The Touch Bar could return in Apple keyboard designed for the visually impaired

FIG. 2A is an illustrative diagram of a Touch Bar-equipped keyboard for a desktop computing system.

Apple ditched the controversial Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pros. However, it could return in a future standalone keyboard. The company has been granted a patent (number ) for “systems and methods for enabling low-vision users to interact with a touch-sensitive secondary display.”

About the patent

In the patent, Apple notes that occlusion problems often prevent many users from appreciating and using features available through touch-sensitive input devices that are also used to display affordances. For example, users of touch-sensitive secondary displays that may be located above a physical keyboard may not be able to view certain affordances because their fingers are occluding or covering up the affordances while they are displayed at a secondary display. 

What’s more, the items displayed in such secondary displays are often small. These problems are particularly acute for low-vision users, who may have difficulties seeing certain affordances that are displayed at a secondary display, and these difficulties are worsened and amplified by the aforementioned occlusion problems. Apple wants to make it easier for such users to use its devices.

Summary of the patent

Here’s the abstract of the patent for those who like the technical details: “Disclosed herein are systems and methods that enable low-vision users to interact with touch-sensitive secondary displays. An example method includes, while operating a touch-sensitive secondary display in an accessibility mode: displaying, on the primary display, a first user interface for an application, and displaying, on the touch-sensitive secondary display, a second user interface that includes: (i) application-specific affordances, and (ii) a system-level affordance, where each application-specific affordance and the system-level affordance are displayed with a first display size. 

“The method includes detecting an input at the application-specific affordance. In response to detecting the input, and while the input remains in contact: continuing to display the first user interface for the application; and displaying, on the primary display, a zoomed-in representation of the at least one application-specific affordance, where the zoomed-in representation of the application-specific affordance is displayed with a second display size that is larger than the first display size.”

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.