Skip to main content

Future MacBooks could explore morphing, touchscreen keyboards

Apple was recently granted a patent that describes a wild-sounding MacBook touchscreen keyboard that might use haptic signals to physically raise portions of the screen to morph into new keyboards.

The ability to wirelessly charge an iPhone by placing it on the edge beside the keyboard area is also covered in this patent.

Apple MacBook touchscreen keyboard patent.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The document is 170 pages long and is somewhat exhaustive in exploring a variety of ideas, many of which might never be developed into actual products.

There is also a possibility of a physical keyboard to be placed atop the touchscreen, and other input devices are mentioned as well, including a dial. This is similar to Microsoft’s Surface Dial, which provides a twist control for interacting with the computer. Magnets and wireless power would allow a wide range of accessories to be attached and even powered by the MacBook.

As the manufacturer of the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, the company has plenty of experience with haptics and touchscreen keyboards. So far, no touchscreen Mac computers have been released, so this would be quite a departure, even if the touchscreen is limited to the keyboard area.

Another interesting idea included in the patent is the possibility of making physical keys that are touch-sensitive, which would allow sliding a finger across the keycaps for gesture input.

Apple MacBook ergonomic keyboard dial patent.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Apple’s patent document also includes several drawings that show a variety of touchscreen input options. A future MacBook could have the option of selecting a split and curved keyboard layout for more comfortable touch typing. With a graphic design app, the touchscreen keyboard could display a sparse layout with only a few keys and a virtual dial to interact with an on-screen computer-generated image or 3D model.

It’s worth noting that this is only a patent and future Apple MacBook laptops might simply continue to feature a keyboard and trackpad as usual. It is fun to get a look at these Apple concepts, however, and they could lead to concepts used in products down the line.

Editors' Recommendations

Alan Truly
Computing Writer
Alan is a Computing Writer living in Nova Scotia, Canada. A tech-enthusiast since his youth, Alan stays current on what is…
The MacBook Pro 14 still obliterates this Windows laptop
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i 14 front view showing display and keyboard deck.

Several of Apple's latest MacBooks are on our list of the best laptops around, and the MacBook Pro 14 is arguably the best 14-inch laptop you can buy today. Any new machine that wants to compete has to offer an incredibly compelling combination of features and value.

Lenovo's Slim Pro 9i 14 is a laptop that's obviously aimed directly at the MacBook. It has some powerful components inside and it performs just as well. It's also less expensive. Unfortunately, even those things fail to give it a leg up.
Specs and configurations

Read more
This tiny ThinkPad can’t quite keep up with the MacBook Air M2
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 3 rear view showing lid and logo.

While the laptop industry continues to move toward 14-inch laptops and larger, the 13-inch laptop remains an important category. One of the best is the Apple MacBook Air M2, with an extremely thin and well-built chassis, great performance, and incredibly long battery life.

Lenovo has recently introduced the third generation of its ThinkPad X1 Nano, one of the lightest laptops we've tested and a good performer as well. It's stiff competition, but which of these two diminutive laptops stands apart?
Specs and configurations

Read more
This powerhouse laptop gives the MacBook Pro an honest run for its money
Lenovo Slim Pro 9i front view showing display and keyboard.

The 16-inch creator's laptop is increasingly popular, and a number of excellent options have emerged. The Apple MacBook Pro 16 is the premier example, offering a combination of performance, battery life, and quality that's hard to match.

Lenovo recently upsized its attractive Slim 9i laptop, creating the Slim Pro 9i that packs in a very powerful CPU and a choice of lower-end GPUs. Don't let the latter fool you, though, as Lenovo has squeezed out a lot of performance. Can the Slim Pro 9i take on the mightly MacBook Air 16?
Specs and configurations

Read more