Apple recently launched its new Force Touch technology, which is available on the latest MacBook and MacBook Pro computers, as well as the Apple Watch. That’s not the only new form of input it’s working on, however. A new patent awarded to the company describes a revamped keyboard that features multitouch keys.
The patent, titled “Fusion keyboard” describes your standard array of keys placed on a typical keyboard. The keys can be depressed to type, as an ordinary mechanical keyboard already allows, but each key also features a multitouch surface.
“A touch sensor can be included to detect touch events on the surface of the keys,” Apple explains in the patent’s abstract statement. “A keypad can also be included to detect a depression of the mechanical keys. One or more of the depressible mechanical keys can be multi-purpose keys capable of being depressed to multiple levels. The touch sensitive mechanical keyboard can receive key depression input, touch event input, or combinations thereof at the same time. The touch sensitive mechanical keyboard can further include a processor for distinguishing detected touch events from detected key depressions.”
The invention almost sounds like Force Touch for the keyboard, where a regular press on a key might activate one action, like a keystroke, while a deeper press on the key could activate another function. That could help bring up additional menus in programs, as Force Touch does inside Maps and Safari, for example, or for alleviating the need for the function keys. Imagine, for example, pressing the “5” button on your keyboard to type the number 5, or pushing deeper into the keyboard to type the symbol “%.”
The patent was first filed in 2011. We may never see this sort of tech ever hit keyboards, but with Apple’s new interest in additional forms of input, it seems plausible that we’ll see this come to fruition.