A Major Dual Display MacBook Patent Points to Wireless Charging, New Dial Peripheral, Gesture Support & Gaming UI
Apple has filed a number of patent applications over the years that cover various aspects of their project involving virtual keyboards for the iMac and unique MacBook Pro designs that introduce dual displays that could accommodate virtual keyboards and other interfaces (one, two, three, four and five). Apple was granted their first patent for a dual display MacBook in February.
Apple's competitor Lenovo beat Apple to market with a dual display notebook and in June they revealed at Computex that their next version of the Yoga Book would include virtual keyboards driven by AI in order to make the feel of a virtual keyboard closer to a manual keyboard.
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to a dual display based notebook with an advanced interface system allowing the traditional keyboard area to be replaced with a morphing virtual interface for various keyboard configurations or to switch the virtual interface to support gaming, as in a game controller. The virtual interfaces could also support new virtual buttons and glyphs that aren't associated with traditional mechanical keyboards.
Apple notes that the base portion of the virtual keyboard area is configured to receive various types of user inputs, such as keyboard inputs (e.g., typing), touch inputs (e.g., gestures, multi-touch inputs, swipes, taps, etc.), and the like.
Apple first introduced "Swipe Gestures" on a virtual keyboard back in a 2017 Apple patent with the patent figure shown below.
In today's patent, Apple illustrates the swipe gesture again in patent figure 48A shown below. The virtual keyboard could also accept traditional iOS gestures such as pinch and zoom and more.
In today's patent application, we see an overview of the morphing virtual interfaces on a notebook-like device as presented in patent FIGS. 16A to 16C below.
More specifically, Apple's patent FIG. 16A above illustrates the virtual keyboard #1605 in a traditional layout. However, because the images of the keys of the virtual keyboard are produced by a display below the top case, different keyboard layouts could be supported like in FIG. 16B using an ergonomic keyboard layout. As another example, we're able to see in patent FIG. 16C above that dual display based notebook could use the virtual keyboard area and use another available user interface that could double as a game controller.
Other keyboard configurations are also possible, such as swapping the position of the virtual keyboard and trackpad so that the keyboard is closer to the front edge and the trackpad at the top.
Apple notes that the base portion and the keys may be a monolithic component, such as a molded silicone accessory. In some cases, the material may deform under a typical typing force to provide a tactile feedback or sensation of typing on a mechanical or movable keycap. Alternatively, the material may not deform under typical typing pressures, and the keys may simply provide raised, nonmoving key pads for a user to strike during typing.
Audio & Haptic Outputs that deliver a Natural Keyboard Experience
Audio outputs and haptic outputs may be produced by a haptic device substantially simultaneously. For example, when a haptic output is generated by a haptic device (e.g., by oscillating the haptic device at a first frequency), an audible output may also be generated by the haptic device (e.g., by overlaying a second frequency on the signal being applied to the haptic device). The audible output may be functionally related or unrelated to the haptic output. For example, in some cases the audible output is designed to accompany the haptic output (e.g., so that a key press on a virtual key both feels and sounds like a key press of a conventional mechanical key). In other cases, the audible output may be unrelated, such as when a haptic output is being generated while the haptic device is producing audio that corresponds to active music playback.
Apple's patent FIG. 18F below depicts an example top case #1828 that has conductive traces #1830 disposed directly thereon. For example, the top case may be formed from a glass, ceramic, or other light-transmissive dielectric material. Instead of applying conductive traces to a separate substrate and positioning the substrate on or near the top case, conductive traces may be disposed directly on the bottom surface of the top case. The conductive traces may be formed from or include any suitable material, such as ITO, indium gallium oxide, gallium zinc oxide, indium gallium zinc oxide, metal nanowire, nanotube, carbon nanotube, graphene, conductive polymers, a semiconductor material, a metal oxide material, copper, gold, constantan, or the like.
Where the top case 1828 is transparent, such as when it is used in conjunction with one or more displays to produce virtual keys or other images on the top case, the conductive traces may be transparent or substantially transparent.
Where the top case is not transparent, the conductive traces may be transparent or not transparent. The conductive traces may be disposed on the top case in any appropriate manner, such as lithography, chemical or physical vapor deposition, nozzle deposition (e.g., printing), or the like.
Apple's patent FIG. 25 depicts an exploded view of a top case having an example two-layer force sensor. Force sensor #2530, having a first sensing layer #2532, a compressible layer #2536, and a second sensing layer #2534, may be coupled or attached to the top case #2510. The compressible layer may include, without limitation, elastomers, gels, foams, air, compressible columns, or a combination thereof.
The patent also describes being able to add a mechanical keyboard that could rest on top of the virtual keyboard should a user find it more comfortable. Apple notes that "the computing device also includes a keyboard (which may be a mechanical keyboard, a virtual keyboard, or a hybrid of these types) and a sensor system that detects the presence of a user's fingers on the keyboard."
Palm Rejection System for Virtual Keyboard
When in 'typing mode' a palm rejection system automatically kicks in. Apple's patent FIG. 31A above illustrates a scenario where a user is typing while the user's hands are resting on the trackpad region #3102. In this case, palm-rejection techniques are used to ignore the force of the user's hands on the trackpad region while detecting force inputs applied to the keyboard.
New Virtual Keyboard Functions & Features
Spell Correct: With a virtual keyboard new functions or feature could be introduced. Apple explains patent FIG. 48 below by noting that key 4844e (shown as a space bar) may be capable of receiving traditional key inputs as well as gesture inputs.
When the user applies a touch gesture to the spacebar, as in sliding a finger or thumb along path #4846e, it may result in a user accepting a suggested spelling 4842e of a misspelled word 4840e in a word processing application or other text input field.
Peripheral: Rotatable Dial Connection
In Apple's patent FIG. 48F above we're able to see the display #4805f showing a three dimensional model of an object, and the affordances may be used to manipulate the view of the object. For example, a user selection of a button in the button array #4834f, as shown in FIG. 48F, may cause the computing device 4800f to interpret an input to the rotatable dial 4836f in one of various possible ways.
More particularly, the buttons of the button array 4834f may determine whether inputs to the rotatable dial 4836f cause the three dimensional model to rotate horizontally, rotate vertically, be zoomed in or out, or the like.
I'm sure Microsoft's Surface team will see this as a Surface Dial rip-off. But reality is that the Surface team ripped off Griffin's PowerMate for the Mac.
Notebook Biometrics & Built-in Wireless Charging
Apple's patent FIG. 49A above depicts an example computing device #4900a (Notebook) that interfaces with external objects through a top case. The notebook may include various components within the base portion #4903a that are configured to interact with external objects through the top case of the base portion. For example, the Notebook includes biometric sensors #4912a, fingerprint sensor #4910a, and wireless charger #4914a.
The biometric sensors #4912a may be positioned where a user typically rests his or her palms or wrists when typing on the keyboard. The biometric sensors may be configured to detect biometric information about the user through the top case. For example, the biometric sensors #4912a may detect palm or wrist-prints, detect a user's heart rate, blood oxygenation levels, temperature, and the like.
Such information may be used for authentication purposes, to determine the user's hand position relative to the device, and/or to record health data for the user to track.
As noted, the biometric sensors #4912a may also use any suitable sensing techniques, such as optical sensors (e.g., photoplethysmographs, cameras, etc.), capacitive sensors, or the like. The biometric sensors may also include facial-recognition sensors, which may include cameras, lenses, projectors (e.g., microdot projectors), infrared sensors, and the like, which may also communicate through the top case to provide facial recognition functionality. Of course Apple is describing Face ID technology.
Joy Stick Peripheral Connection
And lastly, Apple's patent FIG. 49B. According to Apple, the notebook #4900b may include in the base portion #4903b a connection region #4919b, which may be configured to receive thereon a peripheral input unit #4924b (or any other suitable electronic device). As shown, the peripheral input unit #4924b is a joystick that may be used, for example, to manipulate displays of three dimensional objects, provide input for gaming applications, navigate user interfaces, or the like.
The notebook may further include alignment components #4920b within the base portion #4903b. The alignment components may be magnets or magnetic materials, may be attracted to corresponding magnets or magnetic materials in the peripheral input unit to properly align the peripheral input unit relative to the base portion and otherwise retain the peripheral input unit.
Apple's patent application 20180217669 was originally filed back in March 2018. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time. Apple's patent application goes 10 miles deep with well over 100 patent figures with meticulous detailing.
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