It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a significant development in keyboard design; the advent of ergonomic keyset–breaking the board down the middle to allow a more natural hand position–may have improved the lives of a few carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers, but it really didn’t alter the keyboard manufacturing landscape. It appears Apple may have a play in motion to do exactly that, though: a patent for a “Flat Keyless Keyboard for Desktops & More” was filed in 2010 and signed late last week.
The keyboard in question is designed to streamline the multi-part design of your regular keyboard by getting rid of those pesky buttons. Various design options include surfaces made of plastic or metal with a micro-perforated keyboard layout, or (this is the exciting one) a glass-topped version with an LED display that can change from your traditional QWERTY setup to limitless alternatives for gaming, music, and who even knows. WANT.
To eliminate the unreliable nature of touch-sensitive interfaces, where errant keystrokes and taps are read as deliberate because the technology isn’t yet advanced enough to distinguish between intentional and accidental input, Apple’s patent indicates that input is received via pressure-sensitive piezo-electric sensors that pick up acoustic pulse. Also included in the patent is a haptic or tactile response to keystrokes, which will be useful especially for the glass version for giving the user feedback while typing.
I like the idea of a flat, keyless keyboard, and I think the opportunity to incorporate some of those super-fancy piezoelectric nanofilm batteries is another way to put the idea fully into the OMG WANT category. Imagine a wireless keyboard that doesn’t need batteries or charging–you just have to use it. (I feel like the heavens just parted a bit here, geeks.)
How this differs from the concept for the Optimus Tactus keyboard from a couple of years ago will have to be seen. Maybe. As it turns out, Apple has been filing all kinds of keyboard patents over the last two years, so whether or not the keyless version will make it to market isn’t really known yet. But the technology is in place to work across multiple devices, potentially improving touchscreen tech, which we can all pretty much agree could be better.