A few weeks back we first heard of the Windermere, a QWERTY device with a touch-sensitive (capacitive) keyboard. To go along with it, a filing now shows that BlackBerry has received a patent for another type of keyboard — or for the technical folk — a "temporary keyboard having some individual keys that provide varying levels of capacitive coupling to a touch-sensitive display".
The keyboard would have specific functions for keys based on touch, overlaying a touchscreen.
From the filing:
A physical keyboard having a plurality of individual keys temporarily overlays a touch-sensitive display. Each individual key selectively provides either of a first level of capacitive coupling and a second, different level of capacitive coupling to the touch-sensitive display. By one approach the key provides that first level of capacitive coupling to the touch-sensitive display when a user asserts the key (for example, by pressing upon the key) to thereby communicate to the touch-sensitive display a selection of that individual key. The key can provide that second level of capacitive coupling when a user touches, but does not assert, the individual key. So configured, this second level of capacitive coupling serves to communicate to the touch-sensitive display an input instruction other than a selection of that individual key.
We're not sure just when (or if) we'll see this type of keyboard put to use on a device, but it's definitely a cool concept. Is this something you'd like to see in a physical keyboard? Sound off in the comments!