Apple’s Keyless Keyboard is Impossibly Sexy

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.

[Digital Trends via The Week]


18 Responses to Apple’s Keyless Keyboard is Impossibly Sexy

  1. I’m sorry, I love this blog, but this is more mental than sexy.
    I could understand using this for something like a public terminal, but for in home, that keyboard is going to get annoying fast. The best part about an actual keyboard is that there ARE buttons. Without them, you’re going to constantly need to look down because your hands don’t have anywhere to reset to.
    Have fun with this, I’ll keep my tactile keyboard.

    • All you'd need is a new "home key." I could easily imagine two little bumps on a screen for F and J. How this would work for a non-standard keyboard (for gaming, image design etc.) would be something different, but this is still in a patent stage.

      • I used to own keyboard covers for Photoshop and Final Cut Pro that helped me find the shortcut keys faster (but got annoying so fast, because they were hard to type on!), but my hands still rested on those F/J home keys. I imagine it would work exactly the same if it had those. Without those, I think the technology would be hard to use, but with them, I would totally want it! And 99% of what I do on my computer is writing.

    • Whilst there are various forms of touch typing, some people have actually memorised the keyboard and don't type using 'resets', but rather from simply knowing where everything is naturally.

      For people who type in such a way, this keyboard could actually be rather nifty.

      • The thing is that even then you are getting constant tactile feedback on your hands relative position on the keyboard by the concavity of the keys. People keep trying to reinvent the keyboard but what do 90+% of people who write use? A traditional keyboard. It is nifty technology and I am sure will have uses, but there is an important tactile facet to keyboards, and for anyone who is a real typist they will never use one of these as it would be difficult to use.

  2. Yet another "think different" innovation from Steve for those who value form over function. Good for those who like to feel special at Starbucks, but not for those who actually use keyboards.

  3. This technology and the application of the technology have been around well before they got the ol' "apple-polish", the idea isn't even a steve jobs original in any way. This sort of thing has been floating around for years, Apple is just clawing at rights for anything they can sleek up and build into precious ingots of pure white plastic and money

  4. that blatant unfounded apple bashing aside, dynamic keyboards with context-sensitive button layouts sound neat, I'd like gaming with keys arranged and named for what they do, instead of having them assigned to a bunch of letters where I may or may not forget them and have to look at the controls over and over again

  5. "Keyless keyboard"? Isn't that a bit of an oxymoron?

    On topic, I've wondered for a while now why this hasn't happened already. Context sensitive keyboards add a whole new depth to an OS's potential, and allows much more flexibility for both general programmes and games in specific.

  6. Touchstream did that quite a few years ago. You could go from typing to gestures like pinch-zooms. They've since folded but I've still got mine.

  7. These type of things always look cool especially with the keyboard being like.. A SCREEN! OMG! not just the hard to type on little one on a "smart phone" but a full sized keyboard. When you think about it a standard keyboard really works best.. keyboards get beat up I'd hate to accidentally knock that thing off the desk. it's not even on a cord, i.e. safety line..

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  9. Sounds pretty neat, but useless to me. I'm not a big fan of Macs, and this keyboard would certainly be Mac-exclusive if developed by Apple. You'd have to use a Mac computer to use it, cause something like this would be a massive cash cow, and Apple is all exclusive and stuff

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