In all likelihood, Apple wants to replace physical keys by touch buttons or something similar. The company has already added Touch Bar on MacBook Pro. The company is known for using haptic sensors to simulate the feel of a click. We witnessed this for the first time on iPhone 7 Home button. Apple had implemented the haptic sensor so well that most of the iPhone 7 users didn’t feel the lack of physical button.
The patent talks about a screen-based keyboard that is designed to offer touch and feel similar to physical keys. Possibilities include a flexible screen that will go inside while typing or using an electrostatic charge to simulate the touch and feel of a key. Furthermore, a vibration actuator may be used to provide haptic feedback.
A vibration actuator may be configured to provide haptic feedback when an input is received via a virtual keyboard presented on a touch display. Feedback for such components may enhance user experience as this may simulate physical responses users have come to expect from traditionally three-dimensional and mechanical apparatuses that have been more contemporaneously implemented using non-traditional mechanisms, such as flat surfaces that do not use moving parts.
In some examples, the friction between the conductive object and the insulating material decreases as the conductive object moves across the insulating material towards a center of the static pattern electrostatic haptic electrode. In various examples, the friction between the conductive object and the insulating material increases as the conductive object moves across the insulating material towards a center of the static pattern electrostatic haptic electrode.
Please note that a majority of patents don’t see the light in a production-ready device. Even if Apple implements such a feature, they will end up taking at least a couple of years.[via Patently]