Considering how strange typing on a screen felt a decade ago, we’ve adapted pretty quickly. People in their teens are only 25% slower at touchscreen typing than the general average for keyboard speed, but that doesn’t mean the system couldn’t be improved upon.
That’s why a new patent application from Apple is so exciting, as it shows that the company is looking to replicate the familiar feeling of typing on a keyboard to touchscreens. The patent, uncovered by Patently Apple, explains how haptic motors and electrostatic charges would make the virtual keys feel more like physical ones.
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“Electrostatics may use an electrical field to attract and/or repel conductive objects, such as a user’s finger,” the patent reads. “Changing the normal force between a surface and a conductive object directly affects the friction between the two, and the resulting forces may be perceived as texture when the object moves.”
Combine this something that looks like a keyboard on screen with something that ‘feels’ like keys thanks to the imagined ‘texture’ and it should feel just like you’re typing on a regular keyboard. Or that’s the theory anyway – as someone who always turns off the irritating haptic buzz with every new phone, I’ll believe it when I see it.
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Still, it’s a fascinating idea, and could prove a viable alternative for iPad keyboard cases and the like for people who only occasionally use their tablets for long-form writing.
But as ever, patents should come with a health warning: very few of them actually get made into products you can buy, especially with Apple which has over 80,000 of them. Whether we’ll see this particular one in a product likely depends on how well it works in practice.
Do the fake keyboard ideas in this patent appeal to you, or are you happy with swiping? Let us know what you think on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.