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Apple Testing Physical Keyboard With Motion Control to Replace Mouse

MacRumors has uncovered a patent application that illustrates a hybrid multi-touch physical keyboard.Apple has a new patent application to create a hybrid physical keyboard that will double as a motion-sensitive input device.The patents are the work of FingerWorks, a company acquired by Apple in 2005 and has served as the basis for most of Apple’s multi-touch technology. FingerWorks had produced several touch-sensitive multi-touch keyboards, although they never became mainstream products.

The idea is far out there, but given the state of multi-touch in OS X Lion (10.7) and the importance that this type of input device will have moving forward, it’s not all that surprising that Apple’s been tinkering with multi-touch in traditional peripherals.

Apple explains in the patent application that the keyboard is an actual ‘physical’ keyboard that also has a ‘motion-sensitive’ area. The ‘motion-sensitive’ area is comprised of four ‘slot cameras’ around the keyboard that will monitor and track movements.

Apple claims this keyboard to be the best of both worlds, in which a physical keyboard also has a motion-sensitive area built in. This works by the implementing of 4 “slot cameras” that are placed around the perimeter of the keyboard. These cameras are able to track the users finger movements to provide the usual mouse or trackpad functions of cursor tracking and window scrolling.

The keyboard will offer two modes: a typing mode and a mouse mode. The modes can be changed by holding down a special key or through a specific key combination. Users could then operate the entire computer using only the keyboard alone for both typing and navigation.

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