Surface Neo unveilingSource: Windows Central

What you need to know

  • A Microsoft patent shows how the keyboard could work for the Surface Neo.
  • The patent shows a setup with a keyboard and screen communicating through electrical conductors.
  • The same design could also be used for other devices and form factors.

A recently published patent from Microsoft shows off how a mechanical keyboard could work with touch screen devices like the Surface Neo (via WindowsUnited). While the patent does not specifically mention the Neo, the device in the illustrations looks very similar to when Microsoft showed off the Surface Neo last year.

The patent describes a system that has a mechanical keyboard and a device's touch screen work together through electrical conductors. Going strictly off this patent, it appears that the Neo or any device that used this design would do more than just have Bluetooth or connected keyboard rest on top of a screen. While a Bluetooth setup could work, the approach shown off in the patent seems more direct.

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The patent's summary explains each part of the system, starting with the mechanical keyboard:

One aspect of this disclosure is directed to a mechanical keyboard for use on a touch screen. The mechanical keyboard comprises an individually and resiliently depressible key and a network of electrical conductors. [The] key includes a user-facing outer portion and a screen-facing, electrically conductive inner portion, the inner portion being configured to approach the touch screen during depression of the key. The network of electrical conductors is configured to conduct a drive signal to the inner portion of the key, the drive signal being received, during the depression of the key, at a locus of touch screen directly beneath the key.

The patent continues with a summary of the touch screen and device portion of the setup:

Another aspect of this disclosure is directed to an electronic device adaptable to receive a mechanical keyboard. The electronic device comprises a touch screen and an electrical interface for connection to the mechanical keyboard, which comprises an individually and resiliently depressible key and a network of electrical conductors. The key includes a user-facing outer portion and a screen-facing, electrically conductive inner portion, the inner portion being configured to approach the touch screen during depression of the key. The network of electrical conductors is configured to conduct a drive signal to the inner portion of the key, the drive signal being received, during the depression of the key, at a locus of touch screen directly beneath the key.

Microsoft keyboard patent filingSource: PATENTSCOPE

As with all patents, this design could only be a concept or theory. It does appear similar to what we've seen from the Surface Neo, though. The patent states that this design could be used on a laptop computer or a flip phone in addition to the foldable tablet design shown off in its illustrations.