Apple reinvents the MacBook Touch Bar by including Optical Sensors that are capable of reading user In-Air Gestures
Apple already has 40 patents relating to future applications relating to "In-Air Gesturing" that you could review in our special archive. Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to yet another in-air gesturing invention. This time Apple envisions in-air gesturing being specifically applied to a possible future MacBook. In some ways Apple is using it to advance or reinvent their Touch Bar feature that could make it more appealing.
Apple's invention technically covers a future MacBook that advances the Touch Bar to being a new "sensing strip." In this future MacBook the control circuitry may use the sensing strip to gather air gesture input from the fingers of a user.
The control circuitry may gather the air gesture input by using the sensing strip to monitor motion of the user's fingers while the user's fingers are not touching the sensing strip. Use of the sensing strip to provide input in this way facilitates efficient operation of the user's MacBook.
The control circuitry can control any suitable operations in the MacBook using the air gesture input. For example, the control circuitry can adjust operating modes, can launch applications, can select on-screen options and perform associated tasks, or can perform other operations based on air gesture input from a user's fingers.
The sensing strip may have a one-dimensional array of sensor elements extending parallel to the axis along an edge portion of the housing. The sensing strip may be a capacitive sensing strip or may have optical sensor elements, acoustic sensor elements, radio-frequency sensor elements, and/or other sensing circuitry.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 below is a top view of an illustrative sensing strip on a MacBook that is shown in FIG. 5 as being a dual sensing strip with one on the MacBook's display and one above the keyboard.
Apple's patent FIGS. 6 and 7 below are cross-sectional side views of illustrative MacBooks. In FIG. 6 Apple illustrates a MacBook with dual sensor strips.
The illustrative configuration of FIG. 6 shows how the sensing strip #20 can be located adjacent to the upper edge of keyboard #62 in lower portion #10B or can be located adjacent to the lower edge of display #14 in upper portion #10A. In the example of FIG. 7, upper portion 10A includes bent ledge portion 24', which extends at a non-zero angle relative to the rest of upper portion 10A. Ledge portion 24' may, as an example, be tilted outwardly at an angle of 3-20.degree., at least 5.degree., less than 25.degree., or other suitable angle from the plane of display #14 (as an example).
Apple's patent application 20200081485 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back in Q2 2019. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.