Future MacBooks could sport a fully virtual keyboard
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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.