Skip to main content

New Apple patent: Air keyboards that sense your fingers

keyboardApple’s latest keyboard idea was published today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The concept aims to use proximity sensors that will enhance tactile feedback from keystrokes which will, in turn, enhance user experience. The filing was entitled: “Input Devices and Methods of Operation”.

The problem they’re finding is that computing devices such as computers, mobile communication devices and portable media players, have become smaller and thinner. Smaller, low profile devices, like the MacBook Air, have smaller keyboards or keypads. When you press down on those keys they travel less distance than keys on a conventional keyboard, and Apple believes that this disparity doesn’t provide “a fully satisfactory user experience for users accustomed to more conventional designs.”

The inventors, Aleksandar Pance, Michael Sinclair and Brett Bilbrey, are pondering two solutions to the problem. The first system is intended to provided tactile feedback before the users comes in contact with the key. Once a key detects the proximity of a user about to type, the keyboard will “flow air from the input device proximate the key in question”. The air will come from either micro-preforated keys or holes adjacent to the key.

The other system involves the key being pneumatically pulled away from the user once it detects the typing intention. This pneumatic system would make it easier on finger when depressing keys. The patent says that the two systems “may be used in combination, providing initial air resistance to movement, and then withdrawing the key from the users touch.”

The designs could also be implemented in virtual keyboards “wherein each key location is merely a defined region on a solid surface” where contact with the surface region would signal keystrokes.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Editors' Recommendations

Jeff Hughes
Former Digital Trends Contributor
I'm a SF Bay Area-based writer/ninja that loves anything geek, tech, comic, social media or gaming-related.
New MacBooks are coming, but they aren’t worth waiting for
The keyboard and trackpad of the MacBook Air.

Ah, yes -- the eternal question MacBook buyers have: Is it worth waiting?

On the surface, it might seem like it. After all, we're at the beginning of a new chip refresh cycle, with Apple launching the M3 in November. But if you're looking at buying any of the available MacBooks, I'd say you're in a good spot to buy one that's currently available and not regret your choices come next year.
The M3 isn't worth waiting for

Read more
iPad Pro vs. MacBook Air: It’s closer than you’d think
Two iPad Pro tablets next to each other against a black background. Both have Apple's Magic Keyboard case.

You might assume that the iPad Pro and the MacBook Air are worlds apart, but they’re actually pretty similar devices when you think about it. Both are built for portability, come in two display sizes, and cost roughly the same. Picking between them is trickier than it first looks.

We’ve put together this guide to help you choose the right device, no matter your budget or use case. Whether you prioritize performance, portability, display, software, or something else, you should feel much more confident in your decision by the end of this article.
Price

Read more
M2 MacBook Air vs. M1 MacBook Air: things have changed
A man holds the new Macbook Air (2022) in his hands.

The Apple MacBook Air M1 has been among our favorite MacBooks for some time now, and it's even held a place on our list of the best laptops overall. The new MacBook Air M2 is a significant redesign, bringing with it a new chassis and Apple's latest M2 processor.

Sometimes, it's easy to recommend the new model over the old one, especially when the new model brings significant improvements. The M2 MacBook Air qualifies, as it feels a lot more like a completely new model than a simple replacement of the old one. While Apple continues to sell the original M1 MacBook Air at a lower price, the M2 MacBook Air can often be had for only a little more money. That makes the choice between them a lot easier.
Specs
 

Read more