16 inch Macbook Pro Magic KeyboardSource: 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 KeyboardSource: 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.

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