Virtual MacBook Keyboards Hinted in Apple Patent Application

Apple Patent Application Hints at Virtual MacBook Keyboard Credit: Daniel Brunsteiner
Text Size
- +

Toggle Dark Mode

Apple is reportedly exploring the idea of a virtual keyboard for MacBooks or similar devices, as a new patent application published today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office suggests.

The patent application, “Housing as a I/O device,” is written in the typically dense patent language, but there are a few interesting tidbits. In one embodiment, the patent claims, a surface could be converted into a “keyboard and/or trackback and/or other controls” that activate contextually based on the user’s needs. These controls would be “invisible,” and only appear when in use — and the patent actually clearly states that this particular embodiment could be referred to as a “virtual keyboard.” And, as with most patents, the included figures are worth noting, too. Two of them in particular, Fig. 10A and 10B, seem to show off a “virtual keyboard” in action on a device that resembles a notebook computer.

Apple isn’t likely to switch all of its MacBook models to a virtual keyboard anytime soon, however. Many professionals prefer the tactility and response of physical keys, and if CEO Tim Cook’s recent comments are any indication, Apple wants to double-down in creating products for the pro community. Similarly, Apple has shown interest in physical keyboards that could change based on context — but would still retain physical keys. A more likely scenario could be a new type of hybrid computer-tablet device that has a “cover” portion that could support different functions for gaming, drawing, music production. Apple already holds a related patent describing a “smart cover” for a tablet device which can be converted into a drawing platform, keyboard or other controls based on context. Of course, we also can’t forget that Apple has already introduced the Touch Bar, a feature that echoes the context-based function of a virtual keyboard.

Interestingly, the application (numbered 20170147087) is actually a continuation of a patent first granted to Apple in February 2011. This suggests that Apple has been looking into the idea of virtual keyboards and similar input/output devices for quite a while. As always, since it is just an application, there’s no guarantee that the tech described within will actually show up in any device.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

Social Sharing