BlackBerry patents capacitive touch keyboard

By Adam Zeis on 7 Mar 2014 10:35 am EST
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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!

View the patent filing

Reader comments

BlackBerry patents capacitive touch keyboard

139 Comments

Interesting idea but I wonder how great it would be in action. I almost feel like this is a forward thinking patent grab

Posted with a Verizon Z30 running 10.2.1.2141 and CB10. [URL="bbmc:C0004F9BB"] My channel with zero subscribers [/URL]

Yup! I downloaded it today through Snap to play around with. I love it on my Nexus tablet and it runs great so far on my Z30

Posted via the Android CrackBerry app through my Verizon Z30

My first comment was posted using that client and subsequent ones posted with the Android version ;)

Posted with a Verizon Z30 running 10.2.1.2141 and CB10. [URL="bbmc:C0004F9BB"] My channel with zero subscribers [/URL]

And what's wrong with that? I get what you say, but one must protect their interests if they are investing in that technology. Calling it a "grab" is cheap and suggests they're grasping at straws. Many millions of dollars are being invested in this.

In times of Typos, you better protect your ideas as early as possible. LOL. Great move by BB.

iPhone for me? Scr... ahem Q that! (posted from the latter)

Why would you want a touch sensitive keyboard add on if your phone already comes with a touch keyboard you can type on

Posted via the Android CrackBerry App!

Or a keyboard to use at work and a full touch screen at home, without making an unwieldy long phone (Typo or slider).

Posted via Z30

Not yet. They'll wait for BlackBerry to release a model first. Then buy it. Then reverse engineer it. Then come up with their own version which looks 95% identical.

 CB10 

This is definitely pretty awesome. Just weird though, did it really say it would be temporary? Like a detachable keyboard?

Love the idea of a physical/multitouch keyboard it would be bad ass on the Q20.

Posted by Antoniius via my sexy white Q10.

That's what I saw too. Typo(what a horrible brand name for the product! ) type slip over case designed to line up over the virtual keyboard on a touch screen device?

Posted via CB10

Definitely good to see blackberry innovation is alive and well. But I'd rather not see these kinds of devices released until the company is on solid ground financially.

For now convert the legacy customers with the classic series. Release cheap phones to attract new customers and hold on in regions blackberry is still strong and release high end phones to lure away some android users.

But once the company is in good shape by all means release innovative devices to the market to gauge consumer reaction

Posted via CB10

On the other hand it could be innovations that launch the company into it's next success story. Apple anyone?

Don Diego endorses the Zed.

It was innovations that got them any success at all! It was not changing that got them into the mess we have today.

Posted via CB10

Give us a laser projected keyboard on the Q20!

How kick ass would that be.

Posted by Antoniius via my sexy white Q10.

Since you're on the topic of "far out", I would like better and more accurate verbal commands. Texting and driving is a huge safety issue. Business people drive many hours in a day and should not text and drive. BlackBerry needs to provide a means of communicating without having to pickup the damn phone:

1. Automatically figure out that I'm in my car and switch to "DRIVER MODE". Easy to do as it can check which BT device I'm connected to.
2. Read back my PRIORITY conversations as they come in. Already have priority messages in the hub.
3. Allow me to quickly and accurately compose messages. Needs work!
4. Allow me to check for simple things like the weather, the latest news, the status and location of important people, if that info is available. More work to do here!
5. Allow for in-car displays or provide/build heads-up display devices that work in any vehicle - sometimes I wanna know that Jack is texting me via SMS or BBM or by email. I need to see that without having to pickup that - did I say it yet? - that damn phone! This is a wicked cool device I would buy for me, my wife and my inlaws!
6. Oh, yeah, and by the way, why isn't geofencing built into every BlackBerry device yet? Make every BlackBerry device adapt to you and what you do... easily! Great OnLocation app available in BBW but limited.

Hey, QNX folks, talk to the device UI guys and kick their butts!

BlackBerry 10 - GET MOVING!

Great ideas. I would love to see these features on my Z10. I am in sales and on the road often, this would make my BlackBerry so much more functional.

Posted via CB10

I hope this patent cover the flicking motion of the physical keys. Cool.

ॐ BBM channeling at C003910CB (Tiger Daddy)

I thought this as well, however, we'd need some way of seeing the predicted word on top of the physical key... maybe on a physical fret or oled covering on the keys themselves?

Posted via CB10

On the Q10, the word prediction is displayed on the bottom of the text-window, and you tap on the chosen word. I guess they'll make that similarily... However, it is not very practical as on a Z... so I turned the feature off... the first complaints will be about this, I think... so they better solve this!

Posted via my BlackBerry*Q10, Germany - SQN100-3, Running OS 10.2.1.2102

Sweet!!!!!

I still waiting to see BlackBerry get more aggressive in defending their patents. Suing typo is a good first step. Let's see more of this aggressive defensive stance.

Posted via CB10

I think this has been done already. It reminds me of the Spike case by SoloMatrix for iPhones. It's rather brilliant, really. A swing-around keyboard that then swings away and into the case back when not in use so you can use the full screen.

I think they are still trying to get that case into production, though. No idea what the technical problems are there.

I don't think this is the same as what was discussed about the windermere.

This sounds like a keyboard that slips over a capacitive screen and hits the keys on the virtual keyboard, while the windermere sounds like keys that are able to touch sensitive.

Posted via CB10

I remember thinking about something like this a few years ago... funny that it's actually going to be a thing!

Posted via CB10

Far from having been "given" a patent,.. the application is currently under non-final rejection with pretty decent prior art cited against it.

Posted via CB10

It's normal for the examiner to "reject" an application. Patent prosecution is about negotiation...if you don't get rejected the first time, the claims were not broad enough.

Posted via CB10 on Z10

I wonder if this could be made backward compatible with a Z10, Z30?

It would only work I guess if it was part of a case as you wouldn't want to carry it around separately.

Posted via CB10

Two things that BlackBerry must address, in my opinion:

1. Destroy Typo and release their own BlackBerry Bluetooth keyboard for android and apple users.

2. BB 10 slider.

Just my two cents.

Posted via CB10

This is awesome, and innovative. Only BBRY can achieve such a thing, being king of the QWERTY.
Looking forward this this ASAP.

It can't be anything other than what Iggy said, an iPhone slip cover keyboard. That, or a preventative patent in case BlackBerry needs to sue others they have cause.

Posted via CB10

That sounds more complicated than the overall BlackBerry 10 tutorial.
I would actually have to see this in action in order to understand.

It's patent law vernacular / jargon. Not intended for the average bloke. You can dig in and try to understand, or don't bother.

iPhone for me? Scr... ahem Q that! (posted from the latter)

Adam, I think your understanding of the patent is off. This patent is for touch sensitive keys, in other words the keys can be pressed down like a normal keyboard, or they can simply be touched to illicit an action. Multiple keys together could be used to register swipe gestures. In the article you talk about pressing keys harder, or holding them down, which is already partially doable.

Posted via CB10

While I am happy for them, this is another instance of something obvious being patented. I literally thought if the same thing and I am sure many others have as well.

Don't care about what you patent, just care about the quality of what you actually bring to market.

Well it's not as simple as a keyboard that overlays on top of a touch screen keyboard and just taps on the virtual key when you press it. There is the second component to it... allowing for touching (not pressing) of the physical keyboard overlay and transmitting that as a second type of command (not a key press).

So... While gliding your thumb over current physical keyboard keys without pressing would normally not do anything, with this "capacitive key" keyboard, they would be able to sense when you just touch it (even before you press) and thus be able to sense swipes and all that good stuff.

Posted via CB10

It's a very cool Idea.

Would this mean that swiping up on that row of keys would work like the touch screen keyboard (predictive text) and also swiping right to left over the keys to delete words?

Posted via my Z30 on CB10 App!

Tim, this is exactly what I am seeing. It promises to bring the Z10 virtual word predictive function to QWERTY devices - as a START.

Image the possibilities:

- screen wide cursor control. The keyboard itself becomes the track pad.

- layered functionality. Each key would have three or more options. This would lead to crazy (good thing) levels of game play options.

- one key contacts starting with telephone dialling. For example, typing T would bring up an array of names: Tim, Tom, Tammy, etc all associated with different positions on the keyboard. Swiping over the associated key starts the telephony process.

This just scratches the potential.

Posted via CB10

Ah. That's another point I had not thought of. Capacitive touch keyboard is like an extension of a touchscreen. This is interesting!

Posted via CB10

Which will give us Q users the coveted "swipe left" to delete a whole word, just like on the Z10.

Whenever I use my Z10, I think, ouch, wouldn't it be nice...

iPhone for me? Scr... ahem Q that! (posted from the latter)

This is a great way of making use of the 'dead' real estate on a qwerty device.

I have often noted that those using a Q10 device have to stretch to touch the screen when using one hand and this invention would solve most of those problems - especially for simple navigation around the BlackBerry 10 OS. I.e. Swipe left, swipe right, swipe up, swipe down.

Theoretically, the design would only need 4 or 5 of the 'special' keys to achieve most gestures required for the BlackBerry 10 OS.

Great idea BlackBerry! And one that I hope to see implemented in the next range of 'Q' phones.

This is not a game changer but it definitely is a nice function to have.

Posted via CB10

I commented on an idea for this a few months ago. I wonder if BlackBerry gets ideas from these posts.

Posted via CB10

I see the evolution of physical keyboards in the making, QWERTY 2.0!

Posted via the Android CrackBerry App!

If anyone has a PS3 with the Chat Pad for the controller, the keys on that have a capacitive touch mode you can enable. The idea is you use the keys as kind of a track pad.

It's a load of crap to use in reality, so while this may not be an entirely new concept, there's plenty of room to improve upon the idea. Hopefully this product appears in the future, and will be nice to use. :-)

Awesome Z10 on 4G EE. BBM 2B80D5C2 or Tweet @geekl33tgamer :-)

Yeah! I have a PS3-Bluetooth-Keypad, with a multi-touch feeling: By swiping on the surface, I move the mouse, like on/with a trackpad... It works well, so I am sure the technique is advanced enough to be used on a BB-device!

Posted via my BlackBerry*Q10, Germany - SQN100-3, Running OS 10.2.1.2102

Good add on for those who have a full touch device, wanting to try a qwerty device. I wonder if this could be incorporated into a new device as a qwerty slider touch combination phone?
I love my Z10.

Posted via CB10

The idea was simple. The keyboard, being an overlay over the touchscreen would be recognised by the device. The device then adapts, reducing the screen to just the exposed portion. The area under the screen then adapts to a hidden keyboard sensitive to, an recognising the keys in the keyboard overlay. I posted this idea a couple months ago.

BB Proud

Because it does not use bluetooth like the iPhone keyboard, but is based on physical access from device to screen it should meet govt security requirements where wireless keyboards are prohibited.

Posted via CB10

Sounds freaking brilliant. Full screen real estate when needed (browsing, video, games, etc.), physical keyboard for emails and documents. Of course, sliders work pretty good for that, too.

Posted via CB10

Quite the interesting patent. Seems like it would be an expensive phone. Probably a high end device if this makes it to consumers.

Posted via CB10

Does anyone remember the Storm series phones. They had a two level touch screen. You could touch it and with more pressure, assert it.

Seems to be a move to potentially be able to develop and release a keyboard for touchscreen devices and possibly not just BlackBerry ones!

Posted from my TARDIS!

This is cool. Like some mentioned briefly in previous comments about sliders, I think this could be BlackBerry's new innovation instead of the old slider design . I would love a slider type BlackBerry.

Posted via CB10

When I first saw mention of this tech, I thought the overlay was going to be permanent, covering the tops of each key individually. Basically, a physical keyboard with touch-sensitive tops. That would be awesome, but probably very difficult to manufacture and thus expensive. But I would much prefer it to the accessory solution in this article.

Blackberry, keep it simple. Stick to the Q20, keyboard with trackpad and buttons, not something like this that looked like a box of matches.

I swear I thought of this first. They have my blessing though. Just build it quick or I'll change my mind.

Posted via CB10

Not sure I understand what the specs allow for but... if they permit gestures over the physical keyboard, that's really cool.

Posted via CB10

Don't come knocking at my door selling this product. My Z10 has cured me of the need for a physical keyboard. Saying that, it makes sense for BlackBerry to have as many patented physical keyboard designs.

I don't want it but it is interesting.

Posted via CB10

They must've gotten a patent on that particular design, not the technology. The original Motorola Droid had a capacitive touch keyboard. The keyboard for the Windows Surface family of tablets is also capacitive touch.

What was that Sony Ericsson pda-like phone that had a flip which rotated to sit on the touch screen...ages ago...P-something wasnt it? :)

 Q1O

Hey guys I don't know about the torch series very much, but after a lot of usage, the ribbon connecting the screen etc used to break or become faulty causing the phone to malfunction. Could it be possible that BlackBerry is developing a type of slider that doesn't require a ribbon?
Or... maybe the patent is for a keyboard add on like the iPhone accessory that goes right on the surface of any smartphone and transforms it into a smart keyboard. They just are going ahead and patenting it so they can.... develop it.

Posted via CB10

Could this be the future of the BlackBerry keyboard? Just mass produce all touch phones then develop a keyboard attachment? I think that would be a cool concept as long as the design & engineering is done very well. Having the accuracy of a Q10 but the power and size of a Z30.

Posted via CB10 on my Z10

it will be in an upcoming device.. I've seen it, and it's interesting.. Don't know if it will sell, but the use of the technology is very innovative..

Posted via CB10

I've seen this is use on an iPad: thin rubbery pad makes typing more tactile. Good idea.

Posted via CB10

Not close to as good/functional as a real keyboard, so it won't displays those. Also, something else to carry/apply -- who wants that?

Posted via CB10

I think it's highly questionable that Blackberry's "keyboard" patents will survive a real test. I am suspicious that this patent won't even be granted -- given all the prior art -- but even if so, that's far from meaning it will prevail.

Posted via CB10

Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.

This is a winning patent, hands down.

Sent from my BlackBerry Z30

I can't understand it. Either you type a character or you don't, this concept doesn't make sense to me. Are they trying to maybe implement a way to swipe on a character to use the word swipe thing like on the Z series? I suppose whatever this idea is supposed to be, another patent in their portfolio can't be a bad thing.

So after the whole typo fiasco this is the natural course of action. Now what I think needs to be done is this. RIM needs to produce touch screen phones and include these new additions( assuming they work well) with each touch screen phone they sell. In this way the end user will ultimately have the choice touch screen or QWERTY. I feel this will give rim the market share they have been looking for. They 'could' make them for other phone but at that point I feel they would lose the consumer market because people will not be as inclined to purchas a blackberry device.

Posted via CB10

Not knowing what a capacitive keyboard meant, I saw the title and thought they were going to come up with a phone that charged itself when you type on it. Patent is now pending by me. Will sell to BlackBerry though.

Posted via CB10

Very innovate idea. I think it's the most innovate idea in these recent years. Capacitive buttons on top of hardware buttons. Thats great!

Posted via z10

Blackberry should make their keyboard available for Android users in the app store, I think they will definitely make a lot of money considering how great the blackberry 10 keyboard is.

Posted via CB10