Apple Patents a Motion Sensing Keyboard
A newly discovered Apple patent suggests Apple may be looking at ways to implement multi-touch interfaces without a touchscreen. MacRumors
uncovered the application, which describes Kinect-like technology that would allow users to point and make gestures in the air above the keyboard, just as they would on a trackpad.
The patent application, entitled "Image Processing for Camera Based Motion Tracking
," notes that the keyboard is still the preferred way of entering data into a computer. However, as many users have noted, it can be inconvenient to have to take their hand away from the keyboard while typing and move it to a mouse or trackpad to make a selection or execute some command. This invention would use four small cameras around the main keys, two on the left and two on the right, pointing upwards towards the user in order to sense three-dimensional motion of both hands.
The switch from "keyboard" to "invisible trackpad" mode would happen when the user presses a key and holds it, or engages a "sticky" key (a key that changes mode when you press it once, like caps lock). The cursor would then follow the movement of the user's opposite hand and fingers. When the pointer is on the target, the user would tap whatever two keys are under her fingers to click.
As always, the fact that Apple has applied for a patent on this technology doesn't mean that there's going to be a product using it any time soon, if ever. However, Apple's been putting huge resources into multi-touch interfaces, and it's still unclear how they're going to be able to bring the gestures of iOS into the desktop computing world. Certainly, offering a way to be able to keep your hands on the keyboard is going to be attractive to business users and other professionals. If they can make this work smoothly and intuitively, they'll have an enormous advantage over the competition.