Apple invention involves a Mac laptop with a ‘keyless keyboard’

Apple has filed for a patent (number 20180074694) for a “keyless keyboard with force sensing and haptic feedback” that hints at Mac laptops with virtual keyboards instead of physical ones. In other words, the portable would sport two screens instead of one — with one display doubling as a keyboard.

In the patent filing, Apple says that traditional computing input devices — such as mice, keyboards, and trackpads, tend to operate using dedicated keys or buttons — lack the flexibility to accommodate expansive features offered by newer devices, operating systems, and software. As a further drawback, the dedicated keys or buttons of traditional input devices are unable to adapt to different user needs and preferences. 

Keyboard patent .jpeg

Apple says that alternative input devices, such as touch-input devices, appear to offer some greater flexibility for input scenarios and customization than mechanical keyboards, mice, and similar input devices. However, they often have a flat, inflexible input surface that gives little or no tactile feedback to a user and may therefore be less desirable for many scenarios than traditional input devices. 

Apple says that improved input devices are needed to provide both greater flexibility and customizability while providing feedback to a user during operation. Obviously, the tech giant thinks it has a solution.

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “An input device for an electronic device includes an enclosure and a top member defining an input surface having multiple differentiated input regions. The input device further includes a first force sensing system associated with a first area of the top member and including a first group of the differentiated input regions, and a second force sensing system associated with a second area of the top member and including a second group of the differentiated input regions. 

“The input device further includes a touch sensing system configured to determine which input region from the first group of the differentiated input regions corresponds to the first force input and to determine which input region from the second group of the differentiated input regions corresponds to the second force input.”

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.