Apple wins a patent for a possible future MacBook with an Extended Virtual Trackpad Area with Multiple Haptics
Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple a patent that relates to systems and methods for handling user input gestures on an extended virtual trackpad area of a future MacBook.
According to Apple, the trackpad may be provided with an interface defined by a dedicated trackpad region that may be used for detecting trackpad user input gestures, a dedicated virtual keyboard region that may be used for detecting keyboard user input gestures, and a hybrid region that may be used for detecting either trackpad user input gestures or keyboard user input gestures depending on whether a thumb or a finger is determined to have provided the user input gesture(s).
Such a hybrid region may be positioned between two or more dedicated virtual keyboard regions and may abut such a dedicated trackpad region, such that the hybrid region and virtual keyboard regions may combine to replicate and replace at least one row of a particular keyboard design (e.g., the bottom row of keys of a QWERTY keyboard design), and such that the hybrid region and the dedicated trackpad region may combine to provide an extended trackpad region (e.g., the hybrid region and the dedicated trackpad region may be co-planar, while one or more of the virtual keyboard regions may be raised from such a shared plane for tactilely distinguishing the extended trackpad region from the one or more virtual keyboard regions).
One or more models may be trained and then used for distinguishing between a thumb user input gesture or a finger user input gesture, such as by using any suitable user input gesture touch and/or location data and/or any suitable user input gesture force data that may be sensed by any suitable sensor assembly of the trackpad.
Apple's patent FIG. 1B is a perspective view of a MacBook with an extended trackpad; FIG. 3 is a top view of a portion of an illustrative electronic device with an extended trackpad with three areas including haptic actuators.
The patent discusses various ways of assisting a user identify the extended portion of the trackpad. One way to color the area differently or to add a lighting system. In one example, the space bar is replaced with a virtual space bar which may or may not provide a raised area to assist users feel like they're hitting a space bar.
Apple's patent FIGS. 6 & 9 are flowcharts of illustrative processes for handling user input gestures on a MacBook with an extended trackpad.
For more details, review Apple's granted patent 11,126,283. Apple has been working on various variations of keyboards with extended trackpad regions and/or providing virtual keyboard features over the last 18 months. Here are more reports covering this development: 01, 02, 03, 04 and 05.