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Apple patents multitouch keyboard

updated 10:45 am EDT, Thu October 25, 2007

Apple multitouch keyboard

Apple has developed a multitouch keyboard technology, an application published by the US Patent and Trademark Office reveals. A completed keyboard would be an extension of concepts used in the iPhone and the iPod touch, melding typing, gesture and pointing (mouse) functions into a single computer accessory. Apple notes on its application that this should have numerous advantages, "such as eliminating need for mouse as a separate pointing device, eliminating wasteful reaches between keyboard and pointing device, and general workflow streamlining."

"However," Apple cautions, "pointing and typing have opposite tactile feedback needs." Pointing and gestures require the smoothest surface possible to function, but typing on a keyboard is usually accomplished with tactile feedback, which helps users to find keys and distinguish them. Adding ridges to a touch surface is said to solve this problem, but at the expense of creating a rough pointing surface.

Apple has proposed four alternative answers to the issue: the first is a different kind of feedback, in the form of dots, bars or other shapes on most or all keys. Sections of a keyboard might alternately be given varying feedback, while another suggestion is an articulating frame, which would extend when typing but retract for other uses. The third solution involves a frame set to cause depressions when typing, while a fourth would involve a completely rigid frame, simply creating more resistance when moving away from key centers.

The proposed patent is attributed to Wayne Carl Westerman of San Francisco, and makes reference to a similar keyboard concept called TouchStream, manufactured by a now-defunct company called FingerWorks. The multitouch keyboard is the latest in a stream of patents from Apple, which have included dynamic device input, design trademarks for the iPhone, and distinctive file sharing and updating systems.

by MacNN Staff




  1. Constable Odo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Might be a good....

    keyboard for a blind typist. I'll be rooting for any device that can eliminate the mouse. I like touchpads since I don't need to be grabbing and pulling on a mouse.

  1. TheSnarkmeister

    Joined: Dec 1969



    The is ridiculous. Apple isn't shipping a keyboard that does any of this. They don't even have plans to. They are just fishing, trying to grab a claim on anyone else's future innovations. This was not the intend of patent law when the founders of this country set it up. They had just thrown off the yoke of special interest government, here in America they certainly didn't intend to establish a system whereby the rich could stake a claim on all future ideas. Apples has not even come up with a way to solve the problem they acknowledge in the patent claim, they just offer a selection of possible ways solutions and make the outlandish claim that they have a claim to the solution because of thought of the problems first. It is outrageous that the patent office is granting such patents. This is government under the Republicans and the Democrats (yes, this out of control patent issuing started under Clinton). It is time for a big, big change in Washington; before they sell off all of our children's future to the children of the rich. Violent revolutions are expensive, in both money and lives. A peaceful revolution at the polls now, could prevent a bloody one in the future.

  1. hokizpokis

    Joined: Dec 1969


    dear mr snark

    is this the best use of your time; ie. ranting??

    maybe you should have patented the rant first before you give away all your secrets...

  1. dmsimmer

    Joined: Dec 1969



    You are spot on about the patent thing. The term Corporatist is what we have making laws these days. I believe Apple only started doing these broad patents because they started being sued for everything. (Don't hold me to that position)

    But I do believe they have something in the pipeline. I hope. I hate the mouse.

  1. elroth

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: snark

    Where did you come up with that nonsense? First of all, you don't know what plans Apple has for future keyboards. (I personally don't like this idea, and prefer the mouse for accuracy and for ergonomics).

    Second, Apple has never sued anyone for violating a patent that Apple received but never developed. You're barking up the wrong tree (and you're not only barking, but seem to have rabies as well). Apple has been the victim of many dubious patent suits, not the perpetrator of such suits.

    As for the political rant, it's more a product of doing nothing, as the laws have always been what they are. People have found new ways to abuse the system, which needs a major overhaul.

    Still, patent law is a minor piece of the "selling off our childrens' future" problem, compared with revolving-door lobbying, defense contracting bribery, selling off our natural resources to high-placed friends, etc.

  1. UnCal

    Joined: Dec 1969



    What an inventive way of turning a discussion about a patent into a vessel for asserting your political stance. Lamentably, nobody gives a toss. And since when do you know Apple's game plan?

  1. Mrjinglesusa

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Not a patent...yet...

    I hate when MacNN does this. It is NOT a patent. Apple has filed a patent APPLICATION. There is no guarantee that this will even issue into a patent.

  1. BelugaShark

    Joined: Dec 1969



    This would be great, better than the Optimus keyboard

    Think ultra-thin notebook. Nay-sayers will change their mind once the product is released or demonstrated. I remember the same nay-sayers when Apple bought NeXT, when the iPod was released, and when OSX was announced.

  1. chotty

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Snark is a Leftist.... I mean Lefty, no need for KB.

  1. krisbrowne41

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I can't find a reference now, but it was my understanding that Apple had bought fingerworks and hired their people to do the iPhone touchscreen, since the Touchstream implemented most of what they were doing.

    I have a touchstream, and I have seen people pay as much as $1000 to get replacements because they are so game-changing once you learn them. If anyone can move that to the mainstream it's apple.

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