Apple dumped the controversial Touch Bar with the introduction of the 2021 MacBook Pros. However, it could return — on laptops and as a standalone keyboard — with support for the Apple Pencil.
Apple has been granted a patent (number 11,275,455) for “mountable tool computer input” that hints at such a device. This, of course, also hints at some sort of Apple Pencil support for the Mac.
About the patent filing
Apple says the patent filing involves input devices incorporating a stylus that’s removably mounted to a keyboard or similar device. The tech giant notes that a variety of handheld input devices are used to detect user input. For example, a stylus is often used to provide input by contacting a digitizer or touch-sensitive panel of an electronic device. Typically, a user can move one or more input devices, such as a stylus, across the touch panel in a pattern that the device translates into an input command. Some styluses can be touch- and force-sensitive to provide writing or drawing input to the electronic device. Functions of the stylus or electronic device can also be remotely controlled by interacting with a sensor on the stylus while the stylus is handheld.
Apple has repeatedly said there was little need for touch interfaces on a Mac. The company may have no plans for such products, but that doesn’t mean the company doesn’t experiment with them in their labs. Apple has been granted: a patent (number 11,221,752) for “character recognition on a computer device”; a patent (number 10,963,117) for a “configurable force-sensitive input structure for electronic devices”; a patent (number 10,915,143) for “systems and methods for customizing display modes for a touch-sensitive secondary display.” I; and others.
Summary of the patent filing
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent filing with tech details: “Computing systems and input devices can include a chassis with a computing device and an input tool with a sensor, such as a pen- or rod-like input tool [that would be the Apple Pencil], that can be positioned relative to the chassis in multiple configurations. In one configuration, the tool can be spaced away from the chassis and its sensor output can cause a first output signal in response to input provided to the sensor.
“In another configuration, the tool can be contacting the chassis and its sensor output can cause a second output signal in response to input provided to the sensor. For example, an input tool can be stowed in a recess of a keyboard housing or device chassis, and the input tool can produce a first output when it is in the recess and a second input when it has been removed from the chassis.”