The computer has gone through many changes since the Apple Macintosh was unveiled in 1984, but somehow, the keyboard has remained basically the same — a boxy plastic grid, liberally sprinkled with cookie crumbs and stained by spilled coffee. Apple, however, has recently applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office with a revolutionary keyboard design that could change the way we type. The keyboard doesn't actually have any individual keys, but is instead a smooth, touch-sensitive panel, according to patent application documents. Here, a brief guide to this innovation:
What does it look like?
Keeping with Apple's philosophy of sleek, minimalist design, both variations of the keyboard proposal — one featuring illuminated images of keys under a glass surface; the other, a smooth plastic surface — are remarkably stripped-down. "No more mechanical buttons or switches; the input will have few to no moving pieces," says Jeff Hughes of DigitalTrends.
How does it work?
Better than a regular keyboard, which isn't able to distinguish between a deliberate keystroke and a fingertip accidentally brushing against a key. Apple's new design incorporates "pressure-sensitive piezo-electric sensors to detect finger taps on the flat surface," says Leslie Horn at PCMag. Additionally, the "sexy sounding" glass keyboard would be illuminated by LED lights which could, in an instant, switch to an entirely different key pattern for a different use, "like making music, or even gaming," says Chris Gayomali at TIME.
When will it be available?
Don't hold your breath. If Apple ever decides to pursue this keyboard design — and it might not — it would be years before it's available to consumers. Indeed, the company possesses "a treasure trove of futuristic technology patents" that will probably never see the light of day.
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