Future Macs, both laptop and desktops, may sport keyboards that respond to, among other things, gestures. Apple has filed for a patent (number 20210294430) for a “keyboard with capacitive key position, key movement, or gesture input sensors.”
About the patent filing
In the patent filing, Apple notes that a computer keyboard may be an integrated keyboard (as is often the case with a laptop) or a standalone keyboard (as may be the case with a desktop computer, tablet computer, or smart television). And both desktops and laptops could have “virtual” keyboards, as evidenced by a variety of patent filings, such as number 20200026337) for a radically redesigned iMac.
Along with the usual functions of a keyboard, Apple is investigating the possibility of them responding to gestures as well as touch input. (A gesture input would be limited to motion that does not trigger a key make event, or in some cases may include motion that does trigger a key make event.) Among the possibilities are a virtual keyboard that responds to force sensing and haptic feedback.
Summary of the patent filing
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent filing: An input device includes a keycap, a first electrode disposed to move in response to movement of the keycap, a planar array of electrodes extending at least partially under the keycap, and a sensor. The planar array of electrodes includes a second electrode, a third electrode, and a fourth electrode extending between the second electrode and the third electrode. The sensor is coupled to at least one of the second electrode or the third electrode and configured to generate a signal indicative of a change in capacitive coupling between the second electrode and the third electrode. The change in the capacitive coupling may result from movement of the first electrode.