Apple has filed for a patent (number 20190056832) for an “input/output device with a dynamically adjustable appearance and function” that hints at possible future versions of the Touch Bar on certain Mac laptops.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that a laptop may include a keyboard operably connected to its internal systems and housed within its enclosure. Similarly, a laptop computer may also include a track pad or other motion-based input device that may also be integrated with the enclosure.
Many input devices have a static appearance, even if they can provide multiple functions or types of inputs to the electronic device. For example, the numerical keys on a conventional QWERTY keyboard include a number input function and a symbol input. However, in many conventional keyboards, these two options are displayed statically on the respective keys and during use, a user may not be aware which input function is activated and may accidentally select the symbol input function when a number input is desired.
Additionally, the appearance of many input devices may be separate or distinguished from the enclosure of the electronic device or the enclosure of the input device. This may detract from a uniform appearance of the device and may reduce the contrast of the glyphs or symbols on the input device. Apple wants to change this.
Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “A computing device is disclosed. The computing device may include a display, a processor in communication with the display and an enclosure connected to the display. The computing device may also include an input/output (I/O) device in communication with the processor. The I/O device may also be connected to the enclosure. Additionally, the I/O device may include a modifiable display that may substantially match the appearance of the enclosure.”
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.