Is This the Tablet's Keyboard?
In the crush of reports about the increasingly-likely Apple tablet announcement, there was one particularly intriguing hint. An anonymous source identified only as a "recently departed Apple employee" told the New York Times's Nick Bilton
that users “will be very surprised how [they] interact with the new tablet.” A recently revealed Apple patent covered by AppleInsider gives a clue as to what the 'surprise' might be: a virtual keyboard that you can actually feel.
One of the problems with typing on a touch surface is the inability to get any sort of feel for where the keys are. The feedback that you get from feeling the bumps on the F and J keys of a physical keyboard would be provided on this virtual keyboard by means of what Apple is calling an ‘articulating frame.'
“The articulating frame may provide key edge ridges that define the boundaries of the key regions or may provide tactile feedback mechanisms within the key regions,” Apple said in its patent application, called “Keystroke Tactility Arrangement on a Smooth Touch Surface.” The touchscreen would morph to give "concave depressions similar to mechanical key caps in the surface" when the user was typing, and return to a smooth surface when the screen was used for viewing and pointing. The device's operating system would determine whether the user wants to type or point.
“The recognition software commands lowering of the frame when lateral sliding gestures or mouse clicking activity chords are detected on the surface,” the application reads. When you place your fingers on the "home row" area of the screen, or begin to make 'typing' gestures, the device would raise the articulating frame, allowing you to orient your fingers.
The patent application was filed Aug. 28 2009 by Apple, with Wayne Carl Westerman
listed as the inventor. Westerman has 40 patents to his name, most of which are for Apple touch technology