iJesture”.

    BUT “iJesture” is more then just a virtual keyboard, as the name implies one can gesture multi-touch functionality… your finger is the mouse and many other tools also. The device will also be easy to use and easy to maintain. Enjoy your drinks while you work as this can be submerged in 100 feet of water and still work. A wireless and a USB version will be available. Gesturing on the device to navigate to any location just as you use to with your mouse… but this time your finger does the walking. Double click is ONE click TWO fingers. We know what pinching is… Zoom IN and OUT… but there are tones more – all revealed with the “iJesture”… even the Newtons features – already installed “INK” will jive with the “iJesture” and we will all see…
    the convergence of CoreAnimation, CoreGraphics, and Ink make Apple and Multi-Touch the DREAM we all have been wanting.

    Dougless

  2. I think this is just a placeholder patent in case they need it. It would make way more sense to have the keyboard be a *single* OLED than it does to make it from 100 separate OLED’s.

    If Apple’s patents on deformable multi-touch surfaces, haptic feedback multi-touch surfaces, combined with the automatic gesture/stylus detection don’t equal a much better solution than Art Lebedev could dream of, I guess they could use this as a fall-back position. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  3. A OLED keyboard sounds good but Dougless has a better idea.

    If a low costing, low resolution, iJesture board is feasible which could be but I doubt it will also have tactile feed back, then it will be far better then an OLED keyboard.

    And yes, imagine the keys re-colour to different application usage also. Still, a iJesture could be more universal in the sense of language, characters… always changing the way we need it.

    Maybe a virtual slide bar – like on the iPhone to slide the keyboard off and show nothing but a blank space for multi-touch things, slide again and it’s a ink space for drawing like newton or character input for say Chinese characters or Hebrew…
    An iJesture thingie could be amazing but cost is a factor.

    RON

  4. OLED is nice, but why not use e-ink like in e-book readers. They don’t emit light, but seem to be perfect for a keyboard that has interchangeable keys. What do you guys think (different) ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”grin” style=”border:0;” />

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