Apple patents a trio of ideas to fix its MacBook keyboard

While adding a membrane to keep out debris from damaging its third-generation keyboard design with butterfly switches on the 2018 MacBook Pro was a good first step in helping to address keyboard woes on Apple’s early MacBook and MacBook Pro models, recently published patent filings suggest that the Mac-maker may have grander plans to fix the keyboard. While one of Apple’s ideas calls for a redesigned membrane to keep debris out, Apple’s other keyboard inventions are based on a dual-screen laptop design.

Though Apple’s innovation with adding a secondary touchscreen isn’t entirely novel — Microsoft and Apple’s rivals in the PC spaces have been rumored to be working on dual-screen laptops — Apple is adding its own twist to this form factor. Like dual-screen concepts that were leaked in recent past, Apple would eschew the keyboard in favor of a secondary screen that could be made from glass or plastic.

apple has three patents to fix the macbook pro keyboard problems glass patent

The benefit here is that the keys could be reconfigured, and users can use their own custom key layouts with software. This could be useful for gaming, video editing, and other applications. Having a screen here and a software keyboard would eliminate some of weaknesses of a mechanical key design, including problems like debris getting trapped under the keys or damaged key switches. Users can also add dials, sliders, and other options to the software keyboard.

In essence, this keyboard would serve like an expanded version of the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro, which already offers sliders, customizable keys, and keys that change depending on the application used. Moreover, Apple could also add haptic feedback to provide the illusion of mechanical key presses when typing, which could help mitigate some of the pain points — like fatigue and lack of responsiveness — when trying to type on a glass surface for extended duration.

apple has three patents to fix the macbook pro keyboard problems overlay patent

For users who need a physical keyboard to type, Apple’s second innovation is to have a keyboard overlay covering the bottom display. The idea isn’t dissimilar to the snap-on keyboard cover accessory that Samsung sells for its Galaxy phones, essentially transforming the touchscreen-keyboard to a BlackBerry-like experience with physical keys. In Apple’s case, the surface surrounding the keyboard would also be touch-sensitive, and users could add place other peripherals, like a joystick, on this area.

And Apple’s last innovation calls for a flexible membrane that is waterproof to cover the keyboard mechanism. “The material would be flexible enough for the key mechanism to actuate the key, without requiring a hole to be made in the membrane at all,” AppleInsider noted. “The 2018 MacBook Pro models have an added membrane which seems to have been made with reducing debris buildup in mind, but its holes to allow for key actuation means it is not infallible.”

The design would be different from Apple’s keyboard cover for the iPad Pro, which has a flexible fabric membrane covering the top of the actual keyboard keys. The MacBook Pro’s membrane would cover just the key mechanism and would be placed between the mechanism and the keycaps.

Mobile

Google’s new floating keyboard is so helpful, it’ll put you on cloud nine

Bezel-less smartphones look great, but typing isn't always so good, as grip can be more of a challenge. That's where Google's Gboard keyboard comes into play. It now has a floating keyboard feature to help out.
Music

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
Mobile

Apple could show off a new iPad Mini and AirPower charger at October event

Apple's sprung a surprise event on us, even though this year has seen loads of new Apple releases. So what's left to come? Quite a lot as it turns out. Here's what to expect from Apple's October 30 event.
Computing

Choose your weapon wisely -- these are the best keyboards for gaming on your PC

Your PC isn't complete without one of the best gaming keyboards on the planet. We have a list spanning full-sized models to compact versions from Razer, Cooler Master, Corsair, Logitech G, and more.
Emerging Tech

Looking for a good read? Here are the best, most eye-opening books about tech

Sometimes it's sensible to put down the gadgets and pick up a good old-fashioned book -- to read about the latest gadgets, of course. Here are the tech books you need to check out.
Gaming

The 'Fallout 76' beta starts tomorrow! Here's when it starts and how to join

Want to get into Bethesda's Fallout 76 beta? We don't know when the program will launch, but we provide instructions on how to get ready. The game officially launches on November 14.
Computing

Samsung’s HMD Odyssey Plus gives you a clearer view into the virtual world

Samsung's refreshed HMD Odyssey+ promises to make Windows Mixed Reality experiences better by eliminating pixelated views caused by screen doors. The $500 headset also focuses on comfort this year with ergonomic improvements.
Computing

Intel denies rumors that 10nm Cannon Lake CPUs have been canned

Intel's long-in-development and oft-delayed, Cannon Lake 10nm CPU design has reportedly been canceled. Intel is denying the rumor, but if true, it could push back the release of new Intel chips by a long time.
Computing

Not to be outdone, Samsung says it’s making a laptop with a foldable display

Samsung announced that it is also working on a dual-screen computer. But rather than using two separate display panels, Samsung said that its novel laptop will come with a large flexible display that can fold when closed.
Photography

Free your digital memories, and frame them, with the best photo printers

Printed photos are experiencing a revival at the moment, but you don’t need to go to a special lab. Here’s our favorite options for making quality prints, from pocket-sized printers to wide-format photo printers capable of spitting out…
Computing

A new bug in the Windows 10 October 2018 Update could delete your files

The Windows 10 October 2018 Update has been on a rough path and in the latest set of issues, a new bug is impacting native zip file operations, potentially leading to overwritten files in some instances. 
Computing

Antivirus software has evolved a lot recently, and we need it more than ever

Everyone says you need it, but really is antivirus software, and how does it work? It depends on who you ask as different digital security companies employ different techniques to combat the latest malware threats.
Computing

Nvidia’s new GTX 1060 6GB could counter AMD’s rumored RX 590

Nvidia's GTX 1060 is about to get more powerful for new buyers, as the green team has introduced a new version with GDDR5X memory at its disposal. This could prove competitive with AMD's rumored RX 590.
Computing

A canceled education order is increasing hopes for new Macbook model

With Apple's October 30 event fast approaching, rumors continue to surface about new Macs and iPad models. In the latest news, a canceled education order is stoking hopes for a new MacBook model.