Apple Wins Patent for all-new MacBook Multi-Input design with Touch Gesture Space Bar and Elongated Trackpad
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 62 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover Apple's win for new MacBook Pro features. With Apple introducing a new 16" MacBook Pro this year with a refreshed keyboard, it's possible that Apple may have other features coming to the MacBook Pro. Whether the ideas are too advanced for this year's MacBook Pro update is unknown at this time.
In one part of Apple's granted patent they note that the space bar includes a capacitive sensor array configured to detect a location of a touch on a surface of the space bar. The space bar may also include a force sensor configured to detect a force applied by the touch that exceeds a programmable threshold.
In some embodiments, the touch-sensitive surface of the key defines multiple touch-sensitive regions. Each touch-sensitive region may be associated with a different function. In some embodiments, the multiple touch-sensitive regions define four quadrant regions of the key.
In some embodiments, the future MacBook could be configured to determine if the touch is a keypress or gesture input. In accordance with a determination that the touch is a gesture input, the device may be configured to ignore an actuation of the space bar. In some cases, the determination is based on duration of the touch on the surface of the space bar. In some cases, the determination is based on a duration since a previous keystroke was received by the keyboard.
In some cases, the first touch-sensitive surface is operable to receive gesture input. The gesture input may invoke one or more of: a word-selection command, a line-selection command, or a multiple line-selection command.
And finally, Apple illustrates one radical idea of elongating the traditional trackpad that could replace the space bar. Apple notes that "The touch-sensitive input surface may function as both the touchpad and the space bar" of a MacBook.
Apple's patent FIG. 1B below depicts a user providing a touch-based gesture on the MacBook's space bar; FIG. 5 depicts an electronic device including a space bar, a touchpad, and a group of optical sensors positioned below a contact surface of the space bar.
Apple's patent FIG. 8A below depicts a MacBook including another sample multi-input device which is an elongated Trackpad which could double as a space bar; FIG. 8B depicts the MacBook of FIG. 8A, with a user providing gestural input to the multi-input device.
Apple's granted patent was originally filed in Q3 2015 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office. Although Apple's invention is now granted, the timing of such MacBook features to market is unknown. While we'd all like to see Apple's patented ideas come to market quicker, it's not predictable.
Two of the Inventors
Chris Ligtenberg: Senior Director, Product Design Architecture. Ligtenberg has been with Apple 18 years. He came to Apple from Frog that created the Apple IIc portable case; the Snow White design language used by Apple during 1984-1990; and designed the NeXT cube for Steve Jobs.
Bart Andre: Industrial Designer at apple. A 26 year Veteran with Apple.