Monday, August 6th 2018

Apple Files Patent for a MacBook with Virtual Keyboard and Invisible Trackpad

Did you know, that the home buttons on the iPhone 7/Plus, and iPhone 8/Plus aren't real buttons? It's a flat surface with pressure and fingerprint sensors, and when pushed hard enough, the Taptic module underneath simulates the tactile-feedback of pushing a real SMD button (which is why the button feels jammed when the iPhone is powered down). Apple's latest generation of MacBooks already have real keyboards with extremely short key travel, that's well enough received by its users to convince the company to toy with a notebook with completely virtual keyboards.

Apple filed patent applications for a new generation of MacBooks that completely lack physical keyboards, and instead have two screens on the opposing halves of the traditional notebook clam-shell. The upper half has a higher-resolution main screen, while the lower half has a slightly lower-resolution screen that's good enough to display virtual keyboards of any shape, layout or character-set; in addition to more content. This screen will have toughened glass, and a super-sensitive capacitive 3D touch layer, and Taptic modules underneath. The trackpad, too, is virtual, and can be located wherever you like. Apple will give MacOS more gesture-based control riding on the success of the iPhone X. The patent application shows that Apple has succeeded in simulating keyboards' tactile-feedback on Taptic, and it's only a matter of time before notebooks with real keyboards could be relegated to sub-premium market segments.
Source: WCCFTech
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30 Comments on Apple Files Patent for a MacBook with Virtual Keyboard and Invisible Trackpad

#1
Totally
So they want to replace the kb with a giant ipad/iphone? Uh, no thanks backlighting on those things fail at a higher than normal rate for their current laptops once past the warranty period, now they want two that can fail?
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#2
RejZoR
It's not gonna work, unless dumb people are gonna buy it coz, you know, "Apple". One thing is a single button on a phone and another 100-ish keys. Sure you can adjust to anything over time, but people want keys that have a travel, a physical motion and a click to confirm the press. Also, important factor is spacing between buttons with a physical gap.
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#3
nemesis.ie
I saw this a few days ago and thought, "Hmmm, isn't this the same thing that the foldable tablet/phone that MS are working on does, more or less. "Andromeda" or whatever they are calling the project?

It would be interesting to compare any patents for that against this.
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#4
randomUser
So thats just going to be 2 LCD with 2 Digitizers.
While i think it may not be as confortable as real buttons, it should significantly save them space and money while lowering complexity, however increasing the battery drain and greatly increasing the programming needed to be done.
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#5
IceShroom
Sounds like Surface Touch keyboard with fancy name.
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#6
TheOne
Isn't ASUS already doing something like this?
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#7
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
Anything is better than what the MacBook Air has now. Those tiny butterfly switches are notoriously easy to jam and a constant source of complaints for users of them.
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#9
Nuke Dukem
While using a conventional keyboard I like to rest my left wrist on the keyboard rest or the edge of the laptop and gently rest my fingertips on the WASD buttons and tap slightly (without actually pressing down any buttons) if waiting for a task to finish, for example. How am I supposed to use this thing - it's gonna think I'm going for some N-key rollover test :D

Edit:
btarunr said:
...feels like pushing a real button, because it's backed by that Taptic module... non-sucking tactile-feedback under each virtual key...
Oooh, okay, now I get it, just depends on the force used then. Could work, I guess.
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#10
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
Prima.Vera said:
Sorry to brake it down to Apple, but they already got bitten by... Lenovo :laugh::laugh::laugh:
https://www.techpowerup.com/forums/threads/lenovo-yoga-book-generation-2-beats-apple-in-the-style-game.244851/
The focus here is not the bottom screen. It's a virtual keyboard that doesn't suck. Apple's track-record with Taptic shows this has a chance of succeeding.

Now, before you respond with "but the on-screen keyboard on iPhone 7 sucks," I'll preempt you with "the home button on the iPhone 7 doesn't suck (feels like pushing a real button, because it's backed by that Taptic module). Now imagine a Taptic module under the entire bottom screen, with a non-sucking tactile-feedback under each virtual key à la that iPhone 7 home-button."
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#11
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
Gonna suck in terms of battery life though, no? Traditional keyboards use next to no power.
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#12
Frick
Fishfaced Nincompoop
Cool, but pretty pointless IMO. Laptops don't have to get any thinner. If anything I'd like a return to bulkier laptops. Imagine the battery you could cram into a laptop with 2018 hardware with a 2011 design. Not to mention you could cram some serious horsepower into say the body of a Lenovo L412, while still having adequate cooling and a useable battery.
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#13
DeathtoGnomes
it sounds cool, in theory. Time will tell if this pans out.
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#14
TheLostSwede
The reason people want physical keyboards is because those that touch type, don't have to look at the keyboard to type.
Try typing on a flat surface without looking on the keys... It doesn't work, as your fingers have no sense of what they're touching, as you can't feel the individual keys.
That's why all of these "concepts" fail. It's a cool idea to have re-configurable keyboards, but unless the keyboards can predict where you fingers are going to land and which letter it is you want to type...
This looks great in sci-fi movies, but in reality, it doesn't work particularly well. We've had laser keyboards (fail) and as linked above (plus that one Asus was supposed to make a few years ago), using a second screen as a keyboard works poorly as a productivity tool and this is why this concept hasn't taken off, haptic feedback or not.
In my mind, the next big evolution/revolution will be when we're able to interact directly with a computer, as in what you think is what the computer outputs. We're still a good few years away from that, but we're getting closer.
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#15
Beertintedgoggles
I think people are missing the point of this article..... it's not about whether or not Apple can release a laptop with a virtual keyboard better than any "rivals" or if they even have one in the works. This is about their patent application which is an attempt to block other laptop makers from using a virtual keyboard. Look at the actual patent application from the link in the article, claim 1 is so broad that it would apply to the Acer ICONIA 6120 (which was released in 2011) and the Toshiba Libretto (released in 2010). I'd look much more favorably at this if it was Apple simply trying to create the best experience / hardware (virtual hardware) but instead it is an attempt at blocking all other players from using existing and well known technology. From my observations with Apple over the years, they are not inventive; although they are innovative. I seriously hope this patent is denied or that they are at least forced to seriously narrow down their claims.
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#16
Dragonsmonk
Beertintedgoggles said:
I think people are missing the point of this article..... it's not about whether or not Apple can release a laptop with a virtual keyboard better than any "rivals" or if they even have one in the works. This is about their patent application which is an attempt to block other laptop makers from using a virtual keyboard. Look at the actual patent application from the link in the article, claim 1 is so broad that it would apply to the Acer ICONIA 6120 (which was released in 2011) and the Toshiba Libretto (released in 2010). I'd look much more favorably at this if it was Apple simply trying to create the best experience / hardware (virtual hardware) but instead it is an attempt at blocking all other players from using existing and well known technology. From my observations with Apple over the years, they are not inventive; although they are innovative. I seriously hope this patent is denied or that they are at least forced to seriously narrow down their claims.
This is the US patent system you're talking about... you know... patented 0's and 1's? Not a hope that this is failing / being rejected / will have to be narrowed.
Apple is good at the IP/Patent game, that is almost all they are good at.
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#17
AsRock
TPU addict
TheOne said:
Isn't ASUS already doing something like this?
I do believe so, they even have a beta version of it out, i believe i heard it though linus some week(s) ago.

Maybe you will be required to slap it around some times after a year of use. I guess you have to be double kinky with this HAHAHA.
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#18
LemmingOverlord
I expect them to patent a device without any internal components which tells you to use your imagination.
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#19
phanbuey
LemmingOverlord said:
I expect them to patent a device without any internal components which tells you to use your imagination.
:roll:

They're still coasting off of what Jobs put in. It's just the same stuff thinner and lighter with fewer ports/buttons.
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#20
Caring1
An "invisible" Trackpad that can be moved anywhere on the screen, what could possibly go wrong?
In practice similar software is already in use for overlays, but in an opaque format, with the ability to switch on and off.
Good luck with stealing ideas Apple, it's never stopped you before.
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#22
silentbogo
btarunr said:
Apple filed patent applications for a new generation of MacBooks that completely lack physical keyboards, and instead have two screens on the opposing halves of the traditional notebook clam-shell.
Lol. I guess Apple is either had their heads up their assess for the past 8 years or they are so sure about their chances of getting away with it.
Pretty sure Acer can start preparations for a lawsuit even before this "wondertech" comes to market.



EDIT: And I almost forgot about slightly more "fresh" ASUS Project Precog
Posted on Reply
#23
TheOne
AsRock said:
I do believe so, they even have a beta version of it out, i believe i heard it though linus some week(s) ago.

Maybe you will be required to slap it around some times after a year of use. I guess you have to be double kinky with this HAHAHA.


Found it.
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#24
StrayKAT
Are keyboards really that much of a burden to develop? Geez.
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#25
Valantar
StrayKAT said:
Are keyboards really that much of a burden to develop? Geez.
If you're obsessed with form over function, as current-era Apple is, yes. Apple used to produce an unrivalled balance of high-end form and functionality, but that curve has been pointing downwards for quite a few years now. While early adoption of USB-C was good, having only that on their first PC to use it was just silly. Then there's the butterfly keyboards, which - while a lot of users find them okay - are clearly worse at being keyboards than all earlier Apple keyboards. Then there's the touch bar, which ... doesn't really look good either, but I suppose it counts as "cool" and "futuristic". Maybe we should call it "courageous" like dropping the 3.5mm jack? That is another clear-cut example of the same tendency, of course. Then there's the soldered-on everything in their current PCs (RAM is par for the course these days, but soldered SSDs? Really?), and their utter refusal to allow people to repair and service computers that they own (and no, I'm not only referencing the iMac Pro LTT debacle - this is a more general trend).



Still, it's fun to see Apple try to patent something that other companies have been doing for years. I wouldn't be surprised if they got the patent, given how utterly broken that system is. They probably have some obscure and functionally irrelevant additions and tweaks that somehow makes this a "new idea".
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