On Thursday, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office granted Apple a patent for a MacBook with a giant touchpad, instead of a keyboard.
According to the patent, which was originally filed back in September 2015 and published on Thursday, the entire keyboard will be removed from the laptop, opting instead for a "force-sensitive input structure." The layout of the pad would be customizable, allowing users to have different settings for writing, gaming, drawing, and more. Apple calls this type of input structure "zero-travel," meaning no keys or surfaces on the device noticeably move when pressed. Instead, the touchpad would sense the force of the touch and return haptic feedback. To differentiate keys when the touchpad is configured as a keyboard, Apple's patent describes a grid of "micro-perforations or holes" that allow the outline of keys and other areas to light up via a backlight. Apple says that this design could improve the device's battery life, and reduce the risk of it breaking. The removal of the keyboard may also help Apple make the laptop thinner. While this patent has been granted, it is unclear if Apple plans to move forward with such a device.
Earlier this year, Apple was granted another patent that may or may not become an Apple product. In February, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published an Apple patent that described a no-touch, close proximity sensor. With this sensor, users will be able to use gestures to control the device, or hover over the display to highlight a button, similar to a cursor hover. Apple said that it would achieve this technology by using one or more infrared LED and photodiode proximity sensors. The patent showed this technology being used in a laptop's touchpad, though it could be featured in other products.
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