It’s been rumored that Apple is working on a touchscreen keyboard for an upcoming MacBook product, but a recently-filed patent suggests the new keyboard could be more revolutionary than first thought. It seems that Apple doesn’t just want a touchscreen keyboard, but is designing one with raised, tactile keys.
The keys will apparently have haptic feedback beneath the raised glass, which could be the both of best worlds, allowing for a keyboard that's impervious to dust and debris, but with as much tactile feeling as physically possible from a glass screen.
The patent, uncovered by AppleInsider, details a contiguous glass panel with physically raised but unmoving keys, using curved glass techniques, supported by haptic motors to imitate a key press. Alternatively, the keys could use thinner, semi-flexible glass that would slightly depress under normal pressure to simulate a traditional key press.
Of course, either way the keyboard beneath the glass would be digital and software-based. Therefore, the keys could change layout and language on the fly.
The ultimate solution?
Apple's MacBook keyboards have been criticised recently, with some users reporting that the keyboards have been suffering problems when dust or debris gets between the keys.
This is obviously far from the first time Apple has tried to resolve this issue in its keyboards, with its most recent butterfly switch keyboards containing a silicone membrane beneath each key to try to prevent the problem.
Naturally, this patent specifically name-drops reducing the impact and presence of dust and debris as a primary goal of this development. However, it also discusses how such a design could lead to thinner laptop designs or larger batteries.
The Lenovo Yoga Book line of hybrid laptops certainly shows us the kind of thinness that’s possible with more traditional touchscreen keyboards, so imagine a future MacBook Air with an even more advanced version of that.
If Apple can turn this patent application into a real product, it may have not only solved one of the most dire problems impacting its laptop line, but it could introduce a whole new form factor of portable computer.
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