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Future MacBooks could sport a fully virtual keyboard

In this design, the keyboard area is actually a second screen with sensors underneath to display virtual keys. (Source: Mashable)
In this design, the keyboard area is actually a second screen with sensors underneath to display virtual keys. (Source: Mashable)
MacBooks of the future might feature a full touch keyboard if recently filed Apple patents are anything to go by. There are three patents filed that demonstrate an increased touch area with haptic feedback for signalling a key press. These patents, however, could be just design ideas and might not even see the light of the day.

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The Touch Bar was first introduced with the 2016 MacBook Pro. While it did provide some neat shortcuts and access to Touch ID, it did affect productivity in some cases. Recently, new Apple patents were discovered that give a sneak peek into Apple's vision for new interaction models in upcoming MacBooks.

The first of these patents shows a second screen in the keyboard area, which will display virtual keys. This virtual keyboard also comes with onboard haptics for providing feedback for each keystroke. Depending on the application, the layout and functionality of the virtual keyboard can change.

The next patent shows a conventional recessed keyboard with the sides being touch-sensitive. This is more of an enlarged version of the Touch Bar and should allow for more functions than what is possible with the current implementation such as vertical scrolling.

The third patent is more of a redesign of the current keyboard. Here, the keyboard is recessed and a fabric cover with a membrane layer is sealed above it to prevent spills and debris from damaging the keys. This would definitely be a welcome development as there were complaints galore of the 2017 MacBook Pro keys becoming unresponsive due to bread crumbs and dust finding their way beneath the keys. Let's just hope that Apple doesn't compromise much on the key travel if this patent indeed comes to life.

Perhaps, Apple has something in mind for the Touch Bar as it envisions expanded capabilities for MacBooks of the future. While Apple has no intention of bring touch functionality to macOS, it surely is looking at enhancing existing input options. Remember that these are just patents at this stage and there is no guarantee that these will even see the light of the day in the end. 

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Here, the sides of the keyboard are touch sensitive while the physical keyboard lies recessed. (Source: Mashable)
Here, the sides of the keyboard are touch sensitive while the physical keyboard lies recessed. (Source: Mashable)
In this patent, the keyboard is fully recessed with a sealed membrane layer protecting it from debris. (Source: Mashable)
In this patent, the keyboard is fully recessed with a sealed membrane layer protecting it from debris. (Source: Mashable)

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Vaidyanathan Subramaniam
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam - Managing Editor - 1390 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2012
Though a cell and molecular biologist by training, I have been drawn towards computers from a very young age ever since I got my first PC in 1998. My passion for technology grew quite exponentially with the times, and it has been an incredible experience from being a much solicited source for tech advice and troubleshooting among family and friends to joining Notebookcheck in 2017 as a professional tech journalist. Now, I am a Lead Editor at Notebookcheck covering news and reviews encompassing a wide gamut of the technology landscape for Indian and global audiences. When I am not hunting for the next big story or taking complex measurements for reviews, you can find me unwinding to a nice read, listening to some soulful music, or trying out a new game.
contact me via: @Geeky_Vaidy
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 08 > Future MacBooks could sport a fully virtual keyboard
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam, 2018-08-10 (Update: 2018-08-10)