Apple won a patent for a glass MacBook with a dynamic virtual trackpad area that illuminates icons and an inductive recharging area symbol
Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that primarily relates to a future glass body MacBook with an illuminated surface that could illustrated icons or indicate where a user should place their iPhone on the MacBook so as to be aligned with an inductive power coil under the MacBook housing. This supports an aspect of another granted patent issued to Apple back in August 2021. A patent figure from that patent is presented as our cover graphic above.
Today’s granted patent covers systems, devices, and techniques related to an electronic device having an illuminated enclosure or body that defines a dynamic input region. The dynamic input region may be defined along an exterior or upper surface of the enclosure formed from a translucent layer or structure. The translucent layer may be selectively illuminated to reveal a customizable active input area (e.g., a virtual track pad) and/or display various visual outputs along the dynamic input region.
Visual output may be produced along the translucent layer using a number of different techniques. In a first example, the translucent layer may be illuminated from the side by a light-emitting element. Light is directed toward light-extraction features in the translucent layer that may illuminate a visible boundary of the active input area (e.g., a virtual trackpad).
In another example, the translucent layer is illuminated from below by an array of light-emitting elements (or a single light-emitting element) to create a configurable or customizable boundary of the active input area. For example, the active input area may be moved, resized, rearranged, functionally reassigned, or the like along the dynamic input region.
The dynamic input region may also depict various other visual outputs or other optical effects, including illuminating a boundary of a touch input, or conveying other information, including dynamic or updateable information of the electronic device. A virtual trackpad may be positioned along a side of a keyboard or other structure coupled to the translucent layer configured to receive a keypress or other input.
The dynamic input region may be defined along virtually any exterior surface of the electronic device formed by the translucent layer that is configured to receive an input, including a force input, a touch input, and/or a proximity input. The translucent layer may be formed from one or more translucent materials including, for example, glass, ceramic, plastic, or a combination thereof.
In a "side-illuminated" embodiment, where the translucent layer is illuminated from the side, the translucent layer may define a light guide that guides or directs light from the light-emitting element and defines the active input area within the dynamic input region.
In a "bottom-illuminated" embodiment, where the translucent layer is illuminated from beneath the external surface, a light control layer may be used to control the propagation of light through the translucent layer and define the active input area within the dynamic input region.
Apple’s patent FIG. 1A below depicts a sample electronic device including a dynamic input region; FIG. 7A depicts a top view of a sample electronic device having an active input area and multiple outputs of the electronic device illuminated on the dynamic input region.
For more details and patent figure examples, review Apple's granted patent 11,372,151.
Apple has been working on this concept for at least five years. Another patent on this same theme was covered in a February IP report with the patent dating back to 2017. One of the patent figures from that patent is presented below.
Apple's patent FIG. 10C illustrated above depicts the sample MacBook having multiple illuminated input regions; FIGS. 3A-C illustrate examples of other illuminated symbols that could be presented.