One of the country's great hubs of innovation, Apple files patents at an astonishing rate. While most are for far-off technology that never finds its way into production, every so often Cupertino publishes a patent that straddles the line between the imagined and the possible, giving us a glimpse into a future we can't help but be excited for.
Apple's latest such patent describes a "configurable force-sensitive input structure for electronic devices." In English, that's a massive Force Touch trackpad that would replace the traditional keyboard on your MacBook Pro.
Instead of individual keys, this technology would appear as a solid surface, as if the existing trackpad was stretched to cover the entire bottom half of the laptop. When it came time to type, lights below the surface would transform the metal surface into a familiar keyboard, and Force Touch technology would turn users' taps into keystrokes. As it sensed pressure, the keyboard would provide haptic feedback, giving users the satisfying sensation of actually pressing a key. The experience would likely be similar to that of Force Touch on the Apple Watch or new MacBook trackpad.
Perhaps most exciting is the potential flexibility a keyless design could bring to Apple laptops. For example, when a user moves from a word processor to a spreadsheet, the surface could respond by adding a number pad next to the trackpad. Or, multilingual users would be able to switch between keyboards for different languages with the simple tap of a finger.
Reminiscent of the iPhone's touch keyboard, whose ability to adapt to different applications led a revolution in handheld computing, perhaps this technology also has the potential to make our current laptops feel like Blackberries.