08 January 2021
Apple has received a patent application approval for a new kind of keyboard functionality for Mac. The approval has been given by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This new keyboard design features reconfigurable keys so that users can use them as per their preference or need.
The patent application shows that Apple is envisioning a Mac keyboard with keys sporting small displays instead of the traditional engravings. The keyboard will work like any other keyboard out there but whenever a user will change the keyboard layout, the tiny displays will be used to show relevant symbols for more convenient usage. However, none of the fancy or high-end display technologies will be implemented as those are not needed here.
The thought process behind the patent application is that there are users who prefer to have different keyboard layouts for different purposes. For example, a user could like to have a dedicated layout for playing video games and another layout for working on software like video editing and product designing.
In the patent application, Apple has explained user cases as:
"The user may, for example, desire to switch a keyboard between a first format (e.g., an English-language format) and a second format (e.g., a Greek-language format). In response to user input to switch the keyboard, control circuitry in an electronic device can adjust the key labels being displayed by the key displays from English letters to Greek letters, thereby switching the keyboard from the first format to the second format."
While the idea of a keyboard with dynamic keys is certainly exciting, it is only a patent for the moment. It means it is hard to say when and if Apple will actually release a product based on the concept. And if it actually goes on to do so, it is safe to assume that this will result in a price bump.