Apple has been granted a patent (number 11,372,151) for an “illuminated device enclosure with dynamic trackpad comprising translucent layers with light emitting elements.” It involves, among other things, a virtual keyboard.
About the patent
Current input device include, of course, large buttons, keys, or other mechanically-actuated structures. Apple says that, however, these types of input devices may lack flexibility or adaptability and may permanently indicate the presence of the input device within the computing system. One possibility is a virtual keyboard.
This isn’t the first time Apple has been granted/filed for a patent involving a virtual keyboard. In 2020, Apple filed for a patent (number 20200026327) for an “electronic device with glass housing member” that hints at a radical design of the iMac (pictured).
Per the patent filing, the keyboard in such an iMac could be be a keyless keyboard with force sensing and haptic feedback. The patent filing mentions one or more input components (e.g., touch sensors, force sensors, biometric sensors, and the like) that may be coupled to the housing member and configured to detect inputs at the input area.
Summary of the patent
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent: “Embodiments are directed to an electronic device having an illuminated body that defines a virtual or dynamic trackpad. The electronic device includes a translucent layer defining a keyboard region and a dynamic input region along an external surface. A keyboard may be. positioned within the keyboard region and including a key surface and a switch element (e.g., to detect a keypress). A light control layer positioned below the translucent layer and within the dynamic input region may have a group of illuminable features.
“The electronic device may also include a group of light-emitting elements positioned below the optical diffuser. One or more of the light control layer or the group of light-emitting elements may be configured to illuminate the dynamic input region to display a visible boundary of an active input area. At least one of a size or a position of the visible boundary may be dynamically variable.”