Mac peripherals could someday change their appearance based on what task they’re performing

Future Mac peripherals could change their appearance based on what task they’re performing. Apple has been granted a patent (number 20150370339) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for an “input/output device with a dynamically adjustable appearance and function.”

In the patent, Apple notes that computers and other electronic devices typically include one or more input devices, such as mice, keyboards, joysticks, and the like so that you can more easily interact with the device in question. Often, these input devices may be integrated with or into the associated device. For example, a laptop may include a keyboard operably connected to its internal systems and housed within its enclosure. Similarly, a laptop may include a track pad or other motion-based input device that may also be integrated with the enclosure. 

Shown is the top perspective view of a sample computing device.

Shown is the top perspective view of a sample computing device.

Most of these input devices have a static appearance, even if they can provide multiple functions or types of inputs to the electronic device. For example, the numerical keys on a conventional QWERTY keyboard include a number input function and a symbol input. However, in many conventional keyboards, these two options are displayed statically on the respective keys.

Apple says that, during use, a user may not be aware which input function is activated and may accidentally select the symbol input function when a number input is desired. What’s more, the appearance of many input devices may be separate or distinguished from the enclosure of the electronic device or the enclosure of the input device.

Apple says this may detract from a uniform appearance of the device and may reduce the contrast of the glyphs or symbols on the input device. Naturally, the company wants to change this.

Here’s the summary of patent 20150370339: “A computing device is disclosed. The computing device may include a display, a processor in communication with the display and an enclosure connected to the display. The computing device may also include an input/output (I/O) device in communication with the processor. The I/O device may also be connected to the enclosure. Additionally, the I/O device may include a modifiable display that may substantially match the appearance of the enclosure.”