Not content to let its keyboards lag behind touch-infused designs like the Blackberry Passport and Synaptics ThinTouch, Apple has been granted a patent (initially filed back in 2011) for its own keyboard with touch sensors. The examples laid out in the patent show a full-sized keyboard laced with capacitive sensors that let users perform actions like swipes, taps, and other gestures without moving their hands away from the home row.
Key and touch input are processed separately, so users can type with one hand while performing multi-touch gestures with the other. The patent also covers a handful of time-based techniques for distinguishing standard keystrokes from touch events.
Separate from the touch mojo, the patent describes dual-purpose keys that activate different functions depending on how far they're depressed. There are no concrete usage examples in the patent, but it's easy enough to imagine typing lower-case letters at a shallow depth and capitals at a deeper one.
There's currently no word of any Apple products with this keyboard/touchpad hybrid, but the design could potentially allow for some nifty form factors. Knowing Apple's technical acumen with touch hardware, this looks quite interesting. Thanks to AppleInsider for the tip.