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Apple Aims to Reinvent Keyboards, Make Them Thinner Than Ever Before

Apple Aims to Reinvent Keyboards, Make Them Thinner Than Ever Before

Apple could make its notebook computers and external keyboards even thinner and lighter than they are today, if their recently filed patent application is any indication of the direction they’d like to take.

AppleInsider reports about Apple’s recently filed patent application:

Apple’s interest in reinventing the keyboard was revealed in a new patent application discovered this week by AppleInsider. Entitled “Single Support Lever Keyboard Mechanism,” it describes a handful of ways that a keyboard could be shrunk in size without affecting its performance.

In the filing, Apple notes that the size of existing keyboards presents a challenge for the company as it attempts to design thinner, lighter and more attractive devices.

“It would be beneficial to provide a keyboard for a portable computing device that is aesthetically pleasing, yet still provides the stability for each key that users desire,” the application reads. “It would also be beneficial to provide methods for manufacturing the keyboard having an especially aesthetic design as well as functionality for the portable computing device.”

Apple’s solution would be a single support lever keyboard mechanism, it would allow the keyboard cap to be formed of almost any material, but would also provide stability to each key.

While the application lists a number of potential materials for the key caps, such as glass, wood, and stone, regardless of the material, the keyboard key caps would be held in place by a rigid support lever. In the design, the keys could have a a total travel range of as little as 0.2 millimeters.

Another method mentioned in the application describes a support lever holding the key cap that would be made of a flexible material. The lever could be made of spring steel,  Thus allowing a good tactile feedback to the user when they are typing.

AppleInsider continues: “The key cap and support lever would have an ‘elastomeric spacer’ between them and a metal dome positioned below. The spacer would be made of a material such as rubber or silicone that would ‘provide a desirable and distinctive feel to the user when pressed,’ in addition to reducing rattling on the keyboard.

“‘The advantages of the invention are numerous,’ the filing states, adding: ‘One advantage of the invention is that a low-travel keyboard may be provided for a thin-profile computing device without compromising the tactile feel of the keyboard.'”

The filing was first filed by Apple in August of 2010. It is credited to Patrick Kessier, Bradley Hamel, and James J. Niu.