Apple patent suggests dynamically changing MacBook keys

For his next tip, Apple may be working on keyboards for their MacBooks that dynamically change the appearance and functionality of their keys depending on the context — so the A clef, for example, could instantly turn into a 9 clef.

This is according to a patent spotted by Patently Apple, which describes a keyboard witha flexible backlight system that can display any symbol on any key. Specifically keys with “luminous glyphs that are selectively visible or invisible to a human eye“.

For now, of course, Apple uses keyboards with static, pre-printed labels that cannot be changed. Some keys that have more than one use, such as the media playback keys, have multiple labels to make their function clear.

Basically, the hardware described by the patent involves keys with a row of individual pixels that can be turned on or off as needed, using fine-tuned micro-LED or OLED components, which Apple is familiar with for the screens of its devices.

The end result would be “glyphs that can be changed or adjusted between different shapes, letters, colors, symbols, animations, languages, and other features“. Thereby, a keyboard could be used for typing and then modified to offer shortcut commands for video editinge.g.

Just a patent

As always with patent applications, this doesn’t indicate that we’re close to a final product, or that it will eventually be made – but it does show what Apple is exploring in terms of future hardware innovations.

It certainly seems that Apple wants to shake up the technology of their MacBooks: just a few days ago we heard about plans for a laptop consisting of a single foldable 20-inch screen with the keyboard on one side and the classic “screen” on the other.

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