Apple patent application reveals ‘keyless keyboard’ featuring haptic feedback

“The US Patent & Trademark Office has published a patent application from Apple that greatly advances their keyless keyboard project in greater detail with patent figures illustrating multiple morphing interface options that are on the drawing board,” Jack Purcher reports for Patently Apple.

“One such interface that is illustrated is one that will be able to control iTunes / Apple Music. While the illustration is clear, it’s limited. The second display could of course provide greater details such as colorful equalizer controls and much more. Apple also quickly mentions an interface with virtual “gaming inputs” as another possible option supported by this keyless keyboard,” Purcher reports. “The other major advancement in this project focuses on delivering realistic touch on this virtual keyboard. The second display is designed to be flexible and in-tune with force sensors and a unique haptic board beneath the second display.”

“Apple’s invention covers a keyless keyboard with an input surface having multiple differentiated input regions. The keyless keyboard will provide multiple force touch areas,” Purcher reports. “An input device that includes force sensing, haptic outputs, and an adaptive display may be used to define user interfaces other than traditional keyboards. Apple’s patent FIG. 16 above depicts an example input device #1600 incorporated within a notebook or laptop computer in which an alternative user input is produced on an adaptive input surface #1604.”

Apple patent application reveals 'keyless keyboard' featuring haptic feedback
Apple patent application reveals ‘keyless keyboard’ featuring haptic feedback

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

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote just yesterday, “When the Apple’s software, Taptic Engine, and other innovations can provide the necessary tactile cues – as Force Touch trackpad and Magic Trackpad 2 do already – we’re all for it!”

The problem is… these control buttons that are fixed in plastic and are the same for every application. Well, every application wants a slightly different user interface, a slightly optimized set of buttons, just for it. And what happens if you think of a great idea six months from now? You can’t run around and add a button to these things. They’re already shipped… It doesn’t work because the buttons and the controls can’t change. They can’t change for each application, and they can’t change down the road if you think of another great idea you wanna add to this product. Well, how do you solve this? Hmm. It turns out, we have solved it! — Steve Jobs, unveiling the iPhone, January 9, 2007

Where Apple’s reinvention of the keyboard may go next: Full touchscreen – March 14, 2018
MacPad? Apple granted a patent for a dual display MacBook or future-gen iPad Pro – February 28, 2018


  1. I know this sort of tech in inevitable. But I also know that fingers are not going to enjoy pounding on solid objects all day. Move over, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Here comes Digital Distress Syndrome. We’ve already seen a form of this problem starting years back with worn out thumbs punching on tiny cell phone keyboards. Thumb tips become bruised, making it painful to type.

    1. …IS inevitable…

      Already an idea:
      Having a softer surface on which to type than a sheet of glass. I’ve seen this in a few sci-fi programs, including the Stargate Atlantis series. Add that to Taptic feedback and Apple may have a THING. (^_^)

  2. Could somebody please explain how haptic feedback is going to help a touch typist find the home keys? It can certainly improve the experience of typing on a flat surface while watching your fingers, but that isn’t what touch typists do. The are looking somewhere other than either their fingers or the screen.

    1. Seriously! I will just stop upgrading my MacBook if this happens. I never look at the keyboard. In fact, even the TouchBar has gotten no use from me because I never look at it. The only use it has gotten is from Touch ID instead of entering passwords. Uselsss gimmick for a trained typist. They don’t even realize they’re catering to unskilled people. Pro users don’t want this garbage. Hey might get away with it on a 12” MacBook but not any of the MacBook Pros. I even want my TouchBar gone. I hate having to look at it to adjust my volume and brightness. I always grunt in frustration and furrow my eyebrows any time I have to interact with it, because it’s disrupting me from my work. The laptop is a tool that is supposed to be transparent to the user and allow me to get my work done seamlessly. But instead the focus is taken off of my work and placed instead on their useless product “features.” This decades my productivity, it doesn’t enhance it.

  3. Curious. This sounds almost precisely like the existing keyboard of the Lenovo Yoga Book, which is also adaptive and haptic. What’s more, I’m amazed they’ve been able to patent this idea – or maybe it’s still at the application stage – because you could argue that any touch screen is essentially an adaptive keyboard (or potentially so), with haptic feedback if required (I know my iPhone buzzes me every time I type a character or press specific “virtual” buttons).

  4. I work in a hospital and we have many devices with a virtual keyboard on screen AND a conventional keyboard. Guess which one gets used almost all the time and which one never gets used.

    The keyless keyboard with haptic feedback is the answer to the question nobody is asking. Anyone with even minimal keyboarding skills hates virtual keyboards.

  5. I have a problem with this. I learned to type correctly, and never look at the keyboard, not even when placing my hands onto it for the first time. I gain my correct positioning from the grooves on F and J and by feeling the rest of the key shapes with my fingertips. A major problem I have had with the latest MacBook Pro is accidentally hitting keys on it while moving my hands around to gain that feel. I also rest my fingertips on the keys even when not actively typing. Making the whole thing a completely flat and numb experience will essentially prevent me from typing and force me to chicken-peck like some unskilled high school drop out on their Gateway computer in a trailer park. The only way I would be okay with this is if the keys retained structure, and had customizable levels of force required to activate the keystroke, to where I could continue using it efficiently without ever looking at it. But even so, if I never look at it, then what is the point of some giant touch screen that never gets noticed? I really think this is for the below average user who always looks at their keyboard because they do not know how to type.

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