Apple patent is for input devices with configurable input areas

Apple has been granted a patent (number 20180039376) for an “input device having a dimensionally configurable input area.” It involves touch interfaces such as those on iOS devices, illuminated keyboards, and perhaps input devices we haven’t seen yet from the tech giant (as shown by the graphic).

Some traditional user input devices include large buttons or keys that are used to receive user input. However, these types of user input devices may lack flexibility or adaptability, according to Apple. Other user input devices may include high-density sensing arrays, which, while adaptable, may be too complex or costly to implement for some implementations. 

Input device patent.jpeg

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “Embodiments are directed to a user input device and methods for expanding an input area in response to an estimation of the accuracy of touch input or the likelihood that a series of touches will hit an intended touch target area. In one aspect, an embodiment includes a first capacitive area defined by a first electrode and a second capacitive area defined by the first electrode and a second electrode. 

“The embodiment further includes a processing unit that may be configured to, in a first mode, execute an operation in response to a touch received in the first capacitive area. The processing unit may be configured to, in a second mode, execute the operation in response to the touch received in the second capacitive area.”

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.