Apple patent application reveals new flat keyless keyboard for desktops and more

“Late last week the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that revealed yet another take on a possible future virtual keyboard for the iMac and other devices,” Jack Purcher reports for Patently Apple.

“Apple’s first major patent concerning larger virtual keyboards surfaced in 2009,” Purcher report. “Then in 2011, a wave of major virtual keyboard patents surfaced that illustrated the depth of Apple’s research in this area.”

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Purcher reports, “Last week Apple revealed their fifth major effort into keyless keyboards by disclosing their new piezo-based acoustic and capacitive detection system which includes a very cool glass based keyboard concept that may be a winner.”

Much more in the full article, including Apple’s patent application illustrations, here.


  1. Personally, I find the lack of tactile feedback a major impediment to fast, accurate typing on a virtual keyboard; and I seriously doubt that I’m the only one who feels this way.

    1. I agree, but this might work…

      “Further, the flat surface keyboard may also include a haptic or tactile feedback mechanism that is activated when the user presses or taps on a key of the keyboard. In general, the haptic response may provide a force, vibration and/or motion to the user’s fingers or hands in response to the user pressing on the keyboard surface. “

      1. Then I have to ask – what’s the freakin’ point? — “Rather than having an easy to make physical keyboard, we’ll have this flat glass keyboard that will then have advanced electronics to make it into a pretend physical keyboard.”

        1. The freakin’ (or friggin’, depending on your dialect) point is that this is a transitional step towards keyboardless, mouseless multi-touch iMacs with haptic-feedback displays and virtual keyboards on the screen.

          In other words, completion of the convergence between iOS and Mac OS X that already began with Lion.

        2. The point is that it’s a keyboard when you want it to be a keyboard, a Spanish or Thai or Russian or whatever keyboard when you need that, or something else entirely when you need that. It’s flexible in the same way that a monitor is more flexible than a printed page.

    2. To a point i agree.

      I can type almost as fast on my iPad as i can on my Apple wireless KB.

      But toss me on a old PC keyboard… and i screw up badly.
      you know, the old 17 foot keypress to select a word…
      the Wireless keyboard, and the wired if you want the num pad, uses Apple’s laptop keyboard. At first i thought i wouldn’t like it… But i do love it.
      My mom hated her new keyboard with her Mini. for a few days. She was used to the huge keyboards she always had with a winblows PC.

      I let her use my Magic trackpad…. yeah, that ain’t happening. 😉

      I WANT the tactile feedback from the key strokes. But not like the old keyboards. The apple keyboards (laptop and desktop) are perfect.
      I have seen those keyboards that project a keyboard on your desktop.. not sure i’d be able to use it.

      1. What, you don’t like typing on marshmallows…?

        The iPad is much easier and faster to type on than I ever thought possible for me. I still prefer my wireless Apple keyboard, and I can’t get through a sentence anymore without screwing up on the old white ‘marshmallows’.

  2. If anyone can ‘create a better mousetrap’ …it’s Apple 🙂

    I like the sound of that piezo acoustic detection…
    Perhaps a symphony would translate into beatiful prose or even poetry? Or vice versa?
    Just musin’

    1. If you think about it, a screen could be placed under the glass surface. The screen could then adapt to the user from the text on the keys to the layout of the board. Using iOS 5 on an iPad the keyboard can be split to the sides and dragged up allowing much easier typing when holding in portrait.

      1. The problem with merging screen and keyboard is that it is terrible ergonomics and everyone knows it. The only display position that is good for your neck and eyes longterm is straight ahead at eye level. And the only good keyboard position that won’t destroy your wrists or give you so-called gorilla arm is at forearm level, with your elbow angle at 90 degrees (i.e., on your desk or keyboard tray). Never shall the twain meet.

        For people that touch the keyboard occasionally or in very limited ways (gamers), or in very short bursts (chat, Facebook, Twitter), a virtual keyboard is fine.

        Personally I can’t tolerate the new Mac keyboards, because I am always losing my finger placement. I think it may be because they don’t have a bump on the F and J keys (or it isn’t a good one … I don’t have one of those keyboards handy to look at), or maybe the key spacing is just too unfamiliar.

        1. there is a bump on the keys, at least mine does. it is smaller compared to other keyboards. my PC keyboard’s next to me is a lot bigger.

          I hear what you are saying, It took me a while to adjust to the wireless keyboard. But since it’s the same keyboard as my MBP it wasn’t too bad.

  3. I like my iPad virtual keyboard for simlple stuff. Apple will have to nail haptics big-time for me to even consider a virtural keyboard. But because their research teams have come up with several version of late, you have to wonder just how advanced Apple has gotten this to. That glass version that they point to sounds promising, but it all comes down to the haptics quality. We’ll see if Ives could pull it off.

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