Apple Invents Close to Invisible Micro Notification Areas and Interactive Buttons for iDevices, Macs & Apple Pencil
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to electronic device having hidden or concealed input regions based on close to invisible microperforations. Apple has been working on this over the years starting in 2008 (01, 02 &, 03). Apple's 2016 invention specifically related to a futuristic dual display MacBook wherein the traditional keyboard and trackpad area is a second display with microperforations that could form an entire keyboard, trackpad, gaming input and more. Today's invention focuses on the close to invisible input icons and buttons that could also be interactive and not just shiny little icons.
Apple's invention systems, devices, and techniques related to an electronic device having a hidden or concealable input region. The electronic device may include an enclosure wall or other enclosure component that forms an external surface of the electronic device.
An input region may be defined along the external surface, which may be configured to control a function of the electronic device in response to an input, including a force input, touch input, and/or proximity input.
An array of microperforations may be arranged over a portion of the input region. When illuminated or in an activated state, the microperforations may display virtual keys, buttons, notification graphics, or other indicia or symbols at the external surface, and thereby reveal the input region.
When not illuminated or in a deactivated state, the array of microperforations may not be visually perceptible or visible. In some cases, the external surface may be substantially free of visual indications of the input region and the input functionality of the input region may be concealed.
For example, in an embodiment, the enclosure may define a watch body having a first opening and a second opening. The electronic device may further include a display positioned within the first opening. The electronic device may further include a crown at least partially positioned within the second opening. A graphical output of the display may be responsive to: (i) a rotation or translation of the crown; and (ii) input received along the input region.
The term microperforation may be used to refer to a small opening that, when arranged in an array or pattern of similar openings may be visually imperceptible when not illuminated and display a symbol or graphic when illuminated. For example, a microperforation may have a width of about 30-80 microns, and therefore is visually imperceptible or concealed from the user when not illuminated. In some cases, although the symbol or graphic is formed from an array of individual microperforations, the symbol or graphic may appear solid or uniform and the individual microperforations may not be distinguishable when viewed with the naked eye (at an appropriate viewing distance).
the enclosure wall may include and/or be formed from a translucent (e.g., light transmissible) layer and/or a metal layer. For example, in an embodiment, the enclosure wall may include a translucent layer, which may be a component of, or may form, an electronic device enclosure, and which defines the external surface having the input region. The translucent layer may be formed from one or more translucent materials including, for example, glass, ceramic, plastic, or a combination thereof.
The term translucent may generally refer to a material or layer that is optically transparent, partially, transparent, or otherwise able to transmit light. As such, the translucent layer may be, or form a component of, a top case of a laptop that may be metal, plastic, glass, carbon fiber, ceramic, or other materials.
Apple's patent FIG. 10C above depicts the sample notebook computer of FIG. 10A having multiple illuminated input regions; FIGS. 3A, 3B & 3C depict enlarged views of an input region having different displayed symbols.
More specifically, FIG. 10C can include functions and/or notifications relating to a power button, a trackpad, a keyboard, and/or email or message-related function. In some cases, the input regions may be configured to receive input that is used to control a function of an electronic device corresponding with the illuminated symbol.
Apple's patent also illustrates that this invention may be applied to a future iPhone, Apple Pencil and beyond.
Apple's patent FIG. 5D below depicts a top view of an opaque masking layer having an array of microperforations arranged in an offset-in configuration; FIG. 8A depicts a perspective view of a translucent layer that emits light having various properties at distinct viewing angles.
Apple's patent application was originally filed back in Q2 2018. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.