Apple has filed for a patent (number US 20230259174 A1) for a “Computer With Keyboard.” It’s one of several filings — and granted patents — that hint at Mac laptops with virtual keyboards.
About the patent filing
The patent filing involves a computer having a keyboard with a flexible input surface. In the patent filing Apple notes that conventional keyboards include movable keys that are actuated by a user striking them with their fingers or another object.
However, some devices include touchscreens on which virtual keyboards may be displayed. Users may select individual keys of virtual keyboards by pressing on the part of the surface of the touchscreen that corresponds to a desired letter, character, or function.
Apple thinks this is a great idea as “the surface of the touchscreen may be flat and featureless, and may thus occupy less space than a mechanical keyboard.”
However, a virtual keyboard would require, of course, users to identify the location of the keys by sight rather than by feel, which would be inconvenient. Apple’s idea is for an array of raised key regions that can be configured to detect touch inputs.
FIG. 7A shows a deflection curve on an array for a virtual keyboard.
An advantage of such a keyboard would be a laptop that is less easily scratched. Apple is considering a laptop enclosure formed at least partially from a transparent, dielectric material such as plastic, glass, or a ceramic material. The transparent dielectric material may form a continuous or seamless input surface that may improve the look and feel of the device without having the drawbacks of some traditional device constructions, according to Apple.
Summary of the patent filing
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent filing: “A device may include a display portion that includes a display housing and a display at least partially within the display housing. The device may also include a base portion pivotally coupled to the display portion and including a bottom case, a top case coupled to the bottom case and defining an array of raised key regions, and a sensing system below the top case and configured to detect an input applied to a raised key region of the array of raised key regions.”