Apple Patent: Your Trackpad Is...the Keyboard?

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Over the years, companies have done a ton of different things to the standard keyboard layout--split keyboards, ones with the keys in different places, even projected keys on a flat surface. None of these really seem to match the popularity of the good old-fashioned standard keyboard. Perhaps that reign is coming to an end with Apple’s new patent application: a normal keyboard that doubles as a motion-sensing input device.

I will admit that at first I was skeptical as I started reading about it, and it probably won’t be for everyone. The design includes 4 cameras placed around the edges of the keyboard used to track the users finger movements. Movements immediately above the keyboard will be interpreted as your normal mouse input.

It seems like it'd be tricky to get used to, but I thought that about the Magic Trackpad too, and I was used to using it on the Mac Mini after just a few sessions. You’d use a key on the keyboard to switch to mouse input mode (or sequence of keys) and make your gestures as appropriate. Just sitting back thinking about this makes me want to try it. I’m typing this in a vehicle on the highway via a laptop tethered to my phone, and it’s relatively cramped.

If I didn’t have to lean back a bit to use the trackpad on this laptop (which is prone to over-touching and whatnot do to lane changes and bumps) I’d be a lot more comfortable. The level of sophistication that can be built into this is also staggering; allowing one handed input on either side for additional functions, editing the camera viewing angle for more complicated motions, the list goes on and on.

Question is, with so many of Apple’s cool patents never making it to market, do you think this one will? Would you buy it? Let me know in the comments, or hit me up at @kennjason on Twitter.

[US Patent and Trademark Office via]

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