Apple reimagines the Magic Keyboard with a waterproof design and trackpad that could accommodate both touch & Apple Pencil input
Last Thursday the U.S. Patent Office published a patent application from Apple regarding their Magic Keyboard reimagined. It mirrors a MacBook keyboard in that it comes with a track pad, though a different kind of track pad that could accommodate both touch and Apple Pencil input. The new keyboard also uses new materials and a waterproof debris resistant design. In many cases, the new track pad with Apple Pencil support could do away with a user requiring a Magic Trackpad accessory.
Apple's patent application relates to a keyboard with a new flexible structure, such as, for example, a flexible membrane, fabric, mesh, woven material, knitted material, or composite layer, can provide flexible bridges or interkey supports between the keycaps that, in combination with the keycaps, make a substantially continuous, smoothed, consistent-visual-appearance, sound-muting, and ingress-resistant top surface and interkey covering for the input device.
Debris, fluids, and other contaminants can penetrate between the keys of conventional keyboards, leading to numerous issues with the appearance, feel, and function of the keys. Therefore, another aspect of the present disclosure relates to using the flexible structure and keycaps to limit ingress of unwanted material into the keyboard by providing a substantially continuous upper surface layer for the keyboard.
The flexible structure can have a spill-proof, waterproof, fluid-tight, and/or unbroken top surface so that any contaminants are held by the flexible structure spaced away from the inside of the keyboard. Contaminants on the flexible structure can then be easily and safely removed from the keyboard without ever penetrating into contact with the more sensitive interior components.
A membrane can be positioned between outer keycaps and inner portions of the keyboard such as inner keycaps, collapsible domes, stabilizers (e.g., a butterfly or scissor hinge mechanism), and base components (e.g., a substrate, base layer, housing, etc.). Fluid and debris that falls between the keycaps can be blocked and held by the membrane at a location where it can be more easily cleaned off or otherwise removed from the keyboard.
The fluid and debris can also thereby be prevented from coming into contact with electrically charged portions of the keyboard or interfering with the function of domes, stabilizers, and other moving parts of the keyboard.
The flexible structure that limits contaminant ingress can fill interkey spaces with flexible and compliant material, provide a relatively smooth top surface, reduce the thickness of and the number of parts in the key assembly, and distribute light through the keyboard. Flexible structures can include ridges, grooves, waves, recesses, protrusions, and raised portions that collect debris and fluids, provide key definition, and enable the flexible structure to stretch or extend laterally when keys are pressed.
In some embodiments, the flexible structures or slack portions of a membrane can be hidden underneath a keycap or other rigid user interface surface, whereby flexing or folding/unfolding movement of the membrane can be obscured from the view of the user.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below illustrates the new Magic Keyboard design that resembles a MacBook style keyboard, yet with a track pad that could accommodate both touch and Apple Pencil input; FIG. 2 shows an exploded view of the electronic device of FIG. 1.
Further to FIG. 2, Apple notes that the material used in the flexible layer of the keyboard (#200) can comprise a rubber, silicone, polymer (e.g., a thermoplastic polymer such as thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), or Hytrel by Dupont), fabric (e.g., a flexible sheet of entwined mesh material, woven material, textile, knit material, similar materials, and combinations thereof), flexible or bendable composite, related materials, and combinations thereof.
In Apple's patent FIG. 3 below, the vent opening (#310) comprises a horizontal passage portion and a vertical passage portion. Air can therefore easily pass through the vent opening but liquids and debris that enter the recess (#120) are either caught in the passage, trapped at the point where the horizontal and vertical passage portions meet, or fall harmlessly into the bottom of the lower portion (#110) of the housing (#104) where it can collect, drain, or evaporate in a position that is out of contact with electronics due to the base support (#210) spacing the inner top surface of the lower portion from the inner keyboard module (#204) and electronics.
As shown in FIG. 5 above, the mesh material #502 can be arranged in a woven pattern; In the membrane #600 of FIG. 6, the mesh material 602 can comprise a set of interlocking rings or knitted strands with interwoven loops or circuitous portions that form a stable and consistent pattern.
Apple's patent application number 20210098212 was published on April first by the U.S. Patent Office. The patent was originally filed in Q3 2019.
Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.