Browse Prior Art Database

Inflatable Computer Keyboard

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000118890D
Original Publication Date: 1997-Aug-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Apr-01
Document File: 2 page(s) / 63K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Related People

Schreck, E: AUTHOR

Abstract

Although portable computers (notebooks and pen-based computers) get smaller and smaller, the input device 'keyboard' imposes a natural limit. Even foldable keyboards, like the IBM* butterfly, do not reduce their volume in an unused state; they only change their shape. Due to their mechanical nature, they are also heavy and inconvenient to carry along on travel. Pseudo keyboards that are realized on screens (pen-based computers) do not allow '10 finger input' since there is no physical orientation control for the hands.

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Inflatable Computer Keyboard

      Although portable computers (notebooks and pen-based computers)
get smaller and smaller, the input device 'keyboard' imposes a
natural limit.  Even foldable keyboards, like the IBM* butterfly, do
not reduce  their volume in an unused state; they only change their
shape.  Due to  their mechanical nature, they are also heavy and
inconvenient to carry  along on travel.  Pseudo keyboards that are
realized on screens (pen-based computers) do not allow '10 finger
input' since there is no  physical orientation control for the hands.

      An inflatable keyboard offers a solution for portable
computing.  Ideally, all functional switches are realized by
pneumatic switches because they can be designed out of flexible
materials (plastic).  In the deflated (inactive) state, the keyboard
can be squeezed together like a rubber duck but inflated with enough
pressure (air) to enable the keyboard to be solid enough to be used
comfortably as an input device.  The plastic material also reduces
the weight considerably.  In contrast to keyboards realized on touch
screens, it offers the real keyboard feeling with physically
separated keys and key  movement.

      Instead of an electrical switch, the inflatable keyboard uses
pneumatic switches.  The switch can be comprised of a flexible tube
which, when depressed at any location, leads to a pressure change in
the tube that can be detected by a pressure sensor mounted at the
end.

      Like any keyboard, the inflatable keyboard will be laid out in
a matrix form with keys sitting at cross points of vertical and
horizontal tubes, e.g., a 10 by 10 matrix would offer 100 keys and
need 20 pressure sensors.  In addition, the...