Apple has some pretty large trackpads on its MacBook range, and with good reason. It might not be for everyone, but a lot of people do prefer to have some more mobility, as opposed to bigger keys. But what if we took away all the keys from your laptop entirely?
That’s what Apple might be trying to do if this patent filing is anything to go by. Registered in September 2015 and just made public yesterday, the patent talks about, “A configurable, force-sensitive input structure for an electronic device.” What they’re talking about is taking away your entire keyboard as you know it, and instead presenting you with an interface that is all flat metal touchpad. So, how would that work? Apple is calling this idea a “zero travel” input structure, meaning they want minimal required hand movement when using the device.
A major advantage of this patent is the ability of the user to customise the “keyboard’ to their liking. Don’t ever use a number pad? Get rid of it. Want separate media playback shortcuts? Go right ahead. You can go ahead and set up your keys however you want, wherever you want. Of course, if it’s all metal, how do you know what you’re typing? Apple’s solution to that is “microperforations” that will allow you to see key group distinctions thanks to lights shining around the borders from underneath.
Aside from being able to customise your keypad, Apple believes this kind of design will help improve the longevity of their devices. There are less moving parts, and fewer ways for dust to enter your device. Of course, not every patent by a major company actually evolves into a commercially sold device, but the “universal touchpad” could very well be a gold mine in the making.