Apple is possibly working on in-key displays for MacBook keyboards
Keys that changed depending on what you are doing? Awesome.
Ever wished the keyboard on your MacBook could change its legends based on what you’re doing? Well, if this new Apple patent that Patently Apple noticed comes to market, you’ll get exactly that.
The newly granted patent, titled “Electronic devices having keys with coherent fiber bundles,” was granted on the last day of patent grants for 2020. In it, Apple describes a system where the top surface of every key has an “associated key display” on it, connected to control circuits in the keyboard, via “coherent fiber.”
It’s basically a fancy way of saying “each MacBook key will have a mini-display on it.” Those displays could dynamically change based on what the user is doing, so the keys would display different legends if you were writing a document, or editing images in Photoshop, or even showing icons for in-game skills while gaming. Nifty.
Of course, mini displays on keyboards aren’t a new idea. Art Lebedev had the Optimus Concept keyboard way back in 2005, which had per-key LCD screens that also changed dynamically based on what the user was doing. Those still seem to be patents pending, so maybe Apple changed their design just enough to get their own patent.
Elgato also has their Streamdeck devices, with per-key LCD that lets the user assign shortcuts with associated images, but those don’t dynamically change the icon set based on what the user is doing. Maybe Apple will use the per-key displays to replace the Touch Bar found on MacBook Pro models, to bring back tactility to their features.
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