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Apple Invents the Movable Illuminated MacBook Trackpad

10.7 - Patent Applications -



Last week we posted an exciting Apple invention covering a game changing notebook design that disclosed the elimination of the physical keyboard and trackpad that would be replaced by an illuminated surface outlining a keyboard and trackpad. Such a design would also allow a MacBook Surface to transform into a gaming gamepad or other configuration. Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals their possible evolutionary process of first eliminating just the physical trackpad to get users used to the idea of it not being a fixed-positioned physical component of the MacBook. A MacBook's tradition keyboard would remain in place. The new design discussed today will allow a user to change the position of an illuminated area trackpad to anywhere along the width of the MacBook. Once users are familiar with the new illuminated based trackpad, Apple could then move to the more radical step of replacing the physical keyboard with one based on illumination.


Apple's Invention: Dynamic Input for MacBooks


Conventional electronic devices typically include a variety of distinct input devices or input surfaces formed from a variety of components. Conventional laptop computing devices typically include a keyboard and a trackpad to allow a user to interact with the laptop. Each of these devices includes components that may be positioned both inside and outside of the casing of the laptop. The construction or formation of conventional trackpads may only enable the trackpad to be static and/or fixed within a MacBook.


As a result, the track pad may not be positioned in a desired and/or optimal position during certain uses of the electronic device. Additionally, the conventional track pad may have a fixed dimension, which may be cumbersome when electronic device is being utilized to perform actions that involve a large amount of scrolling or other track pad functions.


Last week Apple's game changing notebook design surfaced in a patent application disclosing the elimination of the physical keyboard and trackpad that would be replaced by an illuminated surface outlining a keyboard and trackpad. The design would also allow a MacBook Surface to transform into a gaming gamepad.



In today's patent application we're able to see the evolutionary process of this game changing MacBook design beginning with focusing on a hybrid design where the first changes could come to the trackpad area while keeping the traditional keyboard intact.


The Dynamic Input Surface


Apple's MacBook hybrid design would include what Apple calls a 'dynamic input surface ' which comprises a metal contact portion defining an input area, and a group of indicators selectively illuminated based on a gesture performed on the metal contact portion. A size of the input area dynamically varies based on the gesture, and the group of indicators indicates a boundary of the input area.



They hybrid MacBook metal casing comprises a partially-flexible contact portion, a keyboard assembly positioned within the metal casing, and a dynamic input surface on the metal casing. The dynamic input surface comprises a group of indicators, and an adjustable input area bounded by an illuminated subset of the group of indicators.


The patent covers a method for reconfiguring a dynamic input surface of a future MacBook. The method comprises illuminating a boundary of an input area of the dynamic input surface, where the input area comprises a part of a contact surface. The method also comprises receiving at least one gesture within or on the boundary of the input area, adjusting at least one of a position or a size of the input area of the dynamic input surface based on the gesture, and varying the illumination of the boundary accordingly.



Apple's patent FIG. 6A noted above shows a top view of a MacBook that includes a dynamic input surface; In patent FIG. 6B the MacBook is shown prior to resizing the dynamic input surface while FIG. 6C shows the MacBook subsequent to resizing the dynamic input surface with touch gestures.


The boundary lines #232 of FIG. 6A above may be formed by illuminating select holes #220 extending through contact portion using light guide layer and/or light source or through the use of any other suitable indicators.


To interact with the input surface and/or MacBook, a user must touch and/or form contact point(s) within the input area #202 defined by the boundary lines. Portions of the MacBook's input surface positioned outside of an input area may be deactivated or temporarily inoperable, such that a user may not interact with the input surface when touching or forming contact point(s) outside of the boundary lines.


A user may perform a variety of touch gestures on the contact portion within the input area to interact or engage the input surface and/or MacBook. In non-limiting examples, a user may sweep their finger(s) to move a cursor on the display or a user may apply a force to deform the contact portion within the input area to provide a "mouse click" to the input surface and/or MacBook.


Apple's patent FIG. 4 below shows a bottom view of a portion of an electronic device including a dynamic input surface, a haptic feedback module, a touch detection module and a touch frequency module.




As shown in Apple's patent FIGS. 8A-8C below, when a user's finger moves along input area #202, the input surface may selectively illuminate holes #220 extending through the contact portion in portions in which a user previously touched. That is, as a user moves their finger along input area # 202, the input surface may create a light trail #242 by illuminating the holes in areas of the contact portion in which a contact point #234 was previously made by the user's finger. The light trail may provide a user with a visual path of where the user's finger previously touched on the contact portion.



In Apple's patent FIGS. 7A and 7B below we're able to see how a user could reposition a MacBook's Dynamic Input Trackpad to wherever they feel is more comfortable for their work habits. The user can position their figures on the exterior of the illuminated trackpad outline and then drag it to wherever they want.




As explained in last week's related MacBook patent application report. The surface of the MacBook below the keyboard could include a flexible metal material that contains a set of micro-perforations or holes that allow a light beneath to shine through that would set parameters of the trackpad and allow for 'light trails' to guide a user move a trackpad to wherever they want.


Apple further notes in their filing that they may employ indicators other than holes, for example: embedded illuminable structures (LEDs or other light sources, for example); color-changing strips, dots, or the like; micro displays, including LCD, OLED, and other types of displays.


While Apple's patent application was filed in Q3 2015, some of the work goes back to 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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