Apple could be working on a dynamic backlit keyboard technology that allows keys to perform several functions instead of being bound to one. A new patent filed by the Cupertino, California-based tech giant hints at a future MacBook that might feature a keyboard with changing key functions that illuminate based on the context. The underlying LEDs could reportedly even show animation and video on top of the keys. Existing backlight technology in keyboards only serves to light up the intended key function.
According to a report in Patently Apple, the US Patent & Trademark Office published an Apple patent on Thursday that particularly deals with keyboard mechanism. The patent mentions that the keys would be partially made of aluminium and would feature dynamic lettering, or “glyphs”, that will light up according to the corresponding function.
“More particularly, the present embodiments relate to keycaps having illuminable glyphs that are selectively visible or invisible to an unaided human eye,” the report said. The patent mentions that the future Apple keyboard could have perforations on keycaps through which an array of LED lights could illuminate changing symbols, numbers, and letters by selectively lighting up specific perforations.
Such a dynamic keyboard could also allow users to change keyboard layouts completely or even switch to a different language. Additionally, the report said that the key LEDs could be controlled to show animations, information, or even video on one specific key or a group of keys.
Apple noted in their patent application that their keyboard would represent several advantages over existing backlit keyboards. Current keys are mostly made of plastic and usually have letters or symbols painted or coated on them. Repeated use of the keyboard leads to the coat fading away over time. An aluminium key would represent much higher quality, while changing LED glyphs would eliminate the problem of key symbols getting rubbed off.
Apple had been using its much-maligned Butterfly Keyboard on MacBooks from 2015 to 2019. Earlier this year, the company paid $50 million (roughly Rs 414 crore) to settle a class-action lawsuit over its defective MacBook keyboards. The company now offers the Magic Keyboard on its MacBooks.