Apple patent involves a Mac keyboard with enhanced keyboard backlighting

Apple has been granted a patent (number 20180019081) for “keyboard backlighting with reduced driver circuitry” that hints at upcoming Mac keyboards with enhanced backlighting.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that some computer 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 it can do better.

Keyboard patent.jpeg

For example, if the user is 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. Additionally, by providing a lighting circuit with such capabilities, a uniform brightness for the entire keyboard can be established through an initial calibration process. 

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “Systems and methods for selective keyboard backlighting with reduced driver circuitry are provided. In one example embodiment, a method includes, inter alia, simultaneously controlling, with a control signal, an output of a first light emitting element that illuminates only one key of a plurality of keys of a keyboard and an output of a second light emitting element that illuminates only one key of the plurality of keys, and maintaining, with a current mirror circuit, uniformity between the output of the first light emitting element and the output of the second light emitting element.”

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.