Apple patent points to displays on keyboards and trackpads. Proves lessons haven't been learned from the Touch Bar.

MacBook Pro Touch Bar
MacBook Pro Touch Bar (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • A new patent suggests screens could be coming to trackpads and keyboards.
  • No, we don't know why.
  • Maybe it's because everyone loves the Touch Bar so much.

Apple may intend to add new screens to its portable Macs, but they won't be where you'd expect them to be. According to a new patent Apple plans on putting screens in trackpads and keyboards. Because of course it does.

"Auxiliary text display integrated into a keyboard device," US Patent No 10,585,494, was spotted by Apple Insider. And it's as bad as you might think.

According to the patent we could see screens on a keyboard because Apple doesn't think people are capable of typing and looking at their screens at the same time.

"To view both the keys being pressed and the results of the typing presented on the display," it continues, "a user may be forced to repeatedly shift his or her field of view between the keyboard and the main display or monitor. This continual shifting may slow down or interrupt typing activity, which may limit or reduce the user's productivity and/or the efficiency of typing operations."

The patent also suggests that autocomplete could be added, allowing users to tap to select a word even before they finish typing it. That sounds like a special kind of hell as someone who types for eight hours each day, but maybe I'm not the target audience here.

Patent - Screen In Space Bar

Patent - Screen In Space Bar (Image credit: Apple Insider)

As crazy as this might seem, there is a cool aspect to it all. The patent understands that someone's fingers will eventually get in the way of whatever screen is added to a keyboard, so it will automatically adapt and move the text so as to ensure it can always be read.

"Because the auxiliary display is located on the keyboard near the user's hands, the auxiliary display may be adapted to detect when a user's finger or other object visually obstructs a portion of the auxiliary display," continues the patent. "In response to the detection of an obstruction, the auxiliary display may be configured to adapt the arrangement of the information displayed to reduce or avoid the detected obstruction."

You have to admit, that sounds impressive.

Regardless, this is only a patent and there's no way of knowing whether it will ever be part of a shipping MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro. Given the fact the Touch Bar still hasn't moved down the lineup, I'd expect this to appear on a MacBook Pro first. If at all.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.