Apple files patent for keyboards with adaptive displays on each key

Apple has filed for a new patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for adaptive displays that can be used for every key on a keyboard. This will potentially allow reprogrammable keys that can adapt to various apps and games, depending on need.

Physical keyboards have alphabetical, numerical, and other keys that are hardcoded to their specific input or function, and cannot be changed, unlike software keyboards. Usually, keyboards in one language cannot easily be used for another language either, since the keys are printed on the keycaps. Having an adaptive display on each key could potentially solve this issue and allow it to be adapted to various languages, use cases, and software.

MacBook Keyboard adaptive display on each key

Apple could create an adaptive display based keyboard for future Macs

Apple’s new patent filing explains the ‘reconfigurable keyboard’ as following:

An electronic device may have a reconfigurable keyboard. The keyboard may be formed from an array of keys coupled to a housing. Each key may have a movable key member and an associated key display. Control circuitry in the keyboard may direct the key displays to display dynamically adjustable key labels for the keys.

The filing also details the use of a fiber optic plate:

Each key movable key member may be formed from a fiber optic plate. The fiber optic plate may be formed from a coherent fiber bundle with opposing first and second surfaces. The first surface may be adjacent to the key display and may receive key label images from the key display. The second surface may face outwardly towards a user and may receive key press input from the fingers of a user while presenting key label images for viewing.

MacBook Keyboard adaptive display on each key 2

The last time Apple tried adding something new to its keyboards, in the form of a Touch Bar, it was not well received by users. However, Apple has continued to stick with it over the years, and it is also supported by almost all third-party apps available on Macs. However, Apple has yet to bring this same feature to its desktop keyboards for Mac.

We can imagine that an adaptive display based keyboard would be costly to create, and even more expensive to repair if damaged. However, it would be an innovative solution that could solve a number of problems and allow for greater input flexibility.

via Patently Apple

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