Apple engineers have been researching and filing patents related to using glass bodies for future MacBooks and iMacs (01, 02, 03 and 04) since at least 2018. This week the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an update to one of Apple's patents relating to a Glass-bodied MacBook with a softer, bendable glass surface to lessen the impact of typing on solid glass like an iPad. Apple is also considering providing for raised softer glass keys on a keyboard that integrates touch sensors beneath each key.
In a first scenario, 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.
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. 10A depicts an example of a cross-sectional view of a dual-layer glass top case.
Apple's patent FIG. 19 above depicts a schematic diagram of a glass MacBook with touch sensors for under the keyboard keys.
Apple notes that using a glass member for a top case, and more particularly for the input surface of a keyboard, may also provide unique opportunities for forming wear-resistant glyphs (or other symbols) on the individual key regions.
Apple has updated this patent to better protect specific features and strengthen its intellectual property from competitors and patent trolls. Apple has added 20 new patent claims wherein the top 5 are noted below:
- A device comprising: a display portion comprising: a display housing; and a display at least partially within the display housing; and a base portion pivotally coupled to the display portion and comprising: 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 device of claim 1, wherein: the array of raised key regions forms a keyboard of the device; the glass top case further defines a touch-input region along a side of the keyboard; the input includes a force applied to the raised key region of the array of raised key regions; the raised key region is configured to locally deflect in response to the applied force; and the sensing system is configured to: detect the local deflection of the raised key region; and detect touch inputs applied to the touch-input region.
- The device of claim 1, wherein: the glass top case comprises: a first glass layer defining the array of raised key regions and configured to deflect in response to a first force applied to the raised key region; and a second glass layer below the first glass layer and configured to provide a buckling response in response to a second force, greater than the first force, applied to the raised key region.
- The keyboard of claim 9, further comprising a haptic actuator configured to impart a force to the raised key region in response to detection, by the sensing system, of the deflection of the raised key region.
- Wherein the key region defines a top surface having a convex curved shape that is configured to collapse to provide the buckling response.
To review the entire patent filing along with remaining 15 new patent claims, check out Apple's patent application # US 20220365566 A1.