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
104 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
104 months ago
But I like buttons...
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
roadbloc Avatar
104 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
104 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
104 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
104 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

iPhone 14 Mock pill and hole thumb

ProMotion Now Expected to Remain Exclusive to iPhone 14 Pro Models, Not Expand to Entire Lineup

Sunday January 16, 2022 8:56 am PST by
Continuing the tradition set with the iPhone 13 Pro, only the highest-end iPhone 14 models will feature Apple's ProMotion display technology, according to a respected display analyst. Ross Young, who on multiple occasions has detailed accurate information about Apple's future products, said in a tweet that ProMotion will not be expanded to the entire iPhone 14 lineup and will remain...
safari icon blue banner

Safari Bug Allows Websites to Track Your Recent Browsing Activity in Real Time [Updated]

Sunday January 16, 2022 3:37 pm PST by
A bug in WebKit's implementation of a JavaScript API called IndexedDB can reveal your recent browsing history and even your identity, according to a blog post shared on Friday by browser fingerprinting service FingerprintJS. In a nutshell, the bug allows any website that uses IndexedDB to access the names of IndexedDB databases generated by other websites during a user's browsing session....
ipad air 4 video

New iPad Air Rumored to Launch This Spring With A15 Chip, 5G, Center Stage Camera, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 8:05 pm PST by
Apple is planning to release a fifth-generation iPad Air with similar features as the sixth-generation iPad mini, including an A15 Bionic chip, 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front camera with Center Stage support, 5G for cellular models, and Quad-LED True Tone flash, according to Japanese blog Mac Otakara. Citing reliables sources in China, the report claims that the new iPad Air could be...
Unlikely Products 2022 Feature

Six Rumored Apple Products You're Unlikely to See This Year

Saturday January 15, 2022 2:06 pm PST by
Much has been said about what consumers could see from Apple in 2022, but the company is also working on a handful of rumored products that aren't expected to be unveiled for at least another 12 months, and in some cases a lot longer. Of course, that's assuming they get released at all. Apple works on many potential products some of which ultimately never see the light of day. With that in...
AirPods Pro Gen 3 Mock Feature Red

AirPods Pro 2 Could Start a New Accessory Ecosystem

Friday January 14, 2022 2:34 am PST by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro could arrive alongside a new series of accessories, recent leaked images suggest. Alleged leaked photos of the next-generation AirPods Pro obtained by MacRumors showed a charging case with a metal loop on the side for attaching a strap. Apple has not used this design for any of its other AirPod models and it is unclear why it would be added in this...
netflix2

Netflix Again Raises Prices for All Plans, 4K Streaming Now $20 Per Month

Friday January 14, 2022 12:46 pm PST by
Netflix today updated the prices for its streaming plans, and all of its offerings are now more expensive. The Basic plan is now priced at $9.99 per month, the Standard plan is priced at $15.49 per month, and the Premium plan is priced at $19.99 per month. The Basic plan is $1 more expensive, up from $8.99 per month. This plan allows users to watch on just one screen at a time, and it limits ...
tesla carplay solution

Developer Showcases Apple CarPlay Workaround for Teslas

Monday January 17, 2022 7:24 am PST by
A Tesla Model 3 owner has resorted to a workaround to implement Apple CarPlay in his vehicle, amid no sign of official support from Tesla (via Tesla North). Apple CarPlay and Apple Music support are among the most-requested Tesla features, but with no indication that Tesla is willing to implement Apple CarPlay in its vehicles, Polish developer Michał Gapiński took matters into his own...
top stories 20220115

Top Stories: iPhone 14 Pro Rumors, iCloud Private Relay Controversy, iOS 15.2.1 Released, and More

Saturday January 15, 2022 6:00 am PST by
Hole-punch? Pill? Hole-punch and pill? Rumors about what the front camera system on the iPhone 14 Pro will look like are evolving rapidly, and it now appears we might be getting a novel but potentially controversial design later this year. Other major stories this week included some confusion and controversy about iCloud Private Relay being disabled for some T-Mobile customers, increasing...