Apple may want to change the way we think about keyboards, mice, and touchpads. The company has been granted a new series of patents for what it calls a "fusion keyboard," which marries the functions of keys and a touchpad in one device.
According to Patently Apple, the patent describes an invention that gives the keys on a keyboard dual functions depending on how much pressure is applied to them. For example, pressing a key slightly could evoke an action like typing a letter, and pressing the same key further down could initiate a mouse click.
This technology seems to be a more tactile version of Force Touch, a new feature Apple introduced on the new MacBook, which lets you perform different actions depending on how much pressure you apply to the touchpad when you click.
The keys could also have responsive touch capabilities, meaning they could detect taps and swipes. This could let the surface of the keys act like a touchpad, letting you move the cursor across the screen simply by swiping across the space bar.
While the patent is intriguing, it's just the first step toward something that might never happen. If invented, a fusion keyboard could be bundled with an iMac, or even built into a new MacBook, making the laptop even smaller and thinner by eliminating the space needed for a traditional touchpad. We'll have to wait and see if Apple plans to do anything substantial with this patent, or if the company is just protecting its ideas.
Valentina Palladino is a senior writer for Laptop Mag. Follow her at @valentinalucia.