Goodbye, touchpad? Apple patents mechanical keyboard with multitouch keys

New invention sees a much smarter keyboard ahead - and potentially an awkward transition

Patents more often offer a look at what could be rather than what actually will be, but that doesn't stop us from marvelling at some of the exciting tech ideas brewing today. And Apple has a particularly intriguing one that's just popped up.

Today, the United States Patent and Trademark Office published a patent document for a so-called "Fusion keyboard," which would be a traditional, mechanical keyboard with a twist: multitouch sensors within the keys that could recognize your taps and swipes.

Individual keys could still be pressed as on a typical keyboard, but adding touch sensitivity to all or some of the keys could allow you to swipe atop them instead of using a touchpad or a mouse. The patent suggests that the keyboard interprets your inputs from each hand separately, allowing you to type with one hand and swipe or scroll with the other - all on a single keyboard. Now that's serious multitasking.

Does that mean that Apple is going to kill touchpads on its next laptops? No, probably not - it's an inventive design, but that's a big thing to ask of users who have spent years and years with separate keyboard and pointer mechanisms. More likely, it would be an additional feature: something to let power users keep their fingers on the keys, or perhaps to enable new kinds of gestures.

As is often the case with patents, we may see this sort of tech used in a very different sort of way by the time it hits consumers, assuming it ever gets to that point. Still, it shows that Apple is thinking of ways to potentially further streamline its hardware - as if the low-travel keys on the 12in MacBook weren't enough.

[Source: AppleInsider via SlashGear]