Apple finally lands the patent powering the 'Dryft' virtual keyboard for tablets

apple patent virtual keyboard hover sensors typesoft dryft logo
In September 2014, Apple quietly acquired startup studio Typesoft Technologies, which developed a virtual keyboard called Dryft. While the Swype virtual keyboard ruled the screens on smartphones, Dryft aimed to do the same for tablets, providing a natural typing experience and enabling speeds of up to 100 words per minute on the bigger touch screens. Typesoft co-founder and chief technology officer Randy Marsden eventually moved on to serve as Apple’s iOS keyboard manager after the acquisition, and now Apple officially owns the patent that powers the unique Dryft keyboard.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office published on Tuesday a whopping 63 patents recently granted to Apple, one of which is called “Finger Hover Detection for Improved Typing” for virtual keyboards. It was originally filed in April 2014, and apparently obtained through Apple’s acquisition of Typesoft. Marsden is listed as one of the inventors along with Rob Chaplinsky, managing partner at the venture capital firm Bridgescale Partners. Apple officially acquired the patent in July despite the patent going public on Tuesday.

“I am hands-on in developing, testing, and debugging the various algorithms used in Dryft that are breaking new ground in human-computer interface technology,” Marsden’s LinkedIn profile reads. “I manage the product specifications and manage the company’s IP and Patent portfolio. My knowledge in developing Dryft solutions ranges from low-level signal analysis of sensor data right up to higher-level algorithms for language models, pattern recognition, and UI design.”

Dryft is actually a virtual spinoff of Marsden’s previous invention, the physical Cleankeys computer keyboard. The peripheral’s biggest selling point was how easily it could be cleaned, targeting health care scenarios and other “clean” environments. The device didn’t provide moving keys, but touch and tap sensors instead that mimicked the physical typing experience on a flat surface. The company aspect of Cleankeys only remained in business for four years before Marsden co-founded Typesoft.

Apple virtual keyboard patent

Marsden’s patent, now owned by Apple, describes a method of providing home-row keys on a virtual keyboard while the user’s fingers hover just above the screen surface. These are a row of keys fingers rest upon when not in motion, thus the invention enables users to type on a tablet surface without having to look at the screen.

“The location of each of the user’s fingers while hovering and/or resting is monitored,” the abstract states. “Correlation between the hover sensor data and touch sensor data increases the confidence level by which the system can determine which of the user’s fingers were used to select a key. By determining which finger was used to make the selection, the system accurately disambiguates which letter the user intended to type.”

A provided diagram in the patent (seen above) shows an iPad-type form factor and a user typing on the touchscreen diagonally. The keyboard is split into two sections so that the hands aren’t crammed together on the screen, enabling a more fluent typing experience. Additional notes state that the technology will detect the location of the user’s hands, record the “hand print,” and then readjust the virtual keyboard’s position to reside under the hovering fingers.

Of course, the patent depends on a tablet packed with hover sensors as well as touch sensors, vibration sensors, and haptics output. You can read all 31 pages of Apple’s new patent here.

Home Theater

Apple is arming up to redefine TV just like it did the phone

Curious about what Apple's answer to Netflix will be? Us too. So we combed through some patents, and looked at the landscape, to come up with a bold prediction: Apple's streaming service will be way bigger than anyone thinks.
Home Theater

Apple may be making noise-canceling headphones safer to use on the streets

Over-the-ear headphones are massively popular, but they block a lot of outside sounds, which increases the risk of accidents. A new Apple invention hints at a way to have great sound, and great safety, and it might be coming soon.
Computing

Microsoft could be planning a laptop with foldable screen, hints patent filing

Filed in late 2017 and titled "Bendable device with Display in Movable Connection With Body," the patent filing explains a new mechanism for laptops which can eliminate a hinge and allow the screen to fold shut from the inside,
Deals

Here are 20 portable tech gadgets you’ll want to use every day

If you're looking for portable tech to keep you charged up while on the go (or for some great small gift ideas), we've rounded up 20 must-have gadgets. You'll find everything from a mini gaming controller to a folding Bluetooth keyboard.
Computing

Intel expects Apple to transition Macs to ARM processors in 2020, report says

It has been rumored for some time that Apple could transition away from Intel to ARM processors, but a new report now claims that Intel is aware of the decision and that it could happen in 2020.
Computing

Still miss Windows 7? Here's how to make Windows 10 look more like it

There's no simple way of switching on a Windows 7 mode in Windows 10. Instead, you can install third-party software, manually tweak settings, and edit the registry. We provide instructions for using these tweaks and tools.
Computing

The rumors were true. Nvidia’s 1660 Ti GPU, a $280 powerhouse, has arrived

Nvidia has officially launched the GTX 1660 Ti, its next-generation, Turing-based GPU. It promises to deliver all the performance and efficiency for all modern games, but without stepping into the high price range of the RTX series. 
Computing

Dodge the biggest laptop-buying mistakes with these handy tips

Buying a new laptop is exciting, but you need to watch your footing. There are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid and we're here to help. Check out these top-10 laptop buying mistakes and how to avoid them.
Computing

Great PC speakers don't need to break the bank. These are our favorites

Not sure which PC speakers work best with your computer? Here are the best computer speakers on the market, whether you're working with a tight budget or looking to rattle your workstation with top-of-the-line audio components.
Computing

Confused about RSS? Don't be. Here's what it is and how to use it

What is an RSS feed, anyway? This traditional method of following online news is still plenty useful. Let's take a look at what RSS means, and what advantages it has in today's busy world.
Computing

Everything you need to know about routers, modems, combos, and mesh networks

Modem vs. router: what's the difference? We explain their functions so you can better diagnose any issues prior to contacting technical support. We also talk about a few variants you'll see offered by ISPs and retailers.
Computing

Metro Exodus update brings DLSS improvements to Nvidia RTX 20-series PCs

Having issues in Metro Exodus? A February 21 update for the title recently delivered enhancements to Nvidia’s deep learning supersampling feature and other fixes for low-specced PCs. 
Computing

Limited-time sale knocks $500 off the price of the Razer Blade Pro 17

Looking for an ultra-powerful laptop for yourself or someone else? You're in for some luck. Razer is running a sale on some of its best gaming laptops, cutting down pricing on the Razer Blade 15 and the Razer Blade Pro 17. 
Emerging Tech

Engineer turns his old Apple lle into an wheeled robot, and even gives it a sword

How do you give new life to a 30-year-old computer? Software engineer Mike Kohn found a way by transforming his old Apple IIe into a wheeled robot. Check it out in all its 1980s glory.