Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to new input device system for a MacBook. More particularly, the present invention relates to incorporating an Apple Pencil that is removably mounted to a MacBook keyboard. While the Pencil is in its retainer it could act as a mouse to move a cursor. Uniquely, a high-end lighting system is built-into the retainer and the Apple Pencil wherein the Pencil can replace the top F-Key row with the functional key symbols illuminated on Apple Pencil with full functionality.
Apple's patent application relates to a MacBook comprising a chassis and an input tool (Apple Pencil or Apple Pencil-like input device) having a sensor that is positioned above the keyboard.
In some embodiments, the input tool is generally rod-shaped. The chassis can comprise a recess to receive the input tool in the second configuration. The second signal can produce haptic feedback at a surface of the input tool or can indicate a scrolling input.
The input tool can be positioned at an end of a trackpad in the chassis when in the second configuration. The input tool can be positioned at an edge of a keyboard in the chassis when in the second configuration.
Another aspect of the invention relates to a computing system comprising a housing having a tool retention portion, a keyboard apparatus supported by the housing, a tool removably positioned in the tool retention portion, with the tool having an object sensor, and an electronic component in electronic communication with the sensor and configured to detect an object at the tool retention portion via a signal generated by the object sensor.
In some cases, the electronic component can be further configured to adjust an appearance of a user interface in response to detecting the object. The user interface can be a graphical user interface displayed by a display screen.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below illustrates an Apple Pencil that could be attached to a future MacBook; FIG. 2 illustrates the Apple Pencil sitting in its own recessed groove or tool retainer above the keyboard.
In some embodiments, pieces of information (#250 and #252) shown on the display screen (#210) can include a menu or set of graphical symbols indicating a status of the input tool (Apple Pencil #218). For example, movement of the input tool can cause the computing system (MacBook #200) to display information regarding the battery state of charge or other information about the settings or features of the input tool. The information can be shown persistently or temporarily on the display screen.
Apple notes that while the input tool is positioned in the recessed retainer, the user can provide input to the input tool in addition to providing input via the keyboard. The input provided through the input tool can be used, for example, to trigger a function of a key of a conventional keyboard that is missing from the keyboard (#704) or that duplicates a function of the keyboard.
For example, the input tool can comprise a surface that, when touched or pressed by the user, is sensed as being a user input similar to a key function of a keyboard, such as one of the function keys (i.e., "F-keys", such as F3, shown in FIG. 7).
Contact with other portions of the surface of the input tool can be detected and produce other outputs, such as the outputs of other function keys (e.g., F1, F2, etc.), system function controls (e.g., screen brightness, keyboard backlight brightness, volume controls, power, sleep, display settings, application settings (e.g., font, size, or color for a word processing or art application), etc.), or other conventional keyboard outputs (e.g., letters, symbols, modifier keys, etc.).
Apple's patent FIG. 3 below illustrates that beyond the grooved retainer area holding Apple Pencil, the Pencil could be attached to the side or bottom of the MacBook chassis; In FIGS. 4A-C The input tool can be prevented from rolling off of the housing by contacting side surfaces of the recess as it rotates.
Further, the rotation of the input tool can be measured and tracked as a user input to the electronic device. In some embodiments, the rotation of the input tool can be used to control functions of an electronic device that are conventionally controlled by a rotatable wheel-like device, such as a mouse wheel that controls scrolling, zoom, or size adjustment functions. For instance, rotating the input tool 1604 about its longitudinal axis can cause a mouse or text cursor to move vertically across the main display.
Apple's patent FIG. 11 below illustrates how Apple Pencil could be illuminated so as to illustrate traditional F-Keys; In FIG. 17 we see the Apple Pencil used as mouse. For example, a motion of the user object detected by the trackpad can be supplemented when a user object causes movement of the input tool. One hand of the user can provide input to the trackpad while the other hand can provide input to the input tool. Accordingly, multiple functions of the electronic device can be controlled independently and simultaneously by the trackpad and input tool.
Apple's patent FIG. 19 below illustrates another embodiment of a housing (#1900) having a recess (#1902) containing an input tool (#1904). In this embodiment, the input tool comprises an internal feedback driver (#1906) and a sensor (#1908) configured to detect a user object 1909 contacting or applying a force to the outer surface (#1910) of the input tool.
Further, the feedback driver can comprise a haptic, audible, or visual feedback generator configured to actuate in response to a signal generated by the sensor (or a connected controller) when the user's finger (#1909) is detected. For example, in some embodiments, the feedback driver can be a light source. The feedback driver can therefore indicate to the user (via feel, sight, or sound generated within the input tool) that the sensor has detected the user's finger.
And lastly, Apple's patent FIG. 23 above illustrates another diagrammatic side view of a housing (#2300) having a recess (#2302) holding an input tool (Apple Pencil #2304). This input tool is shown with an inertial measurement unit (IMU) (#2306) configured to transduce translation or rotation of the input tool.
For instance, the IMU can track rotation of the input tool about its longitudinal axis. The IMU can also be used to track tilt and translation of the input tool. Thus, output signals of the IMU can be used to determine whether the input tool is positioned external to or within the recess or whether or not the tool is positioned on a flat surface.
When the input tool is tilted or determined to be outside a recess or out of contact with the housing, the input tool can provide a first type of functionality, such as functionality similar to a pen input device, input tool, and a first set of touch signals when a user touches or presses against the outer surface of the input tool.
Apple's patent application was originally filed in February 2020 and only published today by the U.S. Patent Office. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
The inventors listed on the Patent Application
Dinesh Mathew: Director of Product Design (20-year veteran)
John Camp: Sr. Product Design Engineer
Paul Wang: Architect, Product Design