Future Mac Notebooks Could Feature 'Buttonless' Trackpad Design

Apple today was awarded U.S. Patent No. 8,633,916 (via AppleInsider), which describes a touchpad that utilizes force sensors and acuator feedback. The buttonless design uses an array of sensors and an actuator to mimic the function and tactile feedback of the current trackpad found in the company's MacBook product lines.

trackpad-patent
Currently, Apple's trackpad technology is based on an integrated button design. Surface touch sensors track the movement of fingers and a hinged button allows the trackpad to click when a user presses down on it. A switch located under the trackpad is actuated when a click pivots the trackpad downward on its rear hinge. The pivoting motion of this button makes it difficult to click near the rear edge of the trackpad and requires extra space within the chassis of the notebook.

In the newly awarded patent, which was filed in December 2009, Apple builds upon its current design by using a surface touch sensor and four corner force sensors to track finger movement and clicking input from the user. An actuator would be used to provide tactile feedback. Also similar to the current trackpad, a buttonless trackpad may have user-customizable settings that adjust the sensitivity levels for the click pressure or the tactile feedback.

apple_trackpad14_3

In addition to processing touch sensor signals to determine the location of touch events, signals from the force sensors may be processed. A rectangular touch pad may have four corners. Force sensors may be mounted under each of the four corners. When a user presses on the surface of the touch pad, the force sensors may pick up four corresponding independent force signals.

Tactile feedback may be provided using an actuator. The actuator may be controlled by actuator drive signals. As a user of an electronic device interacts with the touch pad, the user may make gestures and perform other touch-related tasks. When the user desires to select an on-screen object or perform other tasks of the type traditionally associated with button actuation events, the user may press downwards against the surface of the track pad. When sufficient force is detected, appropriate action may be taken and drive signals may be applied to the actuator. The actuator may impart movement to the touch pad.

Whether Apple chooses to incorporate this new trackpad technology or not is unknown, but a move to do so would make sense considering that Apple's multi-touch trackpad debuted with the MacBook Air in 2008, and has made its way to every MacBook since then. But given the fact that it has been over four years since the patent's filing, Apple may simply have abandoned the proposed design for unknown reasons.

Tag: Patent
Related Forums: MacBook Air, MacBook Pro

Top Rated Comments

dannys1 Avatar
116 months ago
Is anyone on this forum capable of reading, or just moaning?

It explains quite clearly that when you press down it would still function and feel a button now you miserable sods.

The benefit is that they can remove the dated hinge mechanism which makes more power for good things and you'll be able to click at both the bottom AND the top of the trackpad...basically its like now, but better.

Its not rocket science to read and understand.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Jsameds Avatar
116 months ago
But I like buttons...
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
roadbloc Avatar
116 months ago
No thanks. I like my buttons. Never been a huge fan of touch. Trackpads are fine, but without two buttons for clicking, I'm out. And no doubt living in the past. :(
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mattbaar26 Avatar
116 months ago
I don't know if I would like this. I almost always use the click as opposed to the tap
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tMac7 Avatar
116 months ago
A TrackPad without a button definitely seems like a good idea. I changed my settings to 'tap to click' practically on day 1 because it's much easier and quicker

Same here, it works perfectly fine for me. IMO Trackpads don't need a button anymore - a one- or two-finger tap is enough.

But i also think that we don't need force sensors and acuator feedback in the trackpad - but Apple will prove me wrong :p
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
wickoo Avatar
116 months ago
I can't remember a single instance of a patent filing revealing an upcoming Apple product's feature. Could you guys point me to some recent one that turned out to be true?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

Cyber Monday Deals Feature 2022

Best Cyber Monday Apple Deals Still Available for AirPods, Apple TV, iPad, and More

Monday November 28, 2022 5:24 am PST by
The Black Friday and Cyber Monday holiday shopping rush is drawing to a close, but there are still some good deals to be had out there. For Apple products, many of the deals you've seen since last week are still available, though some have expired. So for anyone who missed out on Black Friday deals, there's still an opportunity to get some of the year's best prices on many Apple devices. Note: ...
iPhone 14 Pro Rear Camera

iPhone 15 to Use 'State-of-the-Art' Image Sensor From Sony for Better Low-Light Performance

Monday November 28, 2022 11:00 am PST by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 15 models will be equipped with Sony's newest "state of the art" image sensors, according to a report from Nikkei. Compared to standard sensors, Sony's image sensor doubles the saturation signal in each pixel, allowing it to capture more light to cut down on underexposure and overexposure. Nikkei says that it is able to better photograph a person's face even with...
Apple Watch Ultra Oceanic Plus App

Apple Announces Oceanic+ App Now Available for Apple Watch Ultra

Monday November 28, 2022 6:11 am PST by
Apple today announced that the Oceanic+ app is available for the Apple Watch Ultra starting today. Designed by Huish Outdoors in collaboration with Apple, the app serves as a dive computer for recreational scuba diving at depths up to 40 meters/130 feet. Apple already offers a basic Depth app on the Apple Watch Ultra for viewing your current depth, maximum depth reached, water temperature,...
app store awards 2021

Apple Announces 2022 App Store Award Winners, Highlighting Best Apps of the Year

Tuesday November 29, 2022 3:10 am PST by
Apple today announced its 2022 App Store Award winners, highlighting the 16 best apps and games selected by Apple's global App Store editorial team. The top apps were chosen by Apple for their quality, innovative technology, creative design, positive cultural impact, and ability to deliver "exceptional experiences." Apple CEO Tim Cook said: This year's App Store Award winners reimagined...
rapid security response

Apple Releases Another Rapid Security Response Update for iOS 16.2 Beta Users

Monday November 28, 2022 10:16 am PST by
Apple today released a Rapid Security Response update that is available for those running the iOS 16.2 beta, marking the launch of the second RSR update since the feature was released in iOS 16. The Rapid Security Response Update is designed to provide iOS 16.2 beta users with bug fixes without the need to install a full update. The initial RSR release for iOS 16.2 beta users was a test with ...
twitter elon musk

Elon Musk Claims Apple Has 'Mostly Stopped' Offering Ads on Twitter and Is Making Moderation Demands

Monday November 28, 2022 10:42 am PST by
Apple has cut back on its Twitter advertising, according to Twitter CEO Elon Musk. In a tweet, Musk said that Apple has "mostly stopped" its Twitter ads, asking if Apple hates "free speech." Musk went on to publish a poll asking if Apple should "publish all censorship actions" taken that impact customers and he began retweeting content from companies that Apple has had moderation discussions ...
iphone 11 tesla cybertruck close up

Elon Musk Pledges to Build iPhone Rival If Apple Ousts Twitter

Tuesday November 29, 2022 2:48 am PST by
Elon Musk has pledged to offer an "alternative phone" if Apple and Google remove Twitter from their app stores, adding to long-standing rumors about an iPhone rival from Tesla. Modified iPhone 11 Pro in the style of the Tesla Cybertruck, by Caviar. Musk's remark came after being asked about the potential scenario of Twitter being removed from app stores, which could conceivably happen if the...
General Black Friday Deals 2022 Green

All the Apple Black Friday Deals You Can Still Get

Friday November 25, 2022 4:40 am PST by
Although Black Friday is now technically over, many Apple products are still seeing major discounts through the weekend as we head into Cyber Monday. In this article, you'll find every Apple device with a notable Black Friday sale that's still available. We'll be updating as prices change and new deals arrive, so be sure to keep an eye out if you don't see the sale you're looking for yet. Note:...