Apple has so far been reluctant to add a touch-based panel to its MacBook computers, and instead relies heavily on the multi-touch trackpad that supports gesture controls for different functions. But what if you were able to interact with the computer’s chassis to execute different commands, like launching an app, controlling your media and more? What if the area where your keyboard rests was a blank space until you moved close enough to touch it, at which point the keyboard could, as if by magic, appear? Apple recently applied for a patent that may make these options a reality.
First spotted by AppleInsider, the patent tiled “Housing as an I/O device” describes using the entire area of the computer’s body as an area that can accept input controls through sensors. “The one or more sensors may be configured to sense inputs, such as through a touch or via the wall of the housing,” Apple’s patent says.
“The electronic device further includes a processing unit communicatively coupled to the one or more sensors and configured to interpret electrical signals generated by the one or more sensors.” Apple may illuminate the functions when they’re available, such as music controls while iTunes is open, and dim them when they aren’t in use. Different actions, such as a touch, a tap, a hold or a squeeze, could allow a user to perform different actions, like adjusting the display’s brightness.
“In one embodiment, sensors associated with adjusting sound may be placed proximate speakers, or sensors associated with light output of a display may be placed proximate the display or sensors associated with connectors may be placed proximate the connectors,” Apple said. “Touching near a power button may be interpreted as a power button control, so a single touch may put the device to sleep while a double touch may turn it off.”
This could apply to all elements, even the keyboard, which could be “made visible by detecting the proximity of an object such as a hand or finger near the surface and not visible when the hand or finger is moved out of the active area of the proximity speaker.” Illuminated objects on the body could also show the battery life, the strength of your wireless signal and more.
Apple may never implement these options, though we see it is at the very least considering adding more controls to its laptop computer than are already available. The power and wireless signal indicators are particularly intriguing. Apple’s patent says that it may add one or more embodiment without adding the others, too, which means we may see just parts of this patent come to fruition in the future.