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Apple patents MacBook with illuminated touch controls in chassis, bezel & frame

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
A new patent filing reveals Apple's experimentation with a touch-sensitive MacBook chassis, which would offer the ability to sense a user's touch across a notebook's entire bezel, potentially allowing the company to eliminate physical buttons and allow for a more intuitive computing experience.

Patent


Apple's continued interest in taking touch input and extending it beyond the trackpad was disclosed in a newly awarded patent discovered on Tuesday by AppleInsider. Entitled "Housing as an I/O device," U.S. Patent No. 8,654,524 describes a notebook housing intended not only to hold and protect the parts inside, but also serve as an input/output device, allowing users to control the Mac through touching the chassis.

The newly granted patent isn't the first time Apple has shown interest in extending touch controls to a greater surface area on its MacBooks. Just last month, it was awarded a patent for a rear touch input concept for a unique solar-powered MacBook with a two-sided display, while last month the company showed interest in building a trackpad without a traditional "clickable" button, instead providing users with tactile feedback through an actuator, and sensing clicks through four or more force sensors.

In the latest granted patent, Apple describes a notebook housing where the external walls would accept user input and react to where they touch the device. In one example, a user could place their fingertip around a MacBook's USB port, the system could automatically display a window with USB-specific options, or simply say the term "USB" aloud to inform a user of the name of the port.

Touch controls could even be extended to the exterior of the MacBook display, as the invention notes that a user could invoke video conferencing by placing their finger near the notebook's forward facing FaceTime camera located above the screen.

Patent


Apple could also use this feature to add button-less controls for functions like volume, allowing a user to tap near the speaker on a MacBook chassis to adjust the volume. Apple's concept describes intuitive controls that are temporarily hidden from view, only lighting up when invoked, but still simple enough for users to figure out without the need for constant visual cues.

In addition to touch, Apple notes that squeezing would also be a potential input gesture allowed by a MacBook chassis. The patent describes a user squeezing the device between their fingers in order to adjust the volume level while listening to music. It notes that squeezing the left side of the housing could serve one purpose, such as lowering the volume, while squeezing the right side could have the opposite effect and raise the volume.

Apple's advanced MacBook chassis wouldn't just accept input -- it'd also be able to provide users with feedback, based on the patent's description. For example, embedded light emitters near control actuators could clue users in as to where they can touch to adjust the volume or activate certain features.

If Apple were to take this concept all the way, the company notes the system could be used to provide a "virtual keyboard" without physical keys. These controls could be invisible when not in use, and lights embedded in the MacBook frame could then allow the keyboard to be seen when a user wishes to type.

Patent


Apple describes a hypothetical notebook in which the base would be a "single continuous housing surface with no or limited breaks." The touch-sensitive surface could then illuminate the virtual keyboard as needed, but remain dark when it is not in use.

Graphics within the housing could also provide users with limited information while the MacBook is asleep. For example, a battery life indicator or wireless connectivity status could be displayed through lights integrated in the chassis, even while the computer is idle and the main screen is off.

Apple's newly awarded invention was first filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2009. It's credited to Aleksandar Pance, Nicholas Vincent King, Duncan Kerr, and Brett Bilbrey.
post #2 of 32
1) Like Steve said: "touch devices need to be horizontal". Guess the touchscreen laptop manufacturers haven't seen that keynote.

2) Don't know if swapping a physical keyboard with a virtual one will be embraced by the masses, but Apple usually gets this stuff right.
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post #3 of 32
Horrible for main input, but as a secondary interface it could be great. If all the space from the keyboard and down to the edge was such a surface with a sort of illuminated touch display interface with interchangable graphics it would be awesome.
post #4 of 32
Star Trek ! Star Trek ! .. As usual ...

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post #5 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

1) Like Steve said: "touch devices need to be horizontal". Guess the touchscreen laptop manufacturers haven't seen that keynote.

2) Don't know if swapping a physical keyboard with a virtual one will be embraced by the masses, but Apple usually gets this stuff right.

I hear you Phil. It reminds me of how when Apple laptops passed iMacs in sales, Apple introduces the small BT keyboard for the iMac and then the MagicTrackPad. Just like the keyboard and the trackpad found on the Apple laptops. I guess, the theory was if people are using the laptops and iMacs the keyboards should be the same. (I no longer have a mouse for my iMac, only the MagicTrackPad) It took me a week to get used to the new style keyboard, but now I love it.

 

Maybe they are thinking if people are using iPads their laptops should be touch keyboards, too.

 

I certainly, did not see this coming, but I think it's brilliant.

 

Best. 


Edited by christopher126 - 2/18/14 at 8:45pm
post #6 of 32
Squishy, squeezable computers!

Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

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Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

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post #7 of 32

Duncan Kerr is one of the inventors listed on this patent. I believe he was the one who first showed off a working prototype of multi touch in the design studio which eventually was demoed to Steve.

post #8 of 32
Maybe for the 12.9" iPad Pro?
post #9 of 32
I can't get excited about patents given Apples track record for filing tons of them that they then don't use themselves.

And that someone big like Apple could and would probably request that the USPTO withhold publishing a patent for a new and not yet announced product. Protecting trade secrets or such

A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

(She's family so I'm a little biased)

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post #10 of 32

In my opinion, in order to type efficiently, you need tactile feedback.    Compare how fast people type on an iPad to how fast people type on a physical keyboard.   IMO, Apple should not be trying to turn the MacBook Pro line into a Pad - that's what the Pads are for.  Why do I think that this is more about Apple's notion of Zen design than about real usability.    So personally, I hope this never happens for the central part of the keyboard unless they can find a way to provide tactile feedback in a virtual keyboard and even if they can, that might not be enough because a total flat surface won't guide one's fingers to the correct keys.   If they want to put the function keys into such a surface, fine.  

post #11 of 32
I look at this and don't see any real uses for a notebook but see many uses for wearables whose buttons appear and disappear at will.

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post #12 of 32

Saphire glass for the keyboard...

 

Samsung cannot copy that.

post #13 of 32
Hoboy! Here comes the iOS/OSX hybrid Mac! /s

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post #14 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Don't know if swapping a physical keyboard with a virtual one will be embraced by the masses

Is that a quote from Blackberry? 1wink.gif

Some people didn't like the move to chiclet keys. I know that moving to touch is a different shift as you don't get the tactile feedback for touch typing but they can add tactile feedback with vibration. People have said it feels just like pressing a button.



It's a more intuitive set of controls and completely adaptable to different software contexts. Think of when you use a video editing package or Photoshop, you hardly every type but they map the keys so you have 'i' for in-point, 'o' for output, command-x for cut, b for brush etc. These are things people have to learn and they change for every program. When did you last learn a keyboard equivalent in iOS? You don't need them, there's not even a command-key. If you need a brush, you tap on a brush icon.

The speaker grills can have illumination down the side to indicate volume when you touch them and just slide your finger up and down the grill to adjust volume instead of tapping the volume key one volume step at a time. Every key on a keyboard is digital, touch can be analog. Think of using the brush in Photoshop how you always have to right-click and move the size and softness sliders, these can be visible on the laptop base while the brush is enabled and you can slide the size or pinch zoom the shape with one hand while moving the brush with the mouse or via the trackpad.

The keyboard area can transform into a musical instrument, strings for guitar, piano keys or a drum kit. Browsers can show bookmarks and history. When iTunes is playing, it can show a small media player.

For typing, they can add a numpad on demand, they can ship a single design and allow software to set any keyboard layout and any language. If you speak Chinese but live in the US, you can buy a US laptop and set it to a Chinese keyboard. You can have a .com button. Instead of the cumbersome alt-key shortcuts, you can have symbols for trademark, copyright, mathematics, currency in view according to your preference.

This wouldn't have to be a glass surface because the metal is quite smooth but it depends if they want to avoid dirt accumulating and what tactile feedback they can provide and they have to consider structural strength. I think a laser perforated metal surface would be nice with an even backlight across the whole surface. E-ink could be used either in small patches or as a large sheet to block the backlight in the desired pattern and this has the benefit that the display remains in that pattern without continuous power.

They'd still have to figure out how to do hardware controls like boot options but say you had one physical power button. When you press it and touch the keyboard area, the keyboard can show actual options like Bootcamp, Recovery Mode, Single User Mode, Target Mode, Safe Boot, PRAM reset, without having to lookup the shortcuts.

If it takes up the trackpad area too, they can have split zones for left and right-click, even middle-click.

It also works for gaming because rather than cramp your hand into the key layout, you can set it to anything. Games that have lots of weapon selectors or whatever can show these all at once and you wouldn't have to configure them yourself. This was a problem since Quake. Is number 7 the rocket launcher or the shotgun?

Some people will still like to have keys they can push down on and there will always be the option to use Bluetooth keyboards.
post #15 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Don't know if swapping a physical keyboard with a virtual one will be embraced by the masses

Is that a quote from Blackberry? 1wink.gif

Ha! Actually, I was paraphrasing what I read on the Internet. Me, I'd have to use it a bit to give (tactical) feedback.
Quote:
^ post

All valid points, as usual. And I'm open for change, so that's a good thing.
Quote:
They'd still have to figure out how to do hardware controls like boot options but say you had one physical power button. When you press it and touch the keyboard area, the keyboard can show actual options like Bootcamp, Recovery Mode, Single User Mode, Target Mode, Safe Boot, PRAM reset, without having to lookup the shortcuts.

But how to eject that pesky CD without a proper mouse¿
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post #16 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

<...>

They'd still have to figure out how to do hardware controls like boot options but say you had one physical power button. When you press it and touch the keyboard area, the keyboard can show actual options like Bootcamp, Recovery Mode, Single User Mode, Target Mode, Safe Boot, PRAM reset, without having to lookup the shortcuts.

<...>

 

 

Microsoft will soon demonstrate its superiority on this matter !!!!!

 

 

 

 

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Frank Zappa

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post #17 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hydrogen View Post

Microsoft will soon demonstrate its superiority on this matter !!!!!






Lol. Could also be funny if the red and green pixel signals weren't coming through on that touchscreen.
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post #18 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

1) Like Steve said: "touch devices need to be horizontal". Guess the touchscreen laptop manufacturers haven't seen that keynote.

 

I don't really understand this statement. Why do touch devices need to be horizontal? Do you never hold your phone or tablet up in front of you, or are they always used in your lap?

 

The Apple patent seems a pretty neat idea, I have seen a few old PC laptops with similar attempts (touch scroll strips, non clicking activation buttons) but this seems significantly more 'sci-fi', most of these 'tablet laptops' are pretty bad but it depends on what category is aimed at. I think Microsoft's idea of touch covers / type covers is neat but Asus beat them to it with the Transformer a few years ago.

 

I can believe that convertible tablet/laptop hybrids are coming, the iPad Pro rumour still seems a good plan to me.

post #19 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by ItsTheInternet View Post

I don't really understand this statement. Why do touch devices need to be horizontal? Do you never hold your phone or tablet up in front of you, or are they always used in your lap?

He meant this:




From which the term 'gorilla arm' comes from.

The iPhone is designed to be used with a single hand, hence their seemingly opposed stance to create a larger iPhone as we won't be able to use it with one hand and using your other to operate it could become tiresome.
Quote:
I can believe that convertible tablet/laptop hybrids are coming, the iPad Pro rumour still seems a good plan to me.

If that comes to fruition I think it's meant to be laid down on a table/desk for continued use.
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post #20 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post
But how to eject that pesky CD without a proper mouse¿

 Heh.  What's a CD?

post #21 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

I can't get excited about patents given Apples track record for filing tons of them that they then don't use themselves.

And that someone big like Apple could and would probably request that the USPTO withhold publishing a patent for a new and not yet announced product. Protecting trade secrets or such

This patent was applied for 5 years ago, so I'm not holding my breath either.  But once a patent is granted there is no reason to keep it secret.  The whole point of patenting something is so that it's protected without having to be kept secret.

post #22 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post


He meant this:

From which the term 'gorilla arm' comes from.

The iPhone is designed to be used with a single hand, hence their seemingly opposed stance to create a larger iPhone as we won't be able to use it with one hand and using your other to operate it could become tiresome.
If that comes to fruition I think it's meant to be laid down on a table/desk for continued use.

 

I've never heard that term, and I definitely have a device like that lying around somewhere that is pretty nice to use really. I suppose it depends on your use cases.

 

I think an iPad Pro (detachable or reversible keyboard cover) would be designed for use in both scenarios. Tablet for portable, laptop for stationary. I'll see if I can dig up what devices I have around here but stuff like this has a strong future I believe:

 

post #23 of 32
Well before they even get into touch, I've been waiting for years now for a company to come out with an affordable and language-adaptable keyboard that simply lights up the keys according to language selection. Customing certain keys would add to the awesomeness of one keyboard (SKU) for every language known to man... and possibly those not discovered yet.

There was talk of something like this eons ago... wonder what ever happened to it?
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post #24 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThePixelDoc View Post

Well before they even get into touch, I've been waiting for years now for a company to come out with an affordable and language-adaptable keyboard that simply lights up the keys according to language selection. Customing certain keys would add to the awesomeness of one keyboard (SKU) for every language known to man... and possibly those not discovered yet.

There was talk of something like this eons ago... wonder what ever happened to it?

It did happen, but barely: http://www.amazon.co.uk/getDigital-de-Optimus-Maximus/dp/B001M44ZB8

post #25 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

Is that a quote from Blackberry? 1wink.gif

Some people didn't like the move to chiclet keys. I know that moving to touch is a different shift as you don't get the tactile feedback for touch typing but they can add tactile feedback with vibration. People have said it feels just like pressing a button.



It's a more intuitive set of controls and completely adaptable to different software contexts. Think of when you use a video editing package or Photoshop, you hardly every type but they map the keys so you have 'i' for in-point, 'o' for output, command-x for cut, b for brush etc. These are things people have to learn and they change for every program. When did you last learn a keyboard equivalent in iOS? You don't need them, there's not even a command-key. If you need a brush, you tap on a brush icon.

The speaker grills can have illumination down the side to indicate volume when you touch them and just slide your finger up and down the grill to adjust volume instead of tapping the volume key one volume step at a time. Every key on a keyboard is digital, touch can be analog. Think of using the brush in Photoshop how you always have to right-click and move the size and softness sliders, these can be visible on the laptop base while the brush is enabled and you can slide the size or pinch zoom the shape with one hand while moving the brush with the mouse or via the trackpad.

The keyboard area can transform into a musical instrument, strings for guitar, piano keys or a drum kit. Browsers can show bookmarks and history. When iTunes is playing, it can show a small media player.

For typing, they can add a numpad on demand, they can ship a single design and allow software to set any keyboard layout and any language. If you speak Chinese but live in the US, you can buy a US laptop and set it to a Chinese keyboard. You can have a .com button. Instead of the cumbersome alt-key shortcuts, you can have symbols for trademark, copyright, mathematics, currency in view according to your preference.

This wouldn't have to be a glass surface because the metal is quite smooth but it depends if they want to avoid dirt accumulating and what tactile feedback they can provide and they have to consider structural strength. I think a laser perforated metal surface would be nice with an even backlight across the whole surface. E-ink could be used either in small patches or as a large sheet to block the backlight in the desired pattern and this has the benefit that the display remains in that pattern without continuous power.

They'd still have to figure out how to do hardware controls like boot options but say you had one physical power button. When you press it and touch the keyboard area, the keyboard can show actual options like Bootcamp, Recovery Mode, Single User Mode, Target Mode, Safe Boot, PRAM reset, without having to lookup the shortcuts.

If it takes up the trackpad area too, they can have split zones for left and right-click, even middle-click.

It also works for gaming because rather than cramp your hand into the key layout, you can set it to anything. Games that have lots of weapon selectors or whatever can show these all at once and you wouldn't have to configure them yourself. This was a problem since Quake. Is number 7 the rocket launcher or the shotgun?

Some people will still like to have keys they can push down on and there will always be the option to use Bluetooth keyboards.

You've got it. A virtual keyboard has so many possibilities. A dj app could have a virtual mixing deck. A drawing app could have an artists pallet etc. Bring it on Apple.
post #26 of 32
I'm not surprised, a touch screen keyboard is likely, however people do point out that if they are still using PC goal is to get the physical keyboard, I think if they added it option with backlit or touch would be great.
post #27 of 32
* Adjustable control whose purpose an app could define would be great. I hate having to mouse to those tiny sliders in apps. Using it for scrolling through web pages would be great too.

* A virtual keyboard? Not so great. No tactile feedback. On the other hand, having the keyboard lighting dim when a user stops typing to extend battery life would be fine.

--Mike Perry
post #28 of 32
In Star Trek I haven't seen a single keyboard ever, in fact in the Voyager series they mention how the use of a keyboard is unusual to them and they need a minute to figure it out 1wink.gif

So keeping that in mind and looking at Apple's recent (couple of years) major changes we could be looking at a future, where a physical keyboard is not the default and a touch interface where the keyboard is now might replace it. I mean think about it: Dictation in OS X has come a long way, Siri might eventually at some point become a bit more useful and be integrated into OS X. The Computer as we know it might become an always on background service we can talk to and a notebook might be replaced with a wired display that utilizes the computing power of a desktop anywhere in the network.
post #29 of 32

touch typing on iCrap sucks.

 

the emperor's new keyboard, if used for actually typing, would be yet another example of (useless) form over (practical) function and the general iOSing of things not necessarily mobile, but it will look cool.

 

now, if you are talking about function buttons, great. virtual keycaps would be awesome on physical keys, but if you are talking about a virtual keyboard with no physical keys, no thanks. 

 

who really benefits from a virtual keyboard with no physical keys? manufacturers who lower cost at expense of actual practicality. but, sure, go for it.

 

my hand cramps just thinking about it...

post #30 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by malax View Post
 

 Heh.  What's a CD?

Funny! :)

post #31 of 32
Originally Posted by vaporland View Post
touch typing on iCrap sucks.

 

Unless you’ve done it for more than five minutes. Then you realize it works fine.

Originally Posted by helia

I can break your arm if I apply enough force, but in normal handshaking this won't happen ever.
Reply

Originally Posted by helia

I can break your arm if I apply enough force, but in normal handshaking this won't happen ever.
Reply
post #32 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post
 
It's a more intuitive set of controls and completely adaptable to different software contexts. Think of when you use a video editing package or Photoshop, you hardly every type but they map the keys so you have 'i' for in-point, 'o' for output, command-x for cut, b for brush etc. These are things people have to learn and they change for every program. When did you last learn a keyboard equivalent in iOS? You don't need them, there's not even a command-key. If you need a brush, you tap on a brush icon.

 

Excellent use-case argument for a touchscreen keyboard (a la iPad), but I don't understand the need for what Apple has patented here, which seems to be invisible buttons embedded in the chassis. Maybe there's a good use but the examples cited in the article don't really grab me.

Lorin Schultz (formerly V5V)

Audio Engineer

V5V Digital Media, Vancouver, BC Canada

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Lorin Schultz (formerly V5V)

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V5V Digital Media, Vancouver, BC Canada

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