Future Mac laptops could come with a backlight keyboard that individually illuminates the keys using multiple keyboard backlights if the invention described in a patent filing (number 20150334799) with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office comes to fruition.
In the patent filing, Apple says that, despite computers becoming more useful for a variety of personal, business, and manufacturing tasks, keyboards have hardly changed beyond their original design. Physically, some keyboards have improved by providing a single backlight that allows the user to see the keys of a keyboard better. However, such backlights are typically static and don’t provide any additional utility beyond improving the visibility of keys. Apple thinks we need a keyboard interface offers an additional means for communicating information to the user.
Why would you want/need a multiple backlight keyboard? Apple says that lighting schemes can include illuminating a group or groups of keys at a different brightness level than other keys not contained in the group. For example, if you’re playing a game or using a software application that uses one or more keys more frequently than other keys, the more frequently used keys can be illuminated while the other keys can remain dim or off.
Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention (which is pretty heavy in tech-speak): “This application relates to a dynamic lighting circuit for a keyboard of a computing device. The lighting circuit described herein includes several light emitting diode (LED) drivers having multiple channels for controlling multiple LEDs. The lighting circuit also includes an electrically erasable read-only memory (EEPROM) for storing configuration data for the LED drivers. Each LED is configured to individually illuminate a single key of the keyboard, allowing the lighting circuit to modify the brightness of each key without affecting the brightness of other keys.
“In this way, more lighting schemes are available for the keyboard, while also providing a thinner mechanical design for the keyboard. Lighting schemes can include illuminating a group or groups of keys at a different brightness level than other keys that are not contained in the group. Additionally, lighting schemes can include animations executed by varying the brightness levels of keys over a period of time.”