New patents for Apple: How the MacBook could be further developed

Newly granted patents for Apple give a foretaste of possible further developments of the MacBook. This mainly concerns the underside of the notebook with the keyboard area. For this, the protection of ideas granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office provides for a number of improvements that could significantly expand the operating options. In the new patent, Apple builds on 152 previous US patents and 66 foreign patents. Experience teaches, however, that in many cases patents do not automatically lead to actual products.

One idea is to integrate a wireless charger into the bottom of the MacBook. An iPhone could then be placed in the lower left area below the keyboard to charge while working with the device. There have always been such ideas in the past for iPhone and iPad. However, the point of these devices was to charge accessories such as the AirPods headphones using reverse wireless charging on the surface of the devices. The AirPower charging mat also remains unforgotten: Apple’s attempt to develop a charger on which the devices can be freely positioned failed.

The extent to which a charging iPhone makes it more difficult to use the MacBook is a detailed question that Apple’s designers will probably only address when it comes to a specific product.

Another idea seems more realistic and is likely to be more sympathetic: An intelligent finger recognition system should make it possible to use the entire keyboard surface for gestures and drawing. The user could therefore draw lines, circles or rectangles over the entire surface of the keyboard. This idea ties in with a patent from 2018, which provides for a touch keyboard – i.e. a second screen – instead of the usual hardware buttons. Shortly after the introduction of the Touch Bar, sympathy for the latter aspect was probably even higher at the time. Most recently, Apple went back to relying solely on hardware buttons.

In any case, a “force sensing system” should find out whether the user has just placed his hands on the device housing or is planning an action. This could prevent unwanted actions from being triggered.

A third patented idea is the installation of biometric sensors in the MacBook in the palm rest area. These sensors can collect information about the user’s heartbeat, blood oxygen, body temperature, and the like. The selection of the data suggests that Apple could draw on the existing knowledge and tools that are already being used in the Apple Watch. In view of Apple’s involvement in the health sector and the trend to further develop popular apps across platforms, it seems anything but absurd that this path will be taken for future products.

The very voluminous paper of the patent applied for in May 2020, can be viewed online at the US Patent Office website.

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