Apple’s new Magic Keyboard is awesome—if you don’t believe me, check out my colleague Jeff Benjamin’s excellent video review—but it lacks Force Touch feedback currently found on the Apple Watch and iPhone 6s display and MacBook trackpads.
But Apple seems to be interested in bringing this technology to a future Mac keyboard, according to a patent granted to the company on Tuesday by the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO).
Titled “Ultra low travel keyboard,” the invention explores reducing key height by removing physical switches, possibly paving the way for even thinner Mac notebooks in the future. More importantly, Apple’s patented solution calls for a keyboard with fully implemented Force Touch technology.
According to the patent abstract, Apple is planning on ditching the traditional mechanical switches and replacing them with a completely switch-less QWERTY input mechanism based on actuators and a stack of sensors.
“Theoretically the system operates akin to Apple’s Force Touch trackpads, but on a much larger scale; one force sensor package for each keyboard key,” explains AppleInsider.
“Force sensors configured to measure downward pressure are integrated beneath the keyboard’s key caps, while integrated actuators—part of the key stack—generate haptic feedback.”
By measuring force of key presses, the system can determine if the force of the key press was greater than a threshold amount. If so, it excites the key to produce a key click that is proportional to the velocity of the key press, additionally generating Force Touch feedback for the finger resting on the key.
Apple’s solution also rejects keyboard input if it senses that a palm or other object is mashing the keyboard. The patent is credited to Apple engineer Jeffrey T. Bernstein.