MacRumors

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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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Apple is exploring a new keyboard design that could eventually replace its butterfly switch MacBook keyboards and finally solve the problem of "sticky" or inconsistently functioning keys.

macbookpro15inch2018.jpg

Issues that Apple has acknowledged can occur with some current MacBook keyboards are widely believed to be caused by dust or other particulates getting lodged in the butterfly mechanism underneath the keycaps, which are shallower than those on previous-generation MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards with traditional scissor switch mechanisms.

In its 2018 MacBook Pro models, Apple quietly introduced a thin silicone membrane underneath keyboard keys, which is an attempt to solve the issue of dust and crumbs from getting stuck. But a new patent suggests the company is researching a totally new approach to the way keyboards are designed that could eradicate the problem for good.

Published last week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and first spotted by AppleInsider, the patent application called "Computer with keyboard" describes a keyboard that replaces movable keys with a glass sheet that includes raised sections to designate the tactile location of individual keys.

When a raised key section is pressed, the keyboard detects the input pressure for that key and processes as a typical key press. The concept differs from the featureless plain of a virtual onscreen keyboard because the raised sections allow the user to feel where their fingers should rest in relation to the individual keys.

apple-patent-application-glass-keyboard.jpg
Raised glass key concepts from Apple's patent application

The patent describes how an additional level of tactile feedback could be provided by a raised side wall around individual raised keys that could deform with each press, while an underlying layer could serve to "push" the key back into place.

Meanwhile, key symbols could lie on a separate later underneath the glass panel, which would make it easier to change the layout for different regions, languages, or even applications. The patent also proposes using side sections around the keyboard that could double up as a trackpad.

As expected, the glass keyboard could have the effect of making the keyboard thinner and allowing more room for other components to be housed in the notebook chassis.Apple has filed patents for keyboards in the past, included one that uses a touchscreen panel similar the Touch Bar, but that extends to the entire keyboard layout, but this is the first patent to emphasize the use of individually raised glass elements that mimic traditional tactile feedback.

Article Link: Apple Exploring New Glass Panel MacBook Keyboards That Could End Sticky Key Problems
 
Last edited:

Falhófnir

macrumors 603
Aug 19, 2017
5,385
6,015
What about the fact that the new keyboards are terrible to type on for longer periods of time? Apple went from the best keyboard design in the industry to the worst in a single year.
Exactly this!

Here's an 'out there' thought, Apple, just develop (or go back to) a non-exotic KB that's actually nice to type on and doesn't break.
 
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whitedragon101

macrumors 65816
Sep 11, 2008
1,295
303
ooh even less travel. Possibly 0 travel keyboards.

Nothing says touch typing like a total lack of tactile feedback.

I think I need to stock up on some of the old desktop keyboards before they disappear. The keyboard from 2008-butterfly was by far the best keyboard I have ever used. Seems strange they forgot how important keyboard feel is. HCI is supposed to be apples wheel house.
 

ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
9,219
5,270
This sounds very expensive, and it seems silly that it’ll be a big touchscreen but have no ability to change button locations.

But I do see a lot of pros - thinner, lighter, and possibly a lot more reliable... making it all a single panel of glass means there’s a lot less opportunity for stuff to sneak into the computer.
 

Akagi

macrumors newbie
Sep 21, 2017
22
52
Can anyone explain the advantages of the butterfly keyboard design? I understand it's supposed to be thinner but the keys still have reduced key travel. Isnt that how you make a thinner keyboard? By reducing key travel. With all the issues with dust getting into the keys the design seems to be causing more problem than good.
 

Taipan

macrumors 6502
Jun 23, 2003
493
350
Apparently, part of the vision is that this allows for a flexible layout. So going back to the previous keyboard design is not a viable alternative.
 
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Val-kyrie

macrumors 68020
Feb 13, 2005
2,081
1,404



Apple is exploring a new keyboard design that could eventually replace its butterfly switch MacBook keyboards and finally solve the problem of "sticky" or inconsistently functioning keys.

macbookpro15inch2018.jpg

Issues that Apple has acknowledged can occur with some current MacBook keyboards are widely believed to be caused by dust or other particulates getting lodged in the butterfly mechanism underneath the keycaps, which are shallower than those on previous-generation MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards with traditional scissor switch mechanisms.

In its 2018 MacBook Pro models, Apple quietly introduced a thin silicone membrane underneath keyboard keys, which is an attempt to solve the issue of dust and crumbs from getting stuck. But a new patent suggests the company is researching a totally new approach to the way keyboards are designed that could eradicate the problem for good.

Published last week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and first spotted by AppleInsider, the patent application called "Computer with keyboard" describes a keyboard that replaces movable keys with a glass sheet that includes raised sections to designate the tactile location of individual keys.

When a raised key section is pressed, the keyboard detects the input pressure for that key and processes as a typical key press. The concept differs from the featureless plain of a virtual onscreen keyboard because the raised sections allow the user to feel where their fingers should rest in relation to the individual keys.

apple-patent-application-glass-keyboard.jpg

Raised glass key concepts from Apple's patent application

The patent describes how an additional level of tactile feedback could be provided by a raised side wall around individual raised keys that could deform with each press, while an underlying layer could serve to "push" the key back into place.

Meanwhile, key symbols could lie on a separate later underneath the glass panel, which would make it easier to change the layout for different regions, languages, or even applications. The patent also proposes using side sections around the keyboard that could double up as a trackpad.

As expected, the glass keyboard could have the effect of making the keyboard thinner and allowing more room for other components to be housed in the notebook chassis.[*]How to Get a MacBook or MacBook Pro Keyboard Repaired Free Under Apple's Service ProgramApple has filed patents for keyboards in the past, included one that uses a touchscreen panel similar the Touch Bar, but that extends to the entire keyboard layout, but this is the first patent to emphasize the use of individually raised glass elements that mimic traditional tactile feedback.

Article Link: Apple Exploring New Glass Panel MacBook Keyboards That Could End Sticky Key Problems

Lenovo beat them to this—the Yoga Book already has a glass keyboard called the Halo Keyboard. Reviewers say it is like typing on the glass screen of a tablet, despite the “haptic feedback.” No kidding.

The idea is that it can be used as a keyboard and with an electronic pen(cil). In reality, the keyboard is only as useful as a tablet’s keyboard, i.e. it is not useful for typing anything longer than a short e-mail or text.

Apple continues to borrow the worst failures of other manufacturers and use them in its design—first the TouchBar and now a sheet of glass for all input. If I wanted that, I would buy an iPad—oh, wait....

I guess this is Apple’s vision—a combination tablet and laptop running on an ARM core the battery life of which can be manipulated by Apple (notice no iPads display battery life and no third party battery apps function with iOS 12) and the OS of which must be upgraded into (planned) obsolescence.


Sign me up. I would be happy to move away from mechanical keys.

You must not type much.... This is a terrible idea from an ergonomic and sensory [tactile] feedback perspective.
 

Ishayu

macrumors regular
Jan 18, 2012
209
581
Denmark
Oh come on...

I suppose keys updating appearance is kind of neat, but I just want a tactile feel so I can use the keyboard for extended periods of time without looking at it and without getting pains in my fingers. I really don't think that's too much to ask.

Get rid of the touch bar and give me a tactile keyboard. Doesn't have to be the 2015 or earlier keyboard, but it can be.
 

Smeaton1724

macrumors 6502a
Sep 14, 2011
835
802
Leeds, UK
The easiest solution is to take a step back and return to the 2015 design - who would care other than a few people within Apple who would have to eat humble pie. Pushing on with glass keyboards is just going down the rabbit hole of excessive design for the sake of it - now at the expense of durability and therefore device longevity. This is leading to massive costs on a relatively simple but fundamental component of a laptop.
 
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