A keyboard or keyboard key that has a force sensor that measures the force imparted to the key when a user presses the key or rests a finger on a key. Key embodiments may also include an actuator that excites the in order to provide feedback to the user in accordance with various feedback methods disclosed herein.
The patent describes a keyboard having a number of keys that are operable to measure a force with which the key is pressed. More specifically, when a user presses a key or rests a finger on a key, the force imparted to the key from the finger is measured or otherwise registered by a force sensor associated with the key. The key may output a signal that varies with the force imparted to the key so that the larger system to which the keyboard is connected may register a keyboard input. Once the system receives the keyboard input, the system may interpret the input and execute a command or function associated with the key.
By measuring keyboard input with force sensors Apple is able to create an ultra-low travel keyboard. Specifically, the keys are not required to move a substantial distance when a user presses the keys. In contrast, when a key of a conventional keyboard is pressed, the key travels a substantial distance in order to close a switch or otherwise make a contact that registers a key press. Because many force sensors can sense relatively small changes in a distance through changes in force, present embodiments allow for thinner keyboards in comparison to conventional keyboards.
Additionally, by providing force sensors to measure keyboard input, it's possible to expand the functionality of the keyboard. "More specifically, different functions or commands may be associated with different levels of force input received at the key."
Apple recently released a new Magic Keyboard which features "optimized key travel". Based on their rollout of Force Touch across other devices we could see Apple implement this patent in a future release. As usual you can follow iClarified on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or RSS for updates.
Read More [via PatentlyApple]