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Apple Granted a Wild Patent Describing a Futuristic MacBook with Disappearing Keyboard

1 Cover, Wild futuristic MacBook
The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 39 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover an exception to the rule. We present a granted patent that has yet to surface but is a wild one to acknowledge. Welcome to a view of a futuristic MacBook where the keyboard could appear or disappear with a single wave of the user's hand. Now that's cool.

Metal Devices that Could Provide Next Generation Touch Controls


Embodiments of electronic devices are disclosed that allow a user to interact with an electronic device through their housings. More specifically, in some embodiments, the electronic devices may include one or more input-output (I/O) devices that are integrated into the surface of the housing rather than within the housing. That is, the housing may be part of the I/O system as well as the structural enclosure for the electronic device.


With regard to inputting data via the housing, the housing may include one or more sensors that are capable of detecting a variety of user actions as input to the electronic device. In other words, the housing itself may be used as an input device such that user actions like approaching, touching, tapping, holding, and/or squeezing the electronic device, may be used as input data by the electronic device. In some embodiments, the sensors in the housing also may be combined with one or more additional sensing devices to enhance the housing's ability to sense user actions. For example, the sensors in the housing may be used in conjunction with an accelerometer.


While conventional housings for electronic devices may be manufactured using different types of plastics, an increasing number of housings are being implemented where the housing is manufactured, in whole or in part, using metal.


Conventional approaches have had difficulty sensing user interaction through metal, especially when the sensors are implemented using capacitive sensing technologies. In some embodiments, the difficulties associated with capacitive sensing may be overcome by forming the capacitive sensor using the housing as a first terminal of the capacitor, using another terminal located within the housing as a second terminal of the capacitor, and separating the first and second terminals to create a cavity or gap to be filled with dielectrics.


Futuristic Magic MacBook: Wave your Hand over the Keyboard Area and the Keyboard Appears


2 Apple Granted a Patent for a Wild Futuristic MacBook

Depending upon the particular electronic device, the manner in which the housing input mechanism is incorporated into the housing may vary. For example, in a notebook computer the housing input mechanism may exist in place of a keyboard 28.


Alternatively, a user may be able to interact with the housing input mechanism without actually making physical contact with the electronic device. For example, in the context of FIG. 9, if the housing input mechanism 100 is used in place of the traditional keyboard of the notebook computer, then pressure waves that may arise from a user waving his hand over the keyboard may provide the user interaction, e.g., waking up the notebook computer 22 from a sleep state.


But this is where it really gets wild. Apple's patent filing describes a futuristic non-physical MacBook keyboard that only appears when the the user waves their hand over the keyboard area: "This ability may allow the housing input mechanism 600 to be implemented as a hidden keyboard, where the illumination devices are illuminated when the user waves his hand over the housing to cause the keys to appear."


Stylus & Squeeze Inputs for Future MacBook or other iDevices


Apple states that other embodiments, such as the housing input mechanism shown in patent FIG. 10 above, may include the user making contact with the device's housing using a stylus.


In other embodiments, such as the PDA, the personal media player and/or the mobile telephone, the housing input mechanism may be incorporated into the portions of the devices that typically make contact with a user's hand. For example, if an iPhone is in the user's pocket and begins to ring, a user may simply squeeze or tap the iPhone to silence it.


Spiral Mechanism Sensors may Trigger Software


Apple's patent FIG. 8C shown below illustrates another very interesting alternative embodiment in the form of a spiral arrangement which Apple describes as having invisible holes ("visually imperceptible to the user"). In this embodiment, as the user moves his hand across the housing in various directions, the housing above each of the terminals may be depressed in a certain successive pattern, and the microprocessor may process the detected patterns to determine a direction of the overall user's movement across the housing.


The spiral design is interesting considering that Apple has a number of spiral related software patents (one, two) for iTunes that could be triggered by the sensors found on future iDevices and MacBook as described above.


3. Spiral sensor mechanism 

Apple credits Aleksandar Pance, Nicolas King, Duncan Kerr and Brett Bilbrey as the inventors of this granted patent (8,390,481) which was originally filed in 2009.




Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of granted patents with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any Granted Patent should be read in its entirety for full details. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.



I'll talk to Apple's engineers about that, SGS. How dare they (Ha!).


'Moves HIS hand'? What century is this? Why not just say 'moves their hand' and avoid annoying 50% of the population?

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