Microsoft has applied for a patent on a new type of physical keyboard that could actually display different key icons depending on how you’re using it.

For instance, if you’re playing a game, the center row of buttons could show buttons for firing, moving, jumping, and so on instead of letters. When you’re composing an email, the letters would re-appear.

The patent also covers touch-sensitive keys, which let you change the function of a key with a gesture. For instance, you may be able to capitalize a letter by dragging up so that a “q” becomes a “Q.” Maybe it’s just me, but I suspect pressing Shift+Q would probably still be faster and easier, but it’s nice to see someone thinking about new innovations in the keyboard space.

GoRumors reports that Microsoft filed its patent application about a year and a half ago, but it was only made public today.

Update: Mystery solved? It looks like this patent probably covers the new “Adaptive Keyboard,” from Microsoft.

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9 replies on “Microsoft seeks patent for dynamic keyboard with keys that change functions”

  1. I want a key on my keyboard with the bomb just blowing up windows when it misbehaves, when is quite often.

  2. Oh, joy! Now you evil virtual keyboard software sellers are in trouble! (Toshibe Libretto too!)

  3. Yup, I wonder if Microsoft has heard of Art Lebedev. Mind you, if they *get* such a patent, might bring the cost way down. Not keen on the gesture-sensitivity though, but multi-display is kewl.

    1. Of course its the Lebedev idea.
      Most gamers have been drooling for this as long as they have for Duke Nukem Forever!!
      And every person on the planet who writes in more than one langauge needs one of those.

      So Im all for someone to bring these babies to the sub 200$ market but this is about Microsoft PATENTING this idea.

      Software patents are a blight on technology and so many of them get given for idiotic and common things (‘App to leave oneself a message in text form’ comes to mind) and this one has prior art, having it touch is only one of the options, it does not make the whole keyboard.
      This shouldnt pass but who really knows with the patent office.

      Microsoft is doing more extortion, suing, FUD than usual… and its closing departments and losing people non-stop… Tech companies innovate in court more than in tech are usually on their deathbed.

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