For its next trick, Apple could be working on keyboards for its MacBooks that change the appearance and functionality of their keys dynamically, based on context, so that the A key can instantly transform into the 9 key, for example.
This stems from a patent discovered by Patently Apple (Opens in a new tab) (via 9to5Mac (Opens in a new tab)), which describes a keyboard that would have a flexible backlight system that could display any symbol at any time. key. Specifically, keys with "illuminable glyphs that are selectively visible or invisible to the naked eye."
Right now, of course, Apple uses keyboards with pre-printed static labels that cannot be changed. Some keys that have more than one use, such as the media playback keys, have multiple labels, making it clear what they do.
How the keys could be designed (Image credit: Patently Apple)
Essentially, the hardware described by the patent involves keys with an array of individual pixels that can be turned on or off as needed, using finely tuned micro-LED or OLED components Apple is familiar with from its device displays.
The end result would be "changeable or adjustable glyphs between different shapes, letters, colors, symbols, animations, languages, and other features," so that a keyboard could be used for typing and then changed to offer shortcut commands for video editing. . for example.
As always with patent filings, this doesn't mean we're close to a final product, or that it will eventually be made, but it does show what Apple is exploring in terms of future hardware innovations.
Analysis: A more flexible keyboard
It seems that Apple wants to revolutionize the technology of its MacBooks: just a few days ago we learned of a laptop project consisting of a single 20-inch folding screen, with the keyboard on one side and the conventional "screen" on the other. other.
This latest patent application isn't all that dramatic, but it makes a lot of sense. Imagine having keys that could quickly change to take on different functions depending on what's going on in macOS: you could have different layouts for browsing the web, editing photos, playing games, and more.
Not to mention the flexibility it would offer in terms of writing in different languages. Scientists and mathematicians would also benefit from having access to a certain set of functions at certain times, and when those specific keys are not needed, the layout can be returned to normal with the press of another button.
All of this would cost money, of course, so the trade-off could be higher prices for Apple laptops. Perhaps to begin with it would come as an optional extra, but like any patent, we will have to wait and see if it comes true or not.