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Future Apple keyboards may offer adjustable feedback

Future Apple keyboards may offer adjustable feedback based on a new patent filing (number 20210375564). 

About the patent filing

In the patent filing, Apple notes that keyboards, input devices, and related systems include key mechanisms with keycaps and actuators that provide adjustable feedback in response to user input. The actuators are controllable to provide variable tactile force or audible feedback that is dependent upon the user input. 

Encoders are able to transduce a location or relative position of a keycap as it is being pressed over time, and a signal is provided to actuators to cause them to provide feedback corresponding to the position of the keycap as it moves. 

Apple’s idea is to allow the feedback to change the feel or sound of the keycap based on the keycap positions, time of operation, velocity, user identity, and other factors. This means the feel or sound of a keyboard or related input device can be adjusted electronically. It would also allow increased user customization and feedback modes.

Summary of the patent filing

Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent filing: “Aspects of the present disclosure relate to a keyboard. The keyboard can comprise a support surface and a set of key mechanisms positioned above the support surface. Each key mechanism can include a keycap to receive an input force applied by a user input, an encoder to transduce a position of the keycap and to output an electronic signal corresponding to the position of the keycap, and an actuator to apply an output force to the keycap, with the output force being dependent upon the electronic signal from the encoder. 

“In some embodiments, the keyboard can further comprise a controller receiving the electronic signal from the encoder and being in electronic communication with the actuator, wherein the controller is configured to control the output force based on a function of the position of the keycap relative to the support surface. The function can be modified by a user in various ways. For instance, the function can comprise a first configuration corresponding to a first velocity of the keycap relative to the support surface and a second configuration corresponding to a second velocity of the keycap relative to the support surface, with the first configuration being different from the second configuration. 

“In some embodiments, the actuator can comprise a piezoelectric portion or can comprise a magnetic body to apply a magnetic force to the keycap based on a function of the position of the keycap. The actuator can in some cases comprise a damping component configured to apply a damping force to the keycap in response to a rate of displacement of the keycap. 

the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.

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