Apple Researching Keyboards With Adaptive Displays on Each Key

Apple is researching keyboards with small displays on the keys to dynamically change the label on each key, according to a newly-granted patent filing.

macbook pro m1 keyboard

The filing, spotted by Patently Apple, is titled "Electronic devices having keys with coherent fiber bundles" and was granted to Apple by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the final patent day of this year.

The patent explains how each key on a keyboard could have "an associated key display" connected to "control circuitry in the keyboard" via a "coherent fiber bundle." Apple proposes that each key would be "formed from a fiber optic plate" with "opposing first and second surfaces."

adaptive keyboard patent key side

While the patent stipulates that each key would need to contain a small display to provide the label, of which any compatible pixel array would work, the foremost technology put forwards by Apple is OLED. The key may be made from materials such as glass, ceramic, metal, or polymer, or even crystalline materials such as sapphire.

adaptive keyboard patent key

This system would allow the entire keyboard to be "reconfigurable" with labels that can change as needed. The patent highlights that keyboards could be reconfigured "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."

There is also the suggestion that each key could provide "visual feedback" to indicate the current status of each key, such as whether it corresponds to an uppercase or lowercase letter or an active ability when gaming.

Images included in the patent suggest that the adaptive keyboard could be used both in a laptop enclosure as well as a separate keyboard for desktop computers.

adaptive keyboard patent laptop

Crucially, this system does not interfere with the dome or scissor switches of physical keyboards. Unlike other Apple keyboard patents, such as one for a static glass keyboard or a full-size touchscreen panel, this proposition explicitly outlines a system to be used with moveable keys, so Apple could theoretically retain the design of its Magic Keyboard.

While patents do not necessarily prove what Apple is intending to bring to market, they can provide an interesting insight into what the company is researching and developing. Considering Apple has demonstrated its interest in adaptive displays on the keyboard through the MacBook Pro's Touch Bar, it does not seem unlikely that Apple would expand similar technology to each individual key at some point in the future.

Top Rated Comments

dannyyankou Avatar
23 months ago
Now this is interesting. A useful case that comes immediately to mind is pressing the Option key and seeing what special characters you can press.
Score: 70 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macsplusmacs Avatar
23 months ago

? Pro ? Users ? Never ? Look ? At ? the ? Keyboard ?
I'm pro.

And I do.

? Generalizations ? are ? usually ? dumb.
Score: 64 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hansmoleman Avatar
23 months ago
Something tells me I've seen this before.... oh, yeah.

https://www.artlebedev.com/optimus/maximus/
Score: 45 Votes (Like | Disagree)
anthonyjr Avatar
23 months ago
This is sure to make most users cringe, but as a video / audio editor and power user for many media applications - I'd love more ability for my workspace to transform based on the app that I'm using. The amount of shortcuts my brain can handle that differ from app to app has the potential to make my head spin daily, and visual cues would be a good transition to a more "touch-functional" Mac if we're never going to get a touch screen.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
anthonyjr Avatar
23 months ago

? Pro ? Users ? Never ? Look ? At ? the ? Keyboard ?
Not when your shortcut commands are so complex that the difference between hitting crtl+optn or cmd+optn in the middle of a task can effectively ruin an entire project.
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
c0ppo Avatar
23 months ago
Well... Here we go again :)
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

flicktype keyboard

FlickType Pulling iPhone Keyboard App After Continued Rejection Issues

Monday August 16, 2021 10:13 am PDT by
FlickType founder Kosta Eleftheriou, who has been vocal about scam apps on several occasions, today announced that the iPhone portion of his app FlickType Watch Keyboard will be discontinued because of ongoing issues with Apple's App Store review team. Eleftheriou says that the FlickType team is no longer able to endure Apple's "abuse" after dealing with "obstacle after obstacle" over the...
removable key patent 1

Future MacBook Could Feature Removable Key That Works as a Mouse

Thursday August 19, 2021 8:32 am PDT by
Apple is researching a MacBook keyboard that features a removable key to be used as a precision mouse, according to a newly published patent application. The patent application, first spotted by Patently Apple, is titled "Deployable Key Mouse" and was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The filing envisages a standard-looking MacBook scissor-system keyboard that features a...
iPad mini 6 orange BG

Deals: Shop Record Low Prices on iPad Mini, Apple Watch Series 7, and iPad Pro Magic Keyboard

Friday March 18, 2022 6:20 am PDT by
Today we're tracking a few different deals, including all-time low prices on the iPad mini 6, Apple Watch Series 7, and iPad Pro Magic Keyboard. These discounts can all be found on Amazon. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Amazon. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. iPad mini Starting with the 64GB...
mac magic keyboard

Deals: Apple's Magic Keyboard on Sale for $49.99 (50% Off) [Updated]

Friday February 11, 2022 5:30 am PST by
Target today has Apple's 2021 Magic Keyboard for half off, priced at $49.99, down from $99.99. The accessory has an estimated delivery window of February 16-18 as of writing, and can't be picked up in store. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Target. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. The Magic Keyboard...
touch id magic keyboard for imac e1634547211386

Full-Size Function Keys Expected to Feature on New MacBook Pro Models

Monday October 18, 2021 2:14 am PDT by
Apple's new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models will feature a redesigned row of function keys that replaces the Touch Bar, and each modifier key will have the same width and height as the alphanumeric keys on the rest of the keyboard, according to rumors and leaked schematics seen by MacRumors. Full-size function keys and Touch ID button on iMac Magic Keyboard It's been a hectic few days...
bmw car key photo

iPhone's Car Key Feature Now Supports Select 2022 Genesis and Kia Vehicles [Updated]

Wednesday March 23, 2022 9:03 am PDT by
In 2020, Apple introduced a digital car key feature that allows users to unlock and start a compatible vehicle by bringing an iPhone or Apple Watch near the driver-side door. The feature has been limited to select BMW models since launching. According to Apple, the feature has now expanded to select 2022 vehicle models from Genesis and Kia, which are both divisions of Korean automaker...
iphone 5g mmwave

Ericsson Sues Apple Again Over 5G Patent Licensing Infringements

Tuesday January 18, 2022 5:11 am PST by
Telecom giant Ericsson has filed another set of patent infringement lawsuits against Apple in a long-running dispute between the two companies over royalty payments for the use of 5G wireless patents in iPhones. In 2021, both companies sued each other in the US after negotiations failed over the renewal of a seven-year licensing contract for telecom patents covering 2G, 3G, and 4G...
apple store security patent

Apple Stores Could Stop Thieves With New Security Measures

Tuesday January 11, 2022 7:29 am PST by
Apple is exploring new security measures for Apple retail stores in an attempt to discourage and prevent smash-and-grab robberies. In a patent titled "Product-Display System" filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, spotted by Patently Apple, Apple details a number of mechanical systems for securing iPhones, iPads, and Apple Watches. The proposal effectively involves...

Popular Stories

apple watch ultra deuglify 1

Apple Watch Ultra User Mods Titanium Casing to 'Deuglify' Design

Tuesday September 27, 2022 8:05 am PDT by
An Apple Watch Ultra user has modified their new device's casing to add a brushed finish and remove the orange color of the Action Button in an effort to make it more visually appealing. The Apple Watch Ultra offers the first complete redesign of the Apple Watch since the product line's announcement in 2014, and while the design has been met with praise from many users, some have criticized...
Dark Sky App Featured

Dark Sky Removed From iOS App Store Ahead of Upcoming Shutdown

Wednesday September 28, 2022 4:27 pm PDT by
The Dark Sky weather app that's owned by Apple is no longer available for download in the U.S. App Store, suggesting that it has been removed ahead of schedule. Apple acquired Dark Sky back in March 2020 and has since incorporated elements of the app into the Weather app available on the iPhone (and soon, the iPad). Dark Sky remained available for purchase as a standalone weather app...
iphone 14 pro max vs 13 max 2

Camera Comparison: iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max

Thursday September 29, 2022 7:44 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max introduce some major improvements in camera technology, adding a 48-megapixel lens and low-light improvements across all lenses with the new Photonic Engine. We've spent the last week working on an in-depth comparison that pits the new iPhone 14 Pro Max against the prior-generation iPhone 13 Pro Max to see just how much better the iPhone 14 Pro Max can be. Subscrib ...
apple watch ultra hammer test

YouTuber Tests Apple Watch Ultra Durability With a Hammer: Table Breaks Before the Watch

Sunday September 25, 2022 2:27 pm PDT by
A YouTuber has put Apple's claims for the durability of the Apple Watch Ultra to the test by putting it up against a drop test, a jar of nails, and repeated hits with a hammer to test the sapphire crystal protecting the display. TechRax, a channel popular for testing the durability of products, first tested the Apple Watch Ultra by dropping it from around four feet high. The Apple Watch...
tony blevins car

Apple Procurement VP Departs Company After Vulgar TikTok Comment

Thursday September 29, 2022 12:38 pm PDT by
Tony Blevins, Apple's vice president of procurement, is set to depart the company after he made a crude comment about his profession in a recent TikTok video, reports Bloomberg. Blevins was in a video by TikTok creator Daniel Mac, who was doing a series on the jobs of people he spotted with expensive cars. After seeing Blevins in an expensive Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Mac asked Blevins what ...
iPhone 14 Pros in Hand Black Background Feature

Verizon iPhone 14 Pro Customers Reporting Cellular Connection Issues

Monday September 26, 2022 6:23 am PDT by
iPhone 14 Pro customers on the Verizon network in the U.S. are reporting issues with slow and unreliable 5G cellular connections and calls randomly dropping. Several threads on Reddit (1,2,3) and the MacRumors forums chronicle issues faced by Verizon customers and Apple's latest iPhone. According to user reports, signal strength on the iPhone 14 Pro is unreliable and weak, while other...
iPhone 15 to Switch From Lightning to USB C in 2023 feature sans arrow

Kuo: iPhone 14 Pro Max Popularity Could Lead to More Differentiation Between iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max

Wednesday September 28, 2022 10:22 am PDT by
Apple has seen high demand for the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max, which could lead the company to further differentiate the next-generation iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple could add exclusive features to the iPhone 15 Pro Max in an effort to encourage more people to purchase the larger and more expensive device. Kuo last week said that Apple asked...
iPhone 14 Pro Sports Scores Dynamic Island

iPhone 14 Pro Features Live Sports Scores in Dynamic Island on iOS 16.1

Monday September 26, 2022 7:52 am PDT by
Earlier this month, Apple announced that iOS 16.1 will enable a new Live Activities feature that allows iPhone users to stay on top of things that are happening in real time, such as a sports game or a food delivery order, right from the Lock Screen. On the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, Live Activities also integrate with the Dynamic Island. Premier League match in Dynamic Island via Paul Bradford ...
iOS 16

Everything New in the Latest iOS 16.1 and iPadOS 16.1 Betas: Stage Manager Expansion, Wallpaper Tweaks and More

Tuesday September 27, 2022 11:36 am PDT by
Apple today released new betas of iOS 16.1 and iPadOS 16.1 to developers, tweaking some of the functionality that's been introduced in prior betas and in the case of iPadOS 16.1, adding a major new feature to Stage Manager. We've rounded up everything new in both betas below. Wallpaper Updates Apple has updated the Wallpaper section of the Settings app to allow users to swap between...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

Some iOS 16 Users Continue to Face Unaddressed Bugs and Battery Drain Two Weeks After Launch

Monday September 26, 2022 7:34 am PDT by
Today marks exactly two weeks since Apple released iOS 16 to the public. Besides the personalized Lock Screen, major changes in Messages, and new features in Maps, the update has also seen its fair share of bugs, performance problems, battery drain, and more. After major iOS updates, it's normal for some users to report having issues with the new update, but such reports usually subside in...