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A Future 'Magic Keyboard' may include Multiple Colored LEDs Supporting Gaming & other Application Functions

10.4 - Patent Application


Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a possible future iteration of the Magic Keyboard. According to Apple's patent filing, the new keyboard design will support multiple LEDs per key. The design will allow for key customization so that an application or game could brighten up certain keys over others and assist the user in seeing the important keys at a glance to control certain specific functions.


Apple's Patent Background


Computers have become more user-friendly with the advancement of technology. Many computing devices are designed to provide an intuitive user interface that is less taxing on the user. For example, many user interfaces can now learn and adapt to the inputs of a user over the lifetime of the computer. Although these technologies can improve the efficiency a particular computer, they may fall short when the hardware of the computer does not provide a dynamic interface for relaying information to the user. For instance, the introduction of touch screens has provided an added level of dynamics for computers that could not have been provided if users were still limited to a mouse and keyboard configuration. Touch screens are dynamic in their ability to adjust and present a user with an almost infinite number of interfaces for interacting with a computer. Conversely, a keyboard is an example of a particular piece of hardware that has continually lacked dynamics. Despite computers becoming more useful for a variety of personal, business, and manufacturing tasks, keyboards have hardly changed beyond their original design. Physically, some keyboards have improved by providing a single backlight that allows the user to see the keys of a keyboard better. However, such backlights are typically static and therefore do not provide any additional utility beyond improving the visibility of keys.


Apple's Invention: Multiple Backlight Keyboard


Apple's patent generally relates to keyboard backlights. More particularly, the described embodiments relate to a keyboard circuit for individually illuminating keys of a keyboard using multiple keyboard backlights.


In particular, some embodiments include a lighting circuit for a keyboard. The lighting circuit can include a plurality of light emitting diode (LED) drivers. Additionally, the lighting circuit can include a host controller connected to the plurality of LED drivers, and a memory connected to the host controller, which can store configuration data for the plurality of LED drivers. Furthermore, the lighting circuit can include a plurality of LEDs connected to the plurality of LED drivers, wherein each LED of the plurality of LEDs are assigned to illuminate a key of the keyboard and each LED is capable of being individually responsive to an operation performed by a computing device associated with the keyboard.


In some embodiments, a method is set forth for controlling brightness of light emitting diodes (LEDs) connected to a keyboard. The method can include sending a command to a lighting circuit for a keyboard, wherein the lighting circuit controls the brightness of a plurality of LEDs. The method can further include a step of causing the brightness of one or more LEDs of the plurality of LEDs to change.


A MacBook could include multiple software applications ranging from word processing applications, game applications, internet applications, or any other suitable applications. Some of these applications may use keys of the keyboard more often than other applications. For example, in a game that only uses an up and down command may only require the user to press two keys. Therefore, when the user starts the game application the lighting circuit can limit the amount of current going to the majority of the LEDs on the keyboard. In this way, the illuminated keys tell the user to only use the illuminated keys and not the non-illuminated keys.


The keyboard can also react to the game being played by flashing some or all of the LEDs at certain points during the game (e.g., the end of a level or when the user receives points). When the user stops playing the game application, minimizes the game application, or starts a new application, the illuminated keys can either turn off, stay on, or adjust in brightness according to the operation being performed by the computing device.


Apple's patent FIG. 3 noted below illustrates an embodiment of the keyboard having multiple LEDs per key


Apple's patent FIG. 5 illustrates the calibration of the keyboard of a MacBook.


4af 55 custom lit keys

Apple notes further in their patent filing that multi-colored LEDs and mono-colored LEDs could be applied. For example, any of the embodiments described can incorporate red, green, and blue LEDs. In this way, any of the embodiments can be made more dynamic by the use of multiple colors.


Additionally certain embodiments can be combined using different colors to distinguish one embodiment over another. For example, in some embodiments, a spell-checking application is combined with an address book application. In this way, when a user is typing text that resembles both misspelled word and the name of a contact in an address book, the remaining keys associated with the letters of the correctly-spelled word can be illuminated by red LEDs, while the remaining keys associated with the letters of the contact in the address book can be illuminated in green.


For more details and scenarios see Apple's patent application 20150334799 which was originally filed in Q2 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


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