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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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Yesterday, a Redditor with the username Foxconninsider posted about a new Smart Keyboard claimed to be a working prototype potentially coming to both iMac and MacBook devices sometime in 2018. Created by Australian startup Sonder and displayed at an event in Tsinghua University in Beijing, the keyboard uses an e-ink display behind the keys of the board to dynamically change the input of the device to the whim of the user, which could range from different languages to social network shortcuts and emojis.

sonder-keyboard-800x293.jpg
Sonder's own Bluetooth e-ink keyboard, launching this year


The post ties Sonder to Apple through a potential acquisition deal that would integrate Sonder's technology directly into Apple products, which reportedly generated discussion throughout the event, and after it. An excerpt from the original post follows:
I work on Tsinghua university campus, it is like the Chinese MIT. It hosted a Foxconn event where I saw the new Macbook keyboard module design and Apple's 2018 E Ink Magic Keyboard that's a DFT model. (DFT is design for testing).

The startup Sonder makes a smart keyboard module, it has a new magnetic mechanical mechanism and a lit E Ink display which allows for swapping shortcuts and languages etc. I saw it swap between a few programs and languages (English, Japanese, Taiwanese layouts etc).

The Foxconn Innoconn Executive said Apple's PBO (Procurement board office) was closing an acquisition for the startup company that is now registered in Hong Kong for a big return of investment for Foxconn International Holdings and E Ink Holdings.
Aside from the unverifiable nature of the post, the claim is questionable for a number reasons, which together originally led MacRumors to decline to cover the story despite multiple contacts from the source prior to their sharing it on Reddit.

Among the questionable aspects of the story is Foxconn's and Sonder's apparent willingness to confirm Sonder is in discussions with Apple about the keyboard technology. Such talks are typically covered by non-disclosure agreements which would preclude them from acknowledging the discussions.


Today, however, The Guardian is corroborating the story with a claim that "separate to the Reddit report, The Guardian can confirm the Apple CEO, Tim Cook, met with [Sonder founder Francisco] Serra-Martins in China on Wednesday." Cook is currently touring both China and Japan, but The Guardian's confirmation doesn't give specifics as to whether the meeting was simply in passing, or specifically related to a potential acquisition deal.

sonder-2.jpg

Regarding the technology at the center of the story, the original Redditor claimed that they "couldn't film the macbook or magic keyboard test units at the event," so the early demo keyboard shown in the video above represents a variation on what was seen at the event. The event's keyboard allegedly had a single e-ink screen for every key on the MacBook, along with a backlit lighting panel. The technology would seemingly be used in future MacBooks and integrated into the iMac's Magic Keyboard lineup.

With so many unconfirmed factors swirling around the story, it remains possible that Sonder itself is attempting to generate interest in its own upcoming Sonder Keyboard, which packs in all of the previously detailed e-ink technology, along with Mac compatibility, at $199. The company expects the keyboard to arrive sometime in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Article Link: Questionable Claims of Apple's Interest in Sonder's Dynamic E-Ink Keyboard Technology Emerge
 

Mac 128

macrumors 603
Apr 16, 2015
5,360
2,927
there goes the 6 month battery life of wireless keyboards....

No. You need to read more about e-ink.

This would be amazing technology, but not necessarily for the average user.

However, I'm more inclined to think Apple will go with a glass touch screen, virtual keyboard, wi a Taptic Engine before they went this route, and that would definitely drain the battery much faster. But it would also offer an incredible multi-purpose interface for those who need it.
 
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KazKam

macrumors 6502
Oct 25, 2011
492
1,649
Customizable keys have always seemed a cool idea, but in reality they're convoluted, gimmicky, over-fiddly, and over-priced for most users. Most users never mess with key mappings, custom key functions, or macros.

I just want an Apple wireless *extended* keyboard, please.
 
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vertical smile

macrumors 603
Sep 23, 2014
5,753
6,534
I just want an Apple wireless *extended* keyboard, please.

Me too.

My last Mac, the late 2012 iMac, I bought the wired one just so I could have an extended keyboard. I am not sure why Apple did away with the normal sized wireless keyboard.
 
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BaccaBossMC

macrumors regular
Jul 8, 2016
203
728
NC, USA



Yesterday, a Redditor with the username Foxconninsider posted about a new Smart Keyboard claimed to be a working prototype potentially coming to both iMac and MacBook devices sometime in 2018. Created by Australian startup Sonder and displayed at an event in Tsinghua University in Beijing, the keyboard uses an e-ink display behind the keys of the board to dynamically change the input of the device to the whim of the user, which could range from different languages to social network shortcuts and emojis.

sonder-keyboard-800x293.jpg

Sonder's own Bluetooth e-ink keyboard, launching this year


The post ties Sonder to Apple through a potential acquisition deal that would integrate Sonder's technology directly into Apple products, which reportedly generated discussion throughout the event, and after it. An excerpt from the original post follows:Aside from the unverifiable nature of the post, the claim is questionable for a number reasons, which together originally led MacRumors to decline to cover the story despite multiple contacts from the source prior to their sharing it on Reddit.

Among the questionable aspects of the story is Foxconn's and Sonder's apparent willingness to confirm Sonder is in discussions with Apple about the keyboard technology. Such talks are typically covered by non-disclosure agreements which would preclude them from acknowledging the discussions.


Today, however, The Guardian is corroborating the story with a claim that "separate to the Reddit report, The Guardian can confirm the Apple CEO, Tim Cook, met with [Sonder founder Francisco] Serra-Martins in China on Wednesday." Cook is currently touring both China and Japan, but The Guardian's confirmation doesn't give specifics as to whether the meeting was simply in passing, or specifically related to a potential acquisition deal.

sonder-2.jpg

Regarding the technology at the center of the story, the original Redditor claimed that they "couldn't film the macbook or magic keyboard test units at the event," so the early demo keyboard shown in the video above represents a variation on what was seen at the event. The event's keyboard allegedly had a single e-ink screen for every key on the MacBook, along with a backlit lighting panel. The technology would seemingly be used in future MacBooks and integrated into the iMac's Magic Keyboard lineup.

With so many unconfirmed factors swirling around the story, it remains possible that Sonder itself is attempting to generate interest in its own upcoming Sonder Keyboard, which packs in all of the previously detailed e-ink technology, along with Mac compatibility, at $199. The company expects the keyboard to arrive sometime in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Article Link: Questionable Claims of Apple's Interest in Sonder's Dynamic E-Ink Keyboard Technology Emerge

If you go to https://www.sonderdesign.com/laptop/, the image looks exactly like the 15" rMBP, and even has a Yosemite background flash on the .Gif. Can't wait to see it on the 2017/2018 rMBP.
 
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ginkobiloba

macrumors 6502a
Jul 2, 2007
567
1,497
Paris
This exists already ! It's been available from a russian company many years ago, and it was quite expensive, and the keys were actually in color !
It's called Optimus Maximus keyboard http://www.artlebedev.com/optimus/
The first one is sold out and I don't think they make them anymore. The second one is still in development and will cost 1500$
optimus_maximus_01w.jpg

optimus-maximus.jpg

optimus-popularis-top.jpg
 
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ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
9,130
5,099
Customizable keys have always seemed a cool idea, but in reality they're convoluted, gimmicky, over-fiddly, and over-priced for most users. Most users never mess with key mappings, custom key functions, or macros.

I just want an Apple wireless *extended* keyboard, please.

Yeah, but if Apple standardizes it and includes the API in the standard macOS SDK, then having your app support it and change what's on each key is just part of developing a Mac app.

Right now, developers don't bother supporting keyboards like this, because it's so rare that any of their customers actually have one. So it's up to either the person making the keyboard or the consumer themselves making it so the keyboard is used to its full potential.
 
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bdkennedy1

Suspended
Oct 24, 2002
1,275
528
I can see this being announced with a MacBook Pro since it's getting that strip above the keyboard.
 
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JonneyGee

macrumors 6502
Jun 8, 2011
348
1,208
Nashville, TN
This is a fascinating idea, but looking at the video of the Sonder keyboard, it still needs a ton of work. This would be great for pro audio and video apps that have lots of keyboard mappings, as well as typing in multiple languages. It would've been nice when I was studying (and writing papers about) ancient Greek in grad school!
 
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SamIchi

macrumors 68030
Aug 1, 2004
2,714
135
Will this mean the rise of DVORAK? Probably not, but still pretty cool.

there goes the 6 month battery life of wireless keyboards....

I'm pretty sure e-ink's affects on the battery life will be unnoticeable. Energy is only used when changing, and not when just displaying.

No. You need to read more about e-ink.

This would be amazing technology, but not necessarily for the average user.

However, I'm more inclined to think Apple will go with a glass touch screen, virtual keyboard, wi a Taptic Engine before they went this route, and that would definitely drain the battery much faster. But it would also offer an incredible multi-purpose interface for those who need it.

This is definitely where I see the next step for Apple Keyboards. Touch isn't going away. Custom layouts and even the use of the Apple Pencil makes sense.
 
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Rychiar

macrumors 6502a
May 16, 2006
841
1,587
Waterbury, CT
No. You need to read more about e-ink.

This would be amazing technology, but not necessarily for the average user.

However, I'm more inclined to think Apple will go with a glass touch screen, virtual keyboard, wi a Taptic Engine before they went this route, and that would definitely drain the battery much faster. But it would also offer an incredible multi-purpose interface for those who need it.


Backlit... it would have an impact i'm sure compared to what we're used to especially with every key being its own display
 
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Analog Kid

macrumors 603
Mar 4, 2003
5,777
4,597
Cool idea, but if they're faking talks with Apple just to generate hype then they've lost my interest...
However, I'm more inclined to think Apple will go with a glass touch screen, virtual keyboard, wi a Taptic Engine before they went this route, and that would definitely drain the battery much faster. But it would also offer an incredible multi-purpose interface for those who need it.
Oh, dear god no...
 
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APlotdevice

macrumors 68040
Sep 3, 2011
3,120
3,790
No. You need to read more about e-ink.

This would be amazing technology, but not necessarily for the average user.

However, I'm more inclined to think Apple will go with a glass touch screen, virtual keyboard, wi a Taptic Engine before they went this route, and that would definitely drain the battery much faster. But it would also offer an incredible multi-purpose interface for those who need it.
That would be horrible. I've tried "touch-typing" on a touchscreen. Invariably my fingers start to stray the moment I take my eyes off the keys. Haptic wouldn't help that either. You need to be able to feel the edges of the keys and those dimples on two of them.
 
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