Apple documents describe potential sliding keyboard for MacBook laptops

Regardless of the hardware innovations, the primary input device on a laptop is the keyboard. If you have a good keyboard, making a good laptop is easier. If you get it wrong, you hang a grinding wheel around the design. Apple always tried to think differently around the Macbook Pro and Macbook Air keyboards. And now we have another wishlist tip.

The last idea is a retractable keyboard. This would see the keyboard as a whole move up and down as the MacBook is opened and closed. When opened, this will raise them above the plane of the laptop base and make the keys more accessible and comfortable to use. When the laptop screen is closed, the keyboard tray pulls out into the lower case, allowing the top of the keys to line up with the case, allowing the screen

Details can be found in Apple’s latest patent, simply titled “Retractable keyboards“:

“The keyboards are described which are retractable. Movable magnetic or mechanical linkage elements are configured to reposition the keycaps and stabilizers between different relative positions. Structures in a moving layer can act on the key caps or stabilizers to move the key caps and stabilizers into a retracted position for storage and to save space in an electronic device. The stabilizers can be scissor mechanisms, butterfly mechanisms and the like. The mobile layer can be moved in response to the rotation of a hinge or other mechanical element in the electronic device.

Introducing this keyboard design would offer a number of benefits to future MacBooks.

First of all, and Apple’s design team probably have this as their number one creative force, it would allow laptops to be thinner. With the keys recessed into the lower case, the need for a relatively large lip around the screen to pull it away from the keyboard is reduced.

Then there is the keyboard itself, no need to have the height and therefore the stroke, keys limited by the clearance required by the screen and the bottom cover. Pull out the keys in the bottom cover when the laptop is closed, then extend them upward as you use the laptop, increasing the travel and tactile feedback offered by the keyboard.

Finally, it could allow a constant air gap between the screen and the bottom cover, which minimizes the risk of debris and debris trapping between the keys and the screen. A series of cracked MacBook screens earlier this year saw Apple warning consumers of potential damage that could be caused by particles.

As always, granting a patent does not guarantee that new technology will appear on publicly released material. Apple has a number of patents around MacBook keyboards, ranging from new ways of illuminating individual keys to displaying different letters and emoji on the keys. A system that would drop the keyboard a few millimeters to improve the appearance of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air when opened and closed looks like the kind of practical improvement Apple would be implementing.

Learn more about Apple’s MacBook wallet and the macOS laptop that’s right for you …

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