Apple reinvents the Keyboard

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
For all of the discussion of the multi-touch interface, what I think is the most important implementation of technology seems ignored: Keyboards.



Everyone talks about the applications on an iMac or tablet, but the reality is that most people will still use the keyboard for typing as well as other functions. Those functions change for different applications, and they need different interfaces. It could be a keyboard, drawing tablet, writing tablet, scroll pad, anything. It would not really be a keyboard at all, so Stevie would have to come up with something more creative than "iPhone."



Things not unlike this do exist. Perhaps you're heard of the Optimus Keyboard, shown here:





Still, this device is huge, and still tied down to the keyboard shape. It's expensive, requires a lot of CPU power, and it not all that beneficial, besides allowing you to see the modifier-key options.





Imagine the benefits of a multi-touch keyboard, with no real keys:

Keyboard

- No-hassle switching between QWERTY, Dvorak or even Velotype layouts

- Easy switching into other character sets / languages

- Unicode palettes for unusual characters

- Numpad, calculator, and scientific calculator functions

- Appearance largely driven through the GPU or an external processor

- Advanced feature selection, like for fonts with ligatures and other position-sensitive character elements

- Character preview, possibly in the font assigned

- Error-corrective

- Could allow adjustable sizes of keyboard

Pad/Tablet

- Sensitive scrolling that gets faster or slower depending on location on some kind of scroll bar

- Built-in trackpad, possibly to replace mouse.

- Writing pad

- Drawing pad (with iPaint!)

- Stylus for the above features

Misc.

- Quick-launch buttons, or even an option to move the dock there

- Some dialogue and setting panes could be moved down

- Changes looks based on program used

- Possible implementation of the "pinch" if a ZUI ever gets functional enough



All of these methods could be switched through using just a few buttons, like the "Home button" as well as virtual ones.



And that is really just the beginning. The keyboard is essentially programmable to do anything.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 71
    chuckerchucker Posts: 5,089member
    Tactile feedback anyone?
  • Reply 2 of 71
    The whole Multi Touch thing is quite intriguing. I do think it's worth doing a full scale prototype and doing some controlled studies on at least two groups, say typists and a group that has little or no keyboard expertise/experience. It certainly is technically possible to do this as we've seen with the iPhone, and the potential SW customizations are endless.



    I do feel that the whole keyboard idiom is there mostly for historical reasons, due to the mechanical requirements of early typewriters.



    I do think that applied pressure would be a requirement to initiate a keystroke. And not to "shock" anyone, but perhaps a very light electrical sensation upon properly applied pressure would reasonably simulate the existing keyboard idiom (just don't spill your drink on the touch screen, ouch). But I don't know, the bottom line, is this new form of data entry significantly slower than the existing data entry method(s)? If not than I would say why not do it.



    And of course this leads into the whole keyboard as display as thin (and flexible (?)) tablet paradigm (in a wireless format of course).



    IMHO, way cool!
  • Reply 3 of 71
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,728member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wirc View Post


    Perhaps you've heard of the Optimus Keyboard



    That's still VapourWare, cool as it is.
  • Reply 4 of 71
    wircwirc Posts: 302member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mr. H View Post


    That's still VapourWare, cool as it is.



    Yeah... and will apparently cost $1200, because it has 113 separate OLED displays. I bet that a multi-touch keyboard would still be less expensive. And probably less ugly.
  • Reply 5 of 71
    The new Luxeed Keyboard seems interesting as well. Not as high-tech as Optimus, but almost just as functional. Great design too!



    We can't think of a much better way to compliment your disco-inspired mouse than, you guessed it, a psychedelic keyboard. While we've seen our fair share of colored keyboards, Luxeed's latest elevates the game by letting you program each individual key with one of 512 colors, "be it a single hue, a spectrum rainbow," or your own distinct / tacky creation. Reportedly, users can even download color skins / patterns directly from the firm's website, or you can save your own design for future reference, and actual brightness levels can also be adjusted right alone with tone. Moreover, users can make the keys light up and dim based on the beat of the music surrounding it, sure to create quite the dance-floor experience right in your studio. Of course, Luxeed is marketing this as a way to relieve stress via light therapy, but everyone knows this here is best used with all the lights shut out.



  • Reply 6 of 71
    slewisslewis Posts: 2,080member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by wirc View Post


    Yeah... and will apparently cost $1200, because it has 113 separate OLED displays. I bet that a multi-touch keyboard would still be less expensive. And probably less ugly.



    And Less useful. I do almost everything, I do through a Keystroke or 2, and a Multi Touch Keyboard would have absolutely nothing to offer me that would actually be useful because my fingers wouldn't be able to learn anything, it would be just one big panel or screen, at least not yet.



    When the following has happened I can see Multi Touch being useful:

    1. Computers begin to rely less on the Keyboard and more on the Mouse

    2. Computers need a way to quickly change the UI, one that is faster then the mouse

    3. When the next big leap in computers comes, and it is time for a redesign and Apple has a plan for the transition.



    Right now, none of those things are happening.



    Sebastian
  • Reply 7 of 71
    taddotaddo Posts: 10member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Slewis View Post


    And Less useful. I do almost everything, I do through a Keystroke or 2, and a Multi Touch Keyboard would have absolutely nothing to offer me that would actually be useful because my fingers wouldn't be able to learn anything, it would be just one big panel or screen, at least not yet.



    When the following has happened I can see Multi Touch being useful:

    1. Computers begin to rely less on the Keyboard and more on the Mouse

    2. Computers need a way to quickly change the UI, one that is faster then the mouse

    3. When the next big leap in computers comes, and it is time for a redesign and Apple has a plan for the transition.



    Right now, none of those things are happening.



    Sebastian



    If you look at the stuff Jeff Han at NYU has been doing, it seems to be going in that direction. Being able to touch multiple areas on the screen will eventually eliminate (or at least dramatically reduce the need for) complicated interfaces. I think the keyboard will eventually become obselete, especially since you can just create a keyboard application, one that you can resize and shape to how you want it.
  • Reply 8 of 71
    Unless there is a typing renaissance, I can see the point of those who suggest that the tactile feedback is necessary. I wonder if the mouse could be replaced by a multi-touch pad. I'd assume that the keyboard was largely unnecessary unless actually typing, and could be aside, for the most part. The multi-touch pad could be stand alone, or an extension of the keyboard (basically in front of, under wrist while typing, or next to like the trackball), or even under it (flip it over).



    The multi-touch UI is brilliantly simple, and regardless of how, I'd assume it will eventually be available in several ways.



    On a completely separate, and less serious note, the idea of voting booths just occurred to me. Can you imagine a row of 5 or 6 yammering heads that one could select from? With the others fading away, the selected head could fill the screen with the words "Is this the person you'd like to be president?" in size 72 font.
  • Reply 9 of 71
    slewisslewis Posts: 2,080member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by taddo View Post


    If you look at the stuff Jeff Han at NYU has been doing, it seems to be going in that direction. Being able to touch multiple areas on the screen will eventually eliminate (or at least dramatically reduce the need for) complicated interfaces. I think the keyboard will eventually become obselete, especially since you can just create a keyboard application, one that you can resize and shape to how you want it.



    I think I know who you are talking about, I assume you are referring to that one on Gametrailers?



    The trouble with a Virtual Keyboard is it has no Physical form. I know every button on the Keyboard by finger, but if you asked me to draw a Keyboard from Memory, I just wouldn't know all of the buttons.



    Sebastian
  • Reply 10 of 71
    taddotaddo Posts: 10member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Slewis View Post


    I think I know who you are talking about, I assume you are referring to that one on Gametrailers?



    The trouble with a Virtual Keyboard is it has no Physical form. I know every button on the Keyboard by finger, but if you asked me to draw a Keyboard from Memory, I just wouldn't know all of the buttons.



    Sebastian



    Yeah it might have been on gametrailers, I saw it on youtube. What's quite suprising about this technology is that it's fairly cheap to make.



    I actually think the fact that the keyboard would have no physical form is it's advantage, because that's what allows you to overcome the boundaries of ergonomics, at least to an extent.



    As for your problem, I'm not sure what you mean. Surely you could just write an app that had all the same keys (or as many as you wanted) on the screen. The one drawback of not having a physical form that I can think of is that you wouldn't have the satistfying feeling of punching the keys.
  • Reply 11 of 71
    wircwirc Posts: 302member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Slewis View Post


    And Less useful. I do almost everything, I do through a Keystroke or 2, and a Multi Touch Keyboard would have absolutely nothing to offer me that would actually be useful because my fingers wouldn't be able to learn anything, it would be just one big panel or screen, at least not yet.

    Sebastian



    I see your point about the effectiveness of feeling the discrete keys, but still, you could learn the new keypad system. It might be a little harder, but I bet that you could compensate easily.



    Even with the added difficulty, you could still gain tremendous benefits from the technology.



    And nobody will ever want to touch a cinema display. It's just awkward.
  • Reply 12 of 71
    -df-df Posts: 136member
    I'd just like a new desktop keyboard that's more like a MBP keyboard. I hate typing on these things - I much prefer typing on my MBP.
  • Reply 13 of 71
    kolchakkolchak Posts: 1,398member
    I hate typing on all of these straight keyboards anyway. Split or curved ergonomic keyboards are so much more comfortable. Unfortunately, Apple never made a replacement for their Ergonomic Keyboard, which was ADB only and had disappointing key feel and bounce problems.
  • Reply 14 of 71
    smaxsmax Posts: 360member
    I think the Upravlator would be a lot more useful for a graphics designer. Look it up, it's cool and it probably won't cost nearly as much as the Optimus Keyboard. The Mini Three can be pretty cool too, even if it is a little pricey for the size.





    And the title is very misleading. This isn't an Apple product at all.
  • Reply 15 of 71
    wircwirc Posts: 302member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by smax View Post


    And the title is very misleading. This isn't an Apple product at all.



    Please re-read my post. I have clarified it, but i definitely am not talking about this toy.
  • Reply 16 of 71
    smaxsmax Posts: 360member
    Gah, skimmed over that one line...
  • Reply 17 of 71
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by franksargent View Post


    The whole Multi Touch thing is quite intriguing. I do think it's worth doing a full scale prototype and doing some controlled studies on at least two groups, say typists and a group that has little or no keyboard expertise/experience. It certainly is technically possible to do this as we've seen with the iPhone, and the potential SW customizations are endless.



    Apple's multi-touch technology was acquired from FingerWorks nearly two years ago. They released a keyboard called the TouchStream LP that had the multi-touch technology. I bought one of them (for a big chunk of change!) when they first came out. It was basically two flat panels with a printed image of keyboard keys to help you out. You can still find out all the stuff the surface is capable of in the User Guides.



    I personally didn't find it very hard to type on the TouchStream LP, despite the lack of physical buttons. There were two nubs on the home row (on d and k) that you could orient your fingers with. The software was also quite forgiving if your fingers drifted. So, you didn't need to be dead center on the virtual keys to type on them. Besides, typing was only a small part of its functionality. All the various gestures for mousing around, selecting text, issuing commands, etc. were the best part of the surface!
  • Reply 18 of 71
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by King Chung Huang View Post


    Apple's multi-touch technology was acquired from FingerWorks nearly two years ago. They released a keyboard called the TouchStream LP that had the multi-touch technology. I bought one of them (for a big chunk of change!) when they first came out. It was basically two flat panels with a printed image of keyboard keys to help you out. You can still find out all the stuff the surface is capable of in the User Guides.



    I personally didn't find it very hard to type on the TouchStream LP, despite the lack of physical buttons. There were two nubs on the home row (on d and k) that you could orient your fingers with. The software was also quite forgiving if your fingers drifted. So, you didn't need to be dead center on the virtual keys to type on them. Besides, typing was only a small part of its functionality. All the various gestures for mousing around, selecting text, issuing commands, etc. were the best part of the surface!



    Yeah, I can now more clearly see the whole "tactile response" thing now after reading your (and several other's) post. Also reflecting on my HS typing class (almost 40 years ago) and the "no look" method used by skilled typests, leads me to believe now that some type of finger orientation method (bumps or indents) are necessary for efficient (i. e. fast) typing.



    But now I'm a 2-4 digit typist (e. g. look and hit), so perhaps a "flat" surface wouldn't effect us tard typists as much!
  • Reply 19 of 71
    Didn't Apple patent some kind of interface similar to multi-touch but that also had some kind of mechanism that would pop the keys (or elements) out so that the tactile feedback could be retained? Maybe it was a dream I had or something.
  • Reply 20 of 71
    vinney57vinney57 Posts: 1,162member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kim kap sol View Post


    Didn't Apple patent some kind of interface similar to multi-touch but that also had some kind of mechanism that would pop the keys (or elements) out so that the tactile feedback could be retained? Maybe it was a dream I had or something.



    No you were right, I remember it too. This is clearly the future where both the labelling AND surface geography are completely flexible.
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