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Apple developing dynamic OLED-based keyboard

post #1 of 74
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Apple Inc. in a new patent filing proposes to solve the ages-old problem of having to manufacture distinct keyboards to support the various alphabets and key arrangements of foreign countries by developing an OLED-based model where key arrangements are altered on the fly by software.

The invention proposes a radical new keyboard design, where the face of each key is comprised of a matrix of tiny lights -- or organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) -- that illuminate characters based on instructions from software, therefore allowing for dynamic keyboard layouts that can be tailored on the fly for specific regions or applications.

"The most common physical arrangements of keys on keyboards in Western countries are based on the "QWERTY" layout (including closely related variants, such as the French "AZERTY" layout). However, in countries that do not use the Western alphabet, the keyboard layout is often very different," the Mac maker explained in the filing.

"Most computers allow a user can change the keyboard settings, or keyboard locale, for example, from a conventional QWERTY keyboard layout to a keyboard layout for the Cyrillic alphabet. Typically, there is an indication on the computer screen telling the user knows what keyboard locale is currently selected. However, nothing about the physical appearance of the keys themselves changes when a different locale is selected, so there is no way for a user to know what Cyrillic character will appear on the screen when a particular English key is depressed, unless the user has already memorized the locations of all the Cyrillic characters on the keyboard."

Furthermore, Apple said, many software applications makes extensive use of the various function keys on a computer keyboard, as well as the "Ctrl" and "Alt" keys, and various combinations thereof with the alphanumeric keys on the keyboard. As such, it is often difficult for a user to remember what operations the various function keys perform in different software applications, and what effect depressing a "Ctrl" or "Alt" key in combination with an alphanumeric character will have in various software applications.



"Therefore, in view of the above discussion, there is a need for a better way to indicate to a user what the effect will be of depressing a particular key or combination of keys on a peripheral device, such as a keyboard," the company wrote.

By way of Apple's invention, the altering key faces of the keyboard are accomplished by placing a number of organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) on each key face, and using an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) placed inside each key to turn on and turn off the respective diodes.

The respective ASICs would be controlled by signals originating from the software application in which the user is currently working and by the selected language locale. As a result, the users always have current and accurate information in front of them about what will happen when a particular key is depressed on the keyboard, and there is no need to memorize what actions particular key depressions will cause.

The March 13, 2007 patent filing is credited to Apple engineers Gavin Reid and Eric Smith.
post #2 of 74
This would be a godsend for gaming....
post #3 of 74
Wouldn't this be prohibitively expensive?
post #4 of 74
Great idea! Here's hoping we see it this year.
post #5 of 74
How does this patent differ from the Optimus Maximus keyboard from Art. Lebedev?
post #6 of 74
Ins't this reinventing the wheel? The Russians already have it on the market. Also, the extant version eliminates the cabling required by having the oleds on the keyboard base rather than in the keys. ~$462.27

http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus/
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post #7 of 74
Have a look at these:

http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus/
http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus-tactus/

Seems that keyboard with OLED displays already exists.
post #8 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by derev View Post

Ins't this reinventing the wheel? The Russians already have it on the market. Also, the extant version eliminates the cabling required by having the oleds on the keyboard base rather than in the keys. ~$462.27

http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus/

$426.27 buys you an active spacebar... if you want all 113 keys, prepare to shell out $1564.37
post #9 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeyLemur View Post

How does this patent differ from the Optimus Maximus keyboard from Art. Lebedev?

Hopefully Apple got tired of waiting for an actual, shipping product. Don't know about the IP though.
post #10 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeyLemur View Post

How does this patent differ from the Optimus Maximus keyboard from Art. Lebedev?

It apparently doesn't.

I wish Apple well--it'd be nice to see Apple throw its bulk-purchasing power behind this and produce it for less than the $1500 that Art Lebedev is charging.

But the concept behind the Optimus Maximus was published back in mid-2005, and the Optimus mini-three was in production in mid-2006--well before Apple filed its patent. There's enough prior art to squash this patent like a bug.
post #11 of 74
I really think they could just do this with a multitouch keyboard.

The developers could create keys and control interfaces that match apps and change at a whim.

 

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post #12 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by cromulent View Post

It apparently doesn't.

I wish Apple well--it'd be nice to see Apple throw its bulk-purchasing power behind this and produce it for less than the $1500 that Art Lebedev is charging.

But the concept behind the Optimus Maximus was published back in mid-2005, and the Optimus mini-three was in production in mid-2006--well before Apple filed its patent. There's enough prior art to squash this patent like a bug.

That may, or may not, be the case, depending on the claims in the patent. If they include application concepts, support software, etc. it could very well be viable. Does anyone have a link to the patent? I can't find it (simply).
post #13 of 74
Guess this will be interesting - Viruses can now be written for Mac OS X that would remap the keyboard and get rid of Cmd-Q or Ctrl-C for that matter

Some keys should not be allowed to be mapped I guess )
post #14 of 74
Lebedev is only expecting to sell a few hundred of these, possibly a thousand.

If Apple does it, they would price it for a MUCH wider audience. Remember when Apple and iBM keyboards went for $200? That's over $350 in todays dollars. If Apple could get it there, or somewhat below, it would be reasonable. I would probably buy one.

Keyboards for professional FCP, PS, and other programs now go for over $200. This could do what they do, and do it for several programs, saving people money if they now need more than one.
post #15 of 74
Even if there is a readily available keyboard, Apple has a lot of room to improve the aesthetics by losing some of the bulk and clumsiness of the Optimus Maximus. Also I believe Apple is keeping actionable keys instead of having the OLEDs on the base for a better user experience.
post #16 of 74
Is power required for actually displaying the values or just changing their state? This is an important factor, especially in portable computer.
post #17 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by ajmas View Post

Is power required for actually displaying the values or just changing their state? This is an important factor, especially in portable computer.

Power is needed, but not too much.
post #18 of 74
I'd be more excited about adding a iphone/ ipod touch like multi touch screen on the side of the keyboard or next to the trackpad for multi-touch gestures, custom buttons, etc. This would probably work better on a laptop, but maybe it's too much like sideshow for Vista.
post #19 of 74
Did anyone notice the missing apple key?
Is this the secret product that AI reports Apple as saying will be announced at the FCP event?
post #20 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by luvosx View Post

Guess this will be interesting - Viruses can now be written for Mac OS X that would remap the keyboard and get rid of Cmd-Q or Ctrl-C for that matter

Some keys should not be allowed to be mapped I guess )

Nice catch. It would have been hours before I thought of this. My mind is not as devious as it used to be, apparently.

It could be really useful, but think of the mischief what could be wrought!
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post #21 of 74
Wouldn't e-paper (or e-ink) be a better solution than oleds? It needs almost no power... Just wondering. Maybe electronic ink isn't suitable when touched all the time... don't know.
post #22 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bergermeister View Post

I really think they could just do this with a multitouch keyboard.

The developers could create keys and control interfaces that match apps and change at a whim.

Give it a rest with your multi-touch babble will you. This is obviously Apple's answer. I approve.
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post #23 of 74
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Originally Posted by melgross View Post

Power is needed, but not too much.

It's entirely possible that Apple could choose an e-ink substrate for the keys.

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post #24 of 74
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Originally Posted by Ferry13 View Post

Wouldn't e-paper (or e-ink) be a better solution than oleds? It needs almost no power... Just wondering. Maybe electronic ink isn't suitable when touched all the time... don't know.

Heh, your comment came before mine, but we're thinking the same thing.

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post #25 of 74
I think it's obvious smoke screen to throw off the rumor mill before MWSF. All these recent patets I've seen before, and elsewhere.
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post #26 of 74
An avid typer (it pays the bills), I will admit that a tactile keyboard has its place in life, but I stand by my belief that a multitouch keyboard could really be interesting.

If this is their main board for all machines, fantastic and yes, I approve as well - as long as they don't get sued AGAIN for being stupid. Combine it with a mutlitouch plate and you have magic. I still hope that a ultra portable comes out with a MT keyboard.

 

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Your = the possessive of you, as in, "Your name is Tom, right?" or "What is your name?"

 

You're = a contraction of YOU + ARE as in, "You are right" --> "You're right."

 

 

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post #27 of 74
I invented this. I was talking about it a year and a half ago.

Everybody said I was crazy. Who's crazy now?
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #28 of 74
Well i invented the coochie. And we all know how much better that is.
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post #29 of 74
A keyboard like this would be awesome if it cost less than 300 bucks.
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post #30 of 74
Seems to me that it makes most sense if it is built into a Lap Top. One configuration for every market and for the life-time of the product.
post #31 of 74
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Originally Posted by Rubber Duck View Post

Seems to me that it makes most sense if it is built into a Lap Top. One configuration for every market and for the life-time of the product.

As tablets are going to replace notebooks, I think it would be way better for the desktop keyboard

Go on you guys laugh, you'll see what happens in 5 years time. Tablets will be "everywhere"!!
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post #32 of 74
The e-ink ideas people have mentioned sounds like a great idea.

Would prior art matter in the US if the Optimus keyboard is Russian?
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post #33 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

The e-ink ideas people have mentioned sounds like a great idea.

Would prior art matter in the US if the Optimus keyboard is Russian?

just using OLEDs on keys would not be enough to invalidate Apple's patent. It's HOW its done that matters.

And Lebedev isn't using these on all the keys as first stated, just a few, because of cost, I would imagine. I would think that Apple's engineers know a bit more than he does.
post #34 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

It's entirely possible that Apple could choose an e-ink substrate for the keys.

But then there would be no color, just very dark grey on very light grey.

There would also be no light emitted. E-ink works by reflected light.
post #35 of 74
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Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

I invented this. I was talking about it a year and a half ago.

Everybody said I was crazy. Who's crazy now?

Ireland, you're still crazy.

Lebedev first came up with this almost three years ago.
post #36 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

I invented this. I was talking about it a year and a half ago.

Everybody said I was crazy. Who's crazy now?

I invented iTunes.. your point?
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post #37 of 74
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Originally Posted by melgross View Post

But then there would be no color, just very dark grey on very light grey.

There would also be no light emitted. E-ink works by reflected light.

Not really true... color e-paper already exists. And btw... my current keyboard has grey symbols too... don't see a problem!

Emitted light is another issue... I don't need it; I never use my iBook in bed!
post #38 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ferry13 View Post

Not really true... color e-paper already exists. And btw... my current keyboard has grey symbols too... don't see a problem!

Emitted light is another issue... I don't need it; I never use my iBook in bed!

Right now, there are no non industrial products using the experimental two and three color "paper", and only one or two of those. Perhaps in a couple of years, or maybe not. It will also be fairly expensive in color.

These have less contrast than a keyboard. When your hand moves over the Kindle screen, you can't read what's underneath. A shadow from you would be enough to wipe out the pictures.
post #39 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by melgross View Post

Right now, there are no non industrial products using the experimental two and three color "paper", and only one or two of those. Perhaps in a couple of years, or maybe not. It will also be fairly expensive in color.

These have less contrast than a keyboard. When your hand moves over the Kindle screen, you can't read what's underneath. A shadow from you would be enough to wipe out the pictures.

Are we talking e-ink or e-paper here?

edit: http://www.engadget.com/2008/01/03/l...isplay-for-ces
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post #40 of 74
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Are we talking e-ink or e-paper here?

They're the same thing from a users viewpoint (oh, a pun!\).

E-Ink Corp. sells e-paper displays for example. I think the name for the product, E-Ink, is trademarked, or copyrighted. I'd have to look it up.
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