Could an OLED-based keyboard be in Apple's future?

It filed a patent application for a keyboard with changeable key symbols

Apple has filed a patent application for a keyboard that could display an infinite number of symbols on the key tops using organic light-emitting diodes (OLED), according to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office's Web site.

Patent 20080001787, dubbed Dynamically Controlled Keyboard, outlines a keyboard whose keys would feature numerous OLEDs formed on a glass substrate that would also function as the key top. The OLEDs, perhaps in a 9-by-9 matrix, could be switched on or off, read the patent application, by software to morph the "display" on the faces of the keys.

Apple filed the application last March, but the Patent Office made it public only Thursday.

"One advantage is that keyboards and other peripherals are made much more user-friendly and the users' experience is enhanced, since there is a direct correspondence between what is displayed on the keyboard faces and the action that occurs when the corresponding keys are depressed," read the application. "This minimizes the users' need to memorize various keyboard layouts, for example, for different locales."

Such a keyboard, Apple said in the patent filing, could sport a traditional English QWERTY layout one moment, a Swedish-specific layout another and a Russian layout next. Or a specific program -- the patent application called out Adobe's PhotoShop -- could change the keys on-the-fly. "Whenever a user presses a function key or an auxiliary key, such as the Shift or the Ctrl key, the other keys on the keyboard change dynamically to display various tool functions that are activated by the function keys or auxiliary keys," said Apple.

Apple also claimed that an OLED keyboard's price could be "kept reasonably low since standard components used in conventional keyboards are largely used."

That might come as news to customers who have plunked down more than US$1,500 to be put on the wait list for the Optimus Maximus, an OLED-based keyboard designed by Moscow studio Art Lebedev. The stylish keyboard, originally scheduled to ship in November 2006, will now not be available until the end of February because of a shortage of Philips microprocessors.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?