Apple is granted a patent for a possible future MacBook-Like Device that takes on a Glass Form Factor
Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple a patent for a possible future MacBook that is constructed with a glass form factor, including the keyboard area that will include bendable flat glass that may or may not have protrusions that define distinct key regions of the keyboard. Apple isn’t all that bold and rather sticks with evolutionary changes to the MacBook, but that could change.
There was a rumor that surfaced back in late June claiming that Apple was working on a 12” MacBook. Could this be where a new form factor could be introduced? Likely not, though Apple’s patents have been hinting of a new “notebook-like” device being contemplated.
Today’s granted patent shows us one option while a large foldable iPad that could double as a notebook-like device is another. Apple also has a couple of other patents pointing to a keyless notebook form factor (01 and 02). In addition, the use of glass forming the housing of a future iMac, as presented below, has been patented. So, using glass embodiments in the future is a real possibility.
Glass MacBook with Glass Keyboard+
Apple’s newly granted patent covers a future MacBook or MacBook-like device that may include a display portion that includes a display housing and a display at least partially within the display housing. The device may also include a base portion pivotally coupled to the display portion and including a bottom case, a glass top case coupled to the bottom case and defining an array of raised key regions, and a sensing system below the glass top case and configured to detect an input applied to a raised key region of the array of raised key regions.
The array of raised key regions may form a keyboard of the device. The glass top case may further define a touch-input region along a side of the keyboard. The input may include a force applied to the raised key region of the array of raised key regions, and the raised key region may be configured to locally deflect in response to the applied force. The sensing system may be configured to detect the local deflection of the raised key region and detect touch inputs applied to the touch-input region.
For example, the glass sheet may be a strengthened glass having a thickness of about 40 microns or less. Due to the thinness and flexibility of the glass, when a typical typing force is applied to the thin glass sheet (e.g., via a finger), the glass may be primarily deformed directly under the force (e.g., under the finger) while other areas of the glass sheet remain substantially undeformed or less deformed.
The local deformation of the thin glass may provide a more satisfying typing experience than thicker or less flexible glass, as the user may actually feel a deformation or depression that is similar to or suggestive of a conventional movable-key keyboard.
Moreover, the local deformation may produce a softer typing feel (e.g., a less jarring impact) than striking a less compliant surface, such as a conventional touchscreen.
In some cases, the glass cover of a keyboard may include protrusions, contours, recesses, and/or other shapes or features that define distinct key regions of the keyboard. For example, the glass cover may be thermoformed or otherwise processed to form an array of raised key regions (e.g., protrusions, contoured key regions, etc.) that define the key regions of a keyboard.
Raised key regions may provide a more familiar-feeling keyboard surface to users, as the individual key regions may have a similar shape and feel to conventional movable keys. Moreover, a user may be able to type faster and with fewer errors because they can feel the borders and boundaries of each key region and do not need to look at the keyboard to align their fingers with the keys. The ability to feel distinct key regions may also help prevent a user's hands from unintentionally drifting out of position during typing.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below depicts a notebook (#100) that may include a glass cover. In particular, a base portion (#104) of the notebook may include a top case (#112) that is formed at least partially from glass and that defines a keyboard and optionally other input regions (e.g., a trackpad or touch-input region) of the device; FIG. 9A depicts another example configuration of a glass top case. FIG. 10A depicts an example cross-sectional view of a dual-layer glass top case.
For more details, review granted patent 11,409,332.