Apple's next Magic Keyboard could dynamically change languages

16 inch Macbook Pro Magic Keyboard
16 inch Macbook Pro Magic Keyboard (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Apple has received a patent that talks about a reconfigurable keyboard.
  • It could enable Apple to create a keyboard that could change languages.

Reported by Patently Apple, Apple has been granted a patent for a reconfigurable keyboard that could find its way onto its MacBooks as well as its desktop keyboards. According to the patent, Apple could create a keyboard that could dynamically change its layout in order to support multiple languages or change to provide more precise layouts for certain use cases like gaming.

It may be desirable to reconfigure keyboards dynamically to accommodate input for different languages, to temporarily convert a standard keyboard into a gaming keyboard in which keys correspond to particular in-game actions, or to otherwise modify the behavior associated with pressing the keys in the keyboard.

Apple seems to be considering accomplishing this by creating a keyboard where each key is actually a tiny screen that can be changed on the fly.

The dynamic labels may be generated using dynamically reconfigurable label displaying components such as organic light-emitting diode displays with arrays of pixels, electrophoretic displays with arrays of pixels, or other pixel arrays (as examples). Configurations in which dynamic labels are presented using lower-resolution configurable output devices may also be used.

Patently Apple Reconfigurable Keyboard

Patently Apple Reconfigurable Keyboard (Image credit: Patently Apple)

The company lists an example where a user could theoretically use a MacBook that could change its keyboard from English to Greek in order to handle the user's needs.

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.

Apple currently ships its keyboards and MacBooks tailored to the language needed from each user. This, of course, has created a situation where each MacBook ships with a "fixed language" keyboard. Converting to a keyboard that could change dynamically, the company could design one keyboard that works for everyone. It would certainly simplify the component and it would not be surprising if there were environmental gains as well.

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.