Apple has a keyboard on a touch screen that actually acts like a keyboard?

The key problem when working with various touch devices is the lack of tactile feedback.

While smooth sliding surface might be great for scrolling through playlists or zooming in to the Google maps on an iPhone, some functions – like typing messages, just doesn’t feel right when you can not feel the key you pressed.

But don’t worry, Apple feels your pain and is working hard on adding tactile feedback to the Multi-Touch user interface. The possibility to include haptics was mentioned in a key iPhone patent a while ago and we may well see some concrete efforts here soon.

Apple has filed the patent called “Keystroke tacility arrangement on a smooth touch surface” recently, where they disclose various tactile feedback techniques on a smooth touch surface keyboard.

These techniques include:

Braille-like dot pairs or bars at key centers

Articulating frame that protrudes at key edges during typing

Articulating frame that deforms surface cover at key edges during typing

Rigid frame under key edges with compressible key centers

Depending on the technology used, tactile feedback mechanisms can be permanently fixed on a touch keyboard surface, hidden under it or moved into place when required.

While the technologies described in the patent application can not be directly applied on a current tactile feedback problem on iPhone and iPod touch, it’s nice to see that Apple is doing some serious research in the haptics field.

With Multi-Touch interface improvements at the center of Apple’s future strategy, I’m sure they’ll come up with some interesting tactile feedback tricks for the touchscreens as well.

[via Apple’s touch surface keyboard with tactile feedback » Unwired View]

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