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Apple Researching Touch Surface Keyboard: Patent Application
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Fri Nov 02, 2007 10:08 pm Reply and quote this post
During the build up to Leopard's release, we overlooked a very interesting patent application from Apple that appeared last week. This latest application is another product of Apple's Fingerworks acquisition from 2005. Fingerworks had commercialized versions of multi-touch interface input devices, such as this TouchStream keyboard.

The TouchStream keyboard served a dual purpose, acting both as a keyboard as well as a multi-touch gesture surface.

While this design is space-efficient, the use of one surface to accomplish both typing and touch-sensing is less than ideal. Apple notes that traditionally, membrane or surface keyboards used raised ridges to denote key edges, however, this disrupts the surface when it is used as a touch device. Meanwhile, users have a hard time typing on a completely flat surface, so some form of key detection needs to be offered.

Macrumors wrote:
"The solution they come up with is quite interesting. They go through the motions of describing other possibilities, including small bumps on the surface of the keys as well as a mechanical actuator system in which small bumps protrude at the corners of the keys when needed.

In the end, however, what they describe is a flexible surface which lays completely flat over the keys, and can be used as a smooth flat-surfaced touch-pad. When used as a keyboard, however, small bumps rise up under the flexible surface in each of the four corners of each key. This causes a tenting effect which provides a concave surface for each of the keys. By being tied to a mechanical system, the keys can effectively appear and disappear on demand. They even describe the software being able to tell when the keys are needed based on detecting typing motions (keyboard) vs swiping gestures (touch pad).


PATENT APPLICATION:
http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=6&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PG01&s1=Apple.AS.&OS=AN/Apple&RS=AN/Apple

Quote:
Disclosed are four arrangements for providing tactility on a touch surface keyboard. One approach is to provide tactile feedback mechanisms, such as dots, bars, or other shapes on all or many keys. In another embodiment, an articulating frame may be provided that extends when the surface is being used in a typing mode and retracts when the surface is used in some other mode, e.g., a pointing mode. 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. The articulating frame may also be configured to cause concave depressions similar to mechanical key caps in the surface. In another embodiment, a rigid, non-articulating frame may be provided beneath the surface. A user will then feel higher resistance when pressing away from the key centers, but will feel a softer resistance at the key center.
Inventors:      Westerman; Wayne Carl; (San Francisco, CA)
Correspondence Name and Address:     

    WONG, CABELLO, LUTSCH, RUTHERFORD & BRUCCULERI,;L.L.P.
    20333 SH 249
    SUITE 600
    HOUSTON
    TX
    77070
    US

Assignee Name and Adress:      APPLE COMPUTER, INC.
CUPERTINO
CA

Serial No.:      380109
Series Code:      11
Filed:      April 25, 2006

U.S. Current Class:      345/168
U.S. Class at Publication:      345/168
Intern'l Class:      G09G 5/00 20060101 G09G005/00
Claims


1. A keyboard having a tactile feedback arrangement, the tactile feedback arrangement comprising: a first tactile feedback mechanism for each home row key; and an additional tactile feedback mechanism distinct from the first tactile feedback mechanism for at least one key adjacent a home row key or at least one peripheral key.

2. The keyboard of claim 1 wherein the additional tactile feedback mechanism comprises: a second tactile feedback mechanism for at least one key adjacent the home row keys; and a third tactile feedback mechanism for at least one peripheral key; wherein the second and third tactile feedback mechanisms are distinct from each other.

3. The keyboard of claim 2 wherein: the second feedback mechanism is provided for each key adjacent a home row key; and the third feedback mechanism is provided for each peripheral key.

4. The keyboard of claim 1, 2, or 3 wherein the tactile feedback mechanisms are selected from the group consisting of: a single raised dot, two raised dots arranged horizontally, two raised dots arranged horizontally, a raised bar oriented horizontally, and a raised bar oriented vertically.

5. The keyboard of claim 4 wherein the keyboard is a multi-touch surface.

6. The keyboard of claim 5 wherein the feedback mechanism is stamped into a cover of the multi-touch surface.

7. A touch sensitive surface configurable to operate as a keyboard, the touch sensitive surface comprising: a surface cover; a touch sensitive electrode circuit board disposed beneath the surface cover having a plurality of holes disposed therein; an articulating frame disposed beneath the touch sensitive electrode circuit board having integral therewith a plurality of key edge ridges aligned with the holes in the touch sensitive electrode; and at least one actuator disposed between the articulating frame and an enclosure of the touch sensitive surface and configured to displace the articulating frame so as to extend the key edge ridges through the holes in the touch sensitive electrode circuit board.

8. The touch sensitive surface of claim 7 wherein the surface cover includes a plurality of holes aligned with the holes in the circuit board and wherein the actuator is configured to displace the articulating frame so as to extend the key edge ridges through the holes in the surface cover.

9. The touch sensitive surface of claim 7 wherein the surface cover is attached to the touch sensitive electrode circuit board at a center of a key region such that extending the key edge ridges through the holes in the touch sensitive electrode circuit board forms a concave depression within the key region.

10. A touch sensitive surface according to any of claims 7, 8, or 9 wherein the key edge ridges are extended when the device operates in a typing mode and retracted when the devices operates in a pointing mode.

11. The touch sensitive surface of claim 10 wherein switching between typing mode and pointing mode is accomplished manually.

12. The touch sensitive surface of claim 11 wherein manual switching is accomplished by at least one of: actuating a switch, pressing a button, touching the surface in a pre-defined region, and performing a pre-determined gesture.

13. The touch sensitive surface of claim 10 wherein switching between typing mode and pointing mode is accomplished automatically.

14. The touch sensitive surface of claim 13 wherein at least one of the following: the typing mode is activated when asynchronous touches are detected; the typing mode is deactivated when asynchronous touches are no longer detected; the typing mode is activated when homing chords are detected; the typing mode is deactivated when homing chords are no longer detected; the pointing mode is activated when lateral sliding gestures are detected; the pointing mode is deactivated when lateral sliding gestures are detected; the pointing mode is activated when mouse clicking activity chords are detected; and the pointing mode is deactivated when mouse clicking activity chords are detected.

15. The touch sensitive surface of claim 10 wherein the key edge ridges comprise a plurality of distinct bars or dots.

16. The touch sensitive surface of claim 7 or 8 wherein the key edge ridges comprise tactile feedback mechanisms located at a center of one or more key regions.

17. The touch sensitive surface of claim 16 wherein the tactile feedback mechanisms are selected from the group consisting of: a single raised dot, two raised dots arranged horizontally, two raised dots arranged horizontally, a raised bar oriented horizontally, and a raised bar oriented vertically.

18. The touch sensitive surface of claim 16 wherein the tactile feedback mechanisms comprise: a first tactile feedback mechanism for each home row key; and an additional tactile feedback mechanism distinct from the first tactile feedback mechanism for at least one key adjacent a home row key or at least one peripheral key.

19. The touch sensitive surface of claim 18 wherein the additional tactile feedback mechanism comprises: a second tactile feedback mechanism for at least one key adjacent the home row keys; and a third tactile feedback mechanism for at least one peripheral key; wherein the second and third tactile feedback mechanisms are distinct from each other.

20. The keyboard of claim 19 wherein: the second feedback mechanism is provided for each key adjacent a home row key; and the third feedback mechanism is provided for each peripheral key.

21. A touch sensitive surface configurable to operate as a keyboard, the touch sensitive surface comprising: a surface cover; a touch sensitive electrode circuit board disposed beneath the surface cover; a frame disposed between the touch sensitive electrode circuit board and the surface cover, the frame comprising a fixed network of hard key edge ridges; and a compliant material filling gaps between the key edge ridges.

22. The touch sensitive surface of claim 21 wherein the compliant material is selected from the group consisting of: a gel, a foam, and air.

23. The touch sensitive surface of claim 21 or 22 comprising one or more tactile feedback mechanisms stamped into the surface cover.

24. The touch sensitive surface of claim 23 wherein the one or more tactile feedback mechanisms are selected from the group consisting of: a single raised dot, two raised dots arranged horizontally, two raised dots arranged horizontally, a raised bar oriented horizontally, and a raised bar oriented vertically.

25. The touch sensitive surface of claim 24 wherein the one or more feedback mechanisms comprise: a first tactile feedback mechanism for each home row key; and an additional tactile feedback mechanism distinct from the first tactile feedback mechanism for at least one key adjacent a home row key or at least one peripheral key.

26. The touch sensitive surface of claim 25 wherein the additional tactile feedback mechanism comprises: a second tactile feedback mechanism for at least one key adjacent the home row keys; and a third tactile feedback mechanism for at least one peripheral key; wherein the second and third tactile feedback mechanisms are distinct from each other.

27. The keyboard of claim 26 wherein: the second feedback mechanism is provided for each key adjacent a home row key; and the third feedback mechanism is provided for each peripheral key.

Contributed by Editorial Team, Executive Management Team
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