Apple Ultra Flat Keyboard in the Offing, Patent Filing Reveals

February 24, 2012, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

A recent patent application which has arrived in the public domain shows Apple is indeed thinking in terms of ultra thin keyboards by bringing a change to the way keyboards are being made.

As per the filing, they are planning to make a keyboard which will use a peculiar single support lever mechanism which will help keys to return without losing the usual tactile feel of using them.

You need to be enlightened to understand single lever keyboard mechanism and how it differs from existing keyboard mechanisms.

Most compact physical keyboards use a scissor-switch mechanism, in which a scissor like attachment between the struts will keep the keys up. It offers some resistance when the user presses the key and pushes the key backwards.

While this mechanism helps the keyboard to be compact. A key will move some 1.5 to 2 millimeters distance up and down in this situation.

However, on mechanical keyboards, the story is another way around. They have a larger spring mechanism in which the key will travel some 4 to 5 millimeters up and down, giving you the exact clicky feel of typing on a physical keyboard.

However, Apple’s patent application shows that they will use a couple of hinged arms to push the key up. The key would be at the tip of a metal tongue which will bend and hit the sensor sending a key down signal to the processor.

In this situation, the key will be traveling just 0 .2 mm allowing for the keyboard to turn more compact.

But it may reduce the snappy feel of a usual keyboard. To overcome this bottleneck, Apple suggests the use of a metal collapsing dome and an elastomeric spacer to give the snappy feel to the user at the same time reducing the key moving distance than other keyboards.

However, there’s still no clue on when it will roll out as part of any device from Apple. The patent was filed in 2010, so this could be the right time for it to come out. Putting all these ingredients into the design and finding the metal parts cost effective will be the major challenges with this design. We hope the idea will see the day’s light when Apple overhauls the design of its MacBook Air.

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