Apple has filed for a patent (number 11500538) for a “keyless keyboard with force sensing and haptic feedback” for Macs, iPads, and perhaps even standalone keyboards for use with desktops.
About the patent
Traditional computing input devices, such as mice, keyboards, and trackpads, tend to operate using dedicated keys or buttons. The operation of each key or button may be tied to a particular function or command. However, Apple says that ttraditional input devices lack the flexibility to accommodate expansive features offered by newer devices, operating systems, and software. As a further drawback, the dedicated keys or buttons of traditional input devices are unable to adapt to different user needs and preferences.
Alternative input devices, such as touch-input devices, appear to offer some greater flexibility for input scenarios and customization than mechanical keyboards, mice, and similar input devices. However, Apple says that touch sensitive input devices often have a flat, inflexible input surface that gives little or no tactile feedback to a user and may therefore be less desirable for many scenarios than traditional input devices.
The tech giant says that improved input devices are needed to provide both greater flexibility and customizability while providing feedback to a user during operation. Apparently, Apple thinks a keyless (or virtual) keyboard is a potential solution.
Summary of the patent
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent: “An input device for an electronic device includes an enclosure and a top member defining an input surface having multiple differentiated input regions. The input device further includes a first force sensing system associated with a first area of the top member and including a first group of the differentiated input regions, and a second force sensing system associated with a second area of the top member and including a second group of the differentiated input regions.
“The input device further includes a touch sensing system configured to determine which input region from the first group of the differentiated input regions corresponds to the first force input and to determine which input region from the second group of the differentiated input regions corresponds to the second force input.”