Future Mac laptops with Touch Bars may one day be able to detect touchless gestures. Apple has filed for a patent (number 2020081485) for an “electronic device with sensing strip.
The Touch Bar at the top of the keyboard on your MacBook Pro adapts to what you’re doing and gives you intuitive shortcuts and app controls when you need them. The Touch Bar on MacBook Pro gives you quick access to commands on your Mac, and changes automatically based on what you’re doing and which apps you’re using. Some folks (like me) love it; others not so much.
In the new patent filing, Apple says that “it can be challenging to operate electronic devices using certain input devices.” For example, some input devices may operate best when a user is looking directly at the device. This may cause the user to look away from content that is currently being presented on a display and can disrupt a user’s work flow.
Apple’s idea? A laptop with a Touch Bar with control circuitry that can gather air gesture input from a user’s fingers. The control circuitry may gather the air gesture input by using the sensing strip to monitor motion of the user’s fingers while the user’s fingers are not touching the sensing strip. Apple says that use of the sensing strip to provide input in this way facilitates efficient operation of the electronic device by the user.
Here’s the summary of the patent: “An electronic device may have an elongated sensing strip. Control circuitry may use the sensing strip to gather air gesture input from the fingers or other body part of a user. The electronic device may have a housing. The housing may have portions such as upper and lower portions that rotate relative to each other about an axis. A hinge may be used to couple the upper and lower portions together.
“The sensing strip may extend parallel to the axis and may be located on the lower portion between keys on the lower portion and the axis or on the upper portion between the edge of a display in the upper portion and the axis. The sensing strip may have a one-dimensional array of sensor elements such as capacitive sensor elements, optical sensor elements, ultrasonic sensor elements, or radio-frequency sensor elements.”