Apple has filed for a patent (number 20220155890) for “concealable input region for an electronic device.” It hints at Macs, iPads, and perhaps other devices that could replace some physical controls such as buttons with input areas that display info.
About the patent filing
In the patent filing, Apple notes that, in computing systems, an input device may be employed to receive input from a user. Some traditional input devices include large buttons, keys, or other mechanically-actuated structures.
However, Apple says that “these types of input devices may lack flexibility or adaptability and may permanently indicate the presence of the input device within the computing system.” The idea is to replace some of these with an input surface with microperfortions that can illuminate to show virtual keys, buttons, or notification graphics.
Summary of the patent filing
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent filing with technical details: “Embodiments are directed to an electronic device having a hidden or concealable input region. In one aspect, an embodiment includes an enclosure having a wall that defines an input region having an array of microperforations. A light source may be positioned within a volume defined by the enclosure and configured to propagate light through the array of microperforations.
“A sensing element may be coupled with the wall and configured to detect input received within the input region. The array of microperforations are configured to be visually imperceptible when not illuminated by the light source. When illuminated by the light source, the array of microperforations may display a symbol.”