While Apple’s been assaulting the traditional mouse with multi-touch surfaces, so far the keyboard remains unchanged from its basic design.
But an Apple patent found by MacRumors suggests that there’s keyboard revolution on the brain in Cupertino. It calls for four small cameras around the main keys, pointing upwards at the user. By hovering hands above the keys, users could point and perform gestures like they would on a track pad.
In other words, it’s Kinect for your keyboard.
Apple could be on to something here. When writing, I’m sometimes frustrated by the need to grab the mouse for editing, not because it’s physically tiresome, but because there’s a certain mindset that takes hold when my hands are over the keys, and reaching for the mouse is a distraction. The keyboard also tends to take a more central location on the desk, which could explain why I sometimes find myself scrolling through web pages with arrow keys instead of my mouse’s scroll wheel.
Of course, as with any patent there’s no guarantee that this idea will end up in a real product, so perhaps the most interesting thing about Apple’s gesture-controlled keyboard is the acknowledgement that traditional QWERTY isn’t going away. Here’s a quote from the patent:
Over the last forty years there have been numerous attempts made to introduce an alternative to the standard keyboard. The changes include, but are not limited to, non-QWERTY layouts, concave and convex surfaces, capacitive keys, split designs, membrane keys, etc. However, although such alternative keyboards may provide improved usability or ergonomics, they have failed to replace or duplicate the commercial success of the conventional mechanical keyboard.
Along that line, can we get a moratorium on extraneous hot keys and multimedia controls that peripheral makers love to scatter around their keyboards? Or am I the only one who never, ever uses them?