In 1987 IBM's Ted Selker, a former Xerox Park researcher, introduced the pointing stick for the notebook. In 1996 the idea was patented and right up until today the pointing stick is still integrated into Lenovo ThinkPad keyboards. Last week, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Motorola revealing a new notebook or Chromebook keyboard concept incorporating a mini trackpad right into the center of the spacebar. Whether Lenovo, who acquired Motorola last week, will want to modernize their keyboard line-up with this updated feature remains to be seen. For now, it's a simple idea that makes sense at first glance.
Motorola's invention relates to integration of a touchpad with a keyboard spacebar. In one arrangement, a touchpad can be integrated with a spacebar having a planar surface on an upper side of the spacebar. A touchpad zone can be defined on a portion of the planar surface. The touchpad zone can be configured to detect movement of a human appendage across the touchpad zone, or above the touchpad zone (e.g., a gesture), and generate a corresponding signal from the keyboard that causes corresponding movement of a cursor presented on a display.
A surface area of the touchpad zone can be less than a surface area of an entirety of the planar surface. Movement of an appendage across, or above, the planar surface outside the touchpad zone is not detected to generate the corresponding signal. The area of the planar surface on which the touchpad zone is defined can be user selectable. In one arrangement, the touchpad zone can be activated responsive to a user selection of a particular key of the keyboard or a particular user gesture. Further, an indicator, shown as #145 in our cover graphic, such as a light (e.g., a light emitting diode (LED), can be integrated into the keyboard to indicate whether the touchpad zone 110 is active.
Optionally, the keyboard can include one or more buttons (#120 and #125 of cover graphic) to receive user inputs (e.g., left click and right click and double click) to select objects, launch menus, and initiate other programmatic actions.
In addition to, or in lieu of, the buttons, such user inputs can be received by the touchpad zone, for example as finger taps. In illustration, a single finger tap in the touchpad zone can be interpreted as a left click, and two sequential finger taps can be interpreted as a double click. A single finger tap in a particular region of the touchpad zone, for example in a lower region (#130 of cover graphic), can be interpreted as a right click.
Further, one or more scroll zones can be defined in the touchpad zone. For example, a left/right scroll region can be defined in the lower region 130, and an up/down scroll region can be defined in a rightmost region 135 or a leftmost region 140 of the touchpad zone.
Optical Navigation Module
In Motorola's patent FIG. 9 noted below we're able to see an enlarged view of the spacebar 105 of FIG. 1. In this arrangement, the spacebar can include an optical navigation module #910 disposed under the planar surface 205 of the spacebar. The planar surface of the spacebar can comprise a material that is transparent to infrared (IR) light.
In one arrangement, such material can be opaque to visible light. In other arrangements, the material can be partially opaque to visible light, or transparent to visible light.
The optical navigation module can include an IR transmitter and an IR detector. The IR transmitter can transmit IR light through the planar surface of the spacebar and the IR detector can detect scattering of light off of a user appendage (e.g., a user's finger) on or above the touchpad zone to detect position and movement of the appendage.
Data generated by the IR detector can be filtered in a suitable manner to limit appendage detection to the touchpad zone. In one arrangement, the IR detector can be an IR photo diode, or any other suitable detector that detects electromagnetic energy (e.g., light) in the IR band.
Another point worth noting about patent FIG. 9 is that in lieu of using the light transmitter and/or light guide(s) to denote the touchpad zone, provide alerts, etc., the optical navigation module can include a bistable display 925 that presents an image of the touchpad zone on the spacebar.
Motorola filed their patent application back in Q3 2012. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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