Apple patent hints at iPad Smart Folio Keyboard with backlighting

Future iPad keyboards beyond the pricey US$299 Magic Keyboard could sport backlighting and be more flexible, as evidenced by a newly granted Apple patent (number 10,984,969) for “uniform illumination of keys on a flexible substrate.”

Now the patent itself could (and, in fact, does) refer to the backlit keyboards of Mac laptops. However, the accompanying graphics also show an iPad and a keyboard cover akin to Magic Keyboard but lacking a trackpad. It seems to hint at a $179 Smart Keyboard Folio with backlighting.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that electronic devices can receive user input from a keyboard, some keys of which may be illuminable and visible to a user in dimly-lit environments. However, using some traditional techniques, it may be difficult to produce a uniform or consistent illumination for symbols or glyphs, which may vary in size and shape for different keys. 

What’s more, Apple says that uniform illumination may be further complicated by the presence of various components within the keyboard including, key mechanisms, key webs, and other structural components. The tech giant sys its patent describes a way to improve to quality and uniformity of illuminated keys for a keyboard. 

Here’s the summary of the patent: “Systems and methods for providing illumination to illuminable portions of keys associated with a keyboard are described. A key disposed on a flexible substrate includes a light guide positioned below a keycap. The light guide includes one or more light extraction features to produce a substantially uniform light distribution of light from a light emitting element at an illuminable portion of the key. 

“In one embodiment, a light emitting element is positioned on the flexible substrate and is optically coupled to the light guide. In another embodiment, a light emitting element is positioned below the flexible substrate and is optically coupled to the light guide via an optical interface.”

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.