Apple Inc. keyboard patent involves tiny displays inside each key to make entire layout infinitely customizable

Apple Inc Keyboard Patent
Appe Inc. patents new keyboard design with per-key dynamic labels. Pic credit: Robin Wolff/Pixabay

Apple Inc. wants to do away with the traditional keyboard that has keys with just one or two permanent characters. Although a little far-fetched, the company has won a patent involving a keyboard that has keys with miniature displays.

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has awarded Apple with yet another patent involving physical keys on the traditional keyboard. The company recently patented a new version of the Touch Bar. The new version features built-in Force Touch technology. This month it has won a patent for similar but possibly game-changing technology.

Apple Inc. patents keyboards that have tiny displays instead of traditional laser-etched characters for infinitely configurable layout:

The USPTO has granted Apple a patent for a “reconfigurable” Mac keyboard with a small display for each key. The tiny displays within each key will allow the keyboard to show different characters according to the user’s preferences.

Although the patent appears similar to that of the Touch Bar, this new keyboard would work in a radically different way. The keyboard would still have all the physical keys. However, according to the patent, the keys on this new keyboard contain a super small display for each key instead of regular engraved labels.

The illustrations in the patent reveal Apple could be considering using this new technology for both the built-in keyboards found in MacBook computers as well as the standalone premium Aluminum keyboards built for Mac desktops, such as iMac, Mac mini, and Mac Pro.

It is important to note that Apple is one of the prolific filers of patents. It files or registers new patents on a regular basis. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean Apple will add these features or technologies to a real product in the future.

Incidentally, Apple Inc. has won the patent. Moreover, the company has been steadily improving its iconic “Butterfly” keyboard design for a long time. Adding miniature displays within each key could push the customization factor through the roof.

How will the new Apple keyboard with a per-key miniature display for customization work?

The patent does not offer specifics. However, the technology to pull off something similar already exists today.

Apple could easily design the outer shell of keys with ceramic, glass, sapphire, or metal. The configurable component could be OLED, electrophoretic, or some other kind of display. It need not be very bright but it needs to be a working display with some form of illumination.

Essentially, Apple has proposed a premium keyboard with “dynamic labels” that would alter the image and the function depending on the user’s preference.

The keys could be very useful for people who type in multiple languages, play games with extensive key layout and customization needs, etc. Moreover, if Apple does make such keyboards, the company will not have to offer region-specific laptops.

While Apple Inc. has the patent, Razer, the maker of premium computer accessories, already has a similar concept in the form of Deathstalker Ultimate keyboard.

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