Not content with going gesture-crazy and turning mouse scrolling upside down in Mac OS X Lion, Apple has been pondering ways of tossing the traditional keyboard in the dustbin. A new Apple patent application has surfaced revealing Cupertino’s take on an entirely flat, touch-sensitive keyboard that come to future MacBooks.
The Apple patent application details several ways of building the flat surface keyboard. One suggests it could be constructed from a solid material such as metal or plastic with keys machined, stamped or micro-perforated onto it to allow the user to press or tap a flat key.
The more radical approach though would be to use a piece of glass with the interface provided as graphics on a display screen beneath the surface. Apple’s plan suggests a haptic feedback mechanism would be included to let you know you’d actually hit a key and that the keyboard would have LED backlighting for lowlight situations.
Apple explains that the flat keyboard would detect inputs using a combination of piezo-electric sensors and capactive sensors. It also describes versions of the design with seisometers and accelerometers added into the mix to better detect the way the user is interacting with the surface.
As interesting as the patent application is, we’re pretty sure it won’t pop up on as a fully-formed feature in a future Apple product. That said, some of the ideas that it is toying with in this application almost certainly will. While we don’t really think the physical feedback offer by a traditional keyboard is about to be ditched, Mac OS X Lion shows Apple is serious about making touch a much bigger deal for laptops.
Can you ever imagine yourself tapping away at a laptop with a totally touchscreen keyboard? Or is the prospect of ditching traditional tapping a nightmare vision?