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Patents Desktops (Apple) Displays Portables (Apple) Hardware Apple Technology

New Apple Patent Imagines an OLED Screen As a Keyboard For MacBooks (theverge.com) 119

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple a patent titled "dual display equipment with enhanced visibility and suppressed reflections." The documentation for what is patent number 9,904,502 outlines a device that would use a second display as a dynamic keyboard. Two implementations of this design are described in the patent application, according to Patently Apple. The first utilizes a permanent hinge, while the second allows the screen to be removed and used separately, along the lines of Microsoft's Surface Pro range and other two-in-one computers. The patent documentation makes it clear that the implementation is not intended as an accessory that would allow two iPads to be paired together, with one serving as the keyboard. Additionally, illustrations associated with the application explicitly state that one screen is an OLED display, while the other is an LCD. A double-display set-up could provide easy access to a different keyboard layout language, context-sensitive controls, or even a large sketching surface to use in conjunction with something like an Apple Pencil. However, that flexibility would come at the cost of the traditional typing experience offered by a mechanical keyboard.
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New Apple Patent Imagines an OLED Screen As a Keyboard For MacBooks

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  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2018 @07:45PM (#56197355)

    An external OLED screen you use as a configurable keyboard basically describes the TouchBar.

    Maybe Apple means to make a larger version of it for desktops - one of my biggest gripes is that I actually LIKE the TouchBar and the features it offers across different apps, but I can't get used to them because I often use an external keyboard with my laptop in clamshell mode, and so I never really get used to use the TouchBar as there is no external keyboard that has one.

    • I find the touchbar is shit. If's different for every app so it's impossible to get used to, and it takes multiple presses now to get the same thing done, such as volume up and down. I'm a power user but no I'm not into dicking around with such crap that I can't use efficiently any way because there is no tactile feel to these buttons that are moving all around. F1 was always in the same place. The volume down was always in the same place. How the fuck is this better? Maybe I could somehow go through
      • I find the touchbar is shit. If's different for every app

        That is the point. The touchbar is customized for each app. It would make a terrible keyboard since there is no tactile feedback, but it works well for customization. An app can add not only custom keys, but slidebars, and pressure sensitive feedback.

        I'm a power user

        Real power users use external keyboards.

        • It would make a terrible keyboard

          Then why did they use it to replace so many functions of the keyboard? There weren't enough keyboard keys as it was. They should have kept the keybaord keys and then added the touchbar on top if they wanted.

          Real power users use external keyboards.

          I'm on a computer all the time. I'll be damned if I'll be sitting at a desk my entire life. It defeats the point of getting a laptop.

        • by dromgodis ( 4533247 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2018 @03:33AM (#56198839)

          Real power users use external keyboards.

          Real power users don't tell other power users how to use their power.

        • I find the touchbar is shit. If's different for every app

          That is the point. The touchbar is customized for each app. It would make a terrible keyboard since there is no tactile feedback, but it works well for customization. An app can add not only custom keys, but slidebars, and pressure sensitive feedback.

          I'm a power user

          Exactly!

          Real power users use external keyboards.

      • I find the touchbar is shit. If's different for every app so it's impossible to get used to

        That's the whole reason I like it; as for getting used to it, it's VERY possible for apps you use a lot. Which is the point, for those apps you get extra custom functions that can work in ways keys do not (like sliding control over values).

        However like I said, that getting used to part is more of a problem than it should be because there is no external keyboard with a TouchBar.

        The volume down was always in the same

        • At most you have to tap away custom features to reveal them again

          So how does this refute my statement that it was easier with a dedicated key?? If I'm in the middle of working on something, I don't need to be groping around for the volume.

          • A) Mostly it's the same place as always, so there is no "groping" any more than a normal keyboard.

            B) For the times some custom control hid the volume adjustment, it's one - not twenty - taps to get to the volume. I's say that "refutes" something you said by quite a lot.

      • by berj ( 754323 )

        it takes multiple presses now to get the same thing done, such as volume up and down.

        you need to change the setup on your touch bar.

        I've got mine set up to allow single-touch adjustments of volume and screen brightness. You just touch and hold the button and then drag to adjust. Couldn't be simpler.

        There's room for 4 static buttons on the right side of the touchbar that don't change regardless of app focus (unless you bring up the old-style function keys with "fn"). No matter the app that has focus, those four buttons will stay there. For me I've got:

        brightness adjust (single button, ho

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Many keyboards have a simple volume up, volume down and mute key arrangement. That's ideal because you generally only want to adjust the volume slowly and over a short range.

          Sliders for volume are not a great idea, because one slip and you get blasted with loud, ear damaging, speaker-destroying sound. That's why an decent hifi equipment has a fairly stiff volume knob, or requires a lot of turns to make big changes.

          • by berj ( 754323 )

            I disagree completely. In a year of using the slider volume I've never had such a slip. The slider is big enough (around 2.5" wide) and responsive enough to be incredibly precise and easy to control. It's far better interaction than the old method for me. Day and night.

            BUT.. this is the beauty of the touch bar. if someone doesn't want it that way and they prefer the old method then they can configure the touch bar accordingly. Heck.. if someone never uses the keyboard for adjusting volume at all then t

      • I find the touchbar is shit. If's different for every app so it's impossible to get used to, and it takes multiple presses now to get the same thing done, such as volume up and down. I'm a power user but no I'm not into dicking around with such crap that I can't use efficiently any way because there is no tactile feel to these buttons that are moving all around. F1 was always in the same place. The volume down was always in the same place. How the fuck is this better? Maybe I could somehow go through 20 screens and getting a volume up and volume down button but it's not worth the time investment.

        Honestly, do you do ANYTHING else but BITCH?

    • How did they actually manage to make this patentable ?

      There have been countless variations of this "software is controlling the faces of the keys" since forever.
      - Entire second touchscreens working as a keyboard.
      - individual LCD, eInk or OLED screens behind every key (Art Lebedev Studio's Optimus Keyboard was attracting lots of attention back in the days).
      - whole LCDs/OLED screens behind the whole keyboard (what Art Lebedev eventually settled with to make it less expensive to produc

    • Great. The non tactile button bullshit of the touchbar replacing an entire keyboard... OLED suffers from burn in. Good thing I might never need to switch my keyboard to another fucking language. Oh, wait...

      And for that matter, who the fuck absolutely needs this? Waterproof MacBooks or something? Can't wait to get Ads on my fucking keyboard.
      • by q4Fry ( 1322209 )

        The non tactile button bullshit of the touchbar replacing an entire keyboard

        Agreed.

        OLED suffers from burn in. Good thing I might never need to switch my keyboard to another fucking language.

        What? Assuming you have a laptop keyboard now, with whatever keys it came with, how is this any worse than what you have?

        • Just saying if you can render the keyboard, say a layout for type DE-DE, then you switch to another layout, e.g. EN-GB, you may end up seeing leftover burn-in. This is one of the problems with the new OLED screens for the iPhone X. e.g. https://www.macworld.co.uk/how... [macworld.co.uk]
    • There's an app called Duet Display that turns an iOS device into a second screen with a touch bar. A friend of mine uses it and seems to like it.
    • An external OLED screen you use as a configurable keyboard basically describes the TouchBar.

      Maybe Apple means to make a larger version of it for desktops - one of my biggest gripes is that I actually LIKE the TouchBar and the features it offers across different apps, but I can't get used to them because I often use an external keyboard with my laptop in clamshell mode, and so I never really get used to use the TouchBar as there is no external keyboard that has one.

      I have actually had this idea about 3 years ago or more.

      I actually thought that's where Apple was going when they made the Trackpad on the 2016 MBP practically the size of an iPad mini.

      Or, like this:

      https://www.artlebedev.com/opt... [artlebedev.com]

  • NO! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2018 @07:47PM (#56197373)
    DO NOT WANT!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      What is it with you people. First, you don't want my ingenious revolutionary emoji bar, now this. I'm going to cry.

      Sincerely
      Tim Cock

    • This. Tactile feedback or GTFO.

      Now don't get me wrong. I can see this as being a great thing for audio or video production, where this may be better than an "Avid keyboard" or the tablets that people add to their setup [youtube.com] to improve workflow. But even then, it's more useful as an external keyboard, not the built-in keyboard where it would be in exactly the wrong place.

      For programming it's a clear loss. Right now, the lack of a tactile escape key is slowing me down when I'm not on an external keyboard, and that

    • Meh, you'll be wanting a headphone jack next. This is Apple being brave. Remember how much fun it was to type on a Sinclair ZX81? Now Apple are bringing those days back, and it's the future baby.

    • by torkus ( 1133985 )

      Have more courage my young apprentice. In time you will learn to be one with the Apple hivemind.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is a Nintendo DS that you can tear in half, but with more OLED! and Laptop size!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Or a Lenovo Yoga, but OLED. It seems a pretty obvious combination of existing technologies.

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        I kinda remember seeing some dual screen tablet concepts with this exact concept. I suppose thats why they had to define the screens to be one lcd and one oled or some shit like that.

        nokia did a shitload of research(unsuccesful) into haptics for things like this too.

  • by imgod2u ( 812837 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2018 @07:48PM (#56197379) Homepage

    I already have trouble with the low-profile keyboards on the new MacBooks.

    A touchscreen would make it even worse.

    • by maglor_83 ( 856254 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2018 @07:53PM (#56197423)

      Exactly what I came here to say. As if their existing keyboards aren't bad enough.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Greyfox ( 87712 )
        Yup. Really, this is a trivial patent. If no one's patented it yet, it's because it's stupid. It's already infuriating having to switch between an Macbook keyboard at work and an actually good keyboard at home. It'll just be that much worse if the Macbook doesn't actually have any keys to press. However, I still hope they do this as it should make it that much easier to convince management that Macbooks are shit for development work.
        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          The worst part is that when Apple moved to flat island keys a lot of other manufacturers followed them. Flat key tops are the worst kind. Slightly concave key tops allow your fingers to sense when they are a little off centre and correct, making your typing more accurate and faster.

          That's the problem with any kind of screen or projected keyboard. It's not just the lack of feedback from a moving key, it's the lack of positional feedback that allows positioning errors to build up until you make a mistake.

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          Really, this is a trivial patent. If no one's patented it yet, it's because it's stupid.

          Good, because I can't figure out how the keyboard would figure out I was resting my fingers on the home row ready to type versus actually typing.

          It's trivial, so I must be dumb. I mean, I have 9 fingers on the screen at the same time - 8 on the home row, one thumb on the virtual space bar. And yet, I expect that the screen should not be sending keystrokes because I'm not typing.

          But I expect that if I were to type one of

      • by torkus ( 1133985 )

        They're actually worse than the bad 'slim' keyboard attempts in the early 2000s. I honestly remain astounded that Apple released the MBP with they keyboard it has. I have one ("thanks" work) and it's horrific to type on. The extra mm or so they saved ... clearly the primary design goal of all apple products is thinness (and courage) at the expense of usability.

    • by jecowa ( 1152159 )
      I'm not a doctor, but I think a touchscreen-based keyboard could cause repetitive strain injuries. I think the springs in keyboards act as shock absorbers. Typing on an un-moving keyboard does not sound comfortable at all.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Consumers are expected to consume on Apple products with voice and by clicking.
      The people creating apps sold to Apple consumers use very different computers.
    • by tsa ( 15680 )

      Indeed, they are the reason I don't want a new MBP. Rubbish they are.

    • Clearly the touch screen keyboard is not meant for touch typists ;).

  • by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2018 @07:49PM (#56197387) Journal
    Soon to be followed with iOS Pro as the only OS available for the Macbook. The iPhonification of the Mac line is nearly complete!
  • and mac laptops will be banned from the bar test if they do this.

  • on these [youtube.com] might have expired. I mean, if the goal is to make a crappy keyboard, why stop at half measures?
  • by cjellibebi ( 645568 ) on Tuesday February 27, 2018 @08:09PM (#56197501)
    At least that [wikipedia.org] was a proper keyboard with pressable keys and all. Each key had it's own display.
    • I was going to bring that up, but for the life of me couldn't remember the name of it! It seems there must be a solution somewhere in the middle. You would think with screen tech being as advanced as it is, that mass producing little key screens wouldn't be that hard.
    • Not entirely.
      The first 21 claims are based on a claim of the device having two display separated by a hinge.
      The last ones describe some kind of anti-reflective set up for an oled display, but it's in patent-speak so it's not very well described.

      So pretty much the Optimus Tactus integrated in to a laptop with a bunch of polarizing filters to stop reflections.
      I guess in a laptop formfactor, you'd get a large reflection from the main screen on the keyboard.

      • Nintendo DS? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tepples ( 727027 )

        The first 21 claims are based on a claim of the device having two display separated by a hinge.

        What in the claims distinguishes this invention from Nintendo DS?

        • The first 21 claims are based on a claim of the device having two display separated by a hinge.

          What in the claims distinguishes this invention from Nintendo DS?

          Here's claim 1:

          1. Electronic equipment, comprising:
          first and second housings that rotate relative to each other about a hinge axis;
          a first display in the first housing that emits light; and
          a second display in the second housing that emits light,
          wherein the first display has a first linear polarizer and a wave plate, wherein the second display has a second linear polarizer, wherein the light emitted from the first display passes through the first linear polarizer then the wave plate before being emitted, and wherein the wave plate adjusts how the light emitted from the first display is polarized to suppress reflections of the light emitted from the first display off of the second display when the angle between the first and second housings is non-zero.

          I'd venture to guess that everything after that first 'wherein' distinguishes this from the DS.

        • It doesn't really matter.

          What matters is it will take a lot of money for a lawyer to answer the question.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Of course there is prior art; this is patent thieving apple we are talking about.

  • Holy crap, that will be typing hell. My hands drift on the keyboard all the time on the flat key keyboard as it is. I hope they don't do that on laptops that developers are supposed to be using. That would be just as awful as removing the headphone jack. But courage right.... or maybe another $500 on wireless headphones and a keyboard.
  • That's what this sounds like. No thanks, I prefer an actual keyboard.
  • Apple won't be happy until they've turned Macbooks into a useless slab of semi-translucent plastic whose only real difference with the future iPad is that you'll be allowed to run apps you've signed with your own key, instead of being restricted to running only apps already-approved and downloaded from Apple's store.

    • They want to turn it into a product no-one wants, so then they can justify discontinuing the Mac line and focus on iOS devices
  • http://wiki.laptop.org/go/XO-2 [laptop.org]

    The OLPC XO-2 did have two identical displays, maybe having one be OLED makes it novel enough to call their own...

    Probably has more rounded corners too!

  • Sorry, but would it allow

    1) Typing faster than on standard keyboard?
    2) Typing with less errors than on standard keyboard?
    3) Typing easier and with less health problems than on standard keyboard?
    4) Typing at least not so expensively that on specialized ergo keyboards?

    No. This keyboard is made for the single segment of market: Consumer, not professional.

    And now I should remember the words of (then) education minister of Russia: Communists were not right when they tried to grow a creator-man. Now we should gro

  • So basically it's an updated Acer Iconia [engadget.com] Dual screen or Toshiba Libretto W105 [engadget.com]? How is that not prior-art?
  • The proposed XO-2 was a clamshell where both halves were touchscreens, and one mode of using it was to use the lower half as a keyboard.

    http://wiki.laptop.org/go/XO-2 [laptop.org]

    I'm not a lawyer but I'm pretty sure you can make something like this despite Apple's patents.

    Now, Apple is making claims that their devices have good visibility outdoors, even if the user is wearing sunglasses [patentlyapple.com], so maybe there is something of value in their new patents. But the patents cannot simply be "computing device using touchscreen as a

  • Touch typing is for wimps. And I am a card carrying member of the Touch Typing Wimps Club. You can (try to) pry it out of my cold dead hands.

    I also have trouble touch typing on Mac chiclet keyboards. Something's not right about the spacing of the keys, but I didn't try to scientifically figure out what. It feels like the keys are ever so slightly further apart than what I'm used to and I end up pressing in the gaps between the keys.

  • This can only sound good to those who have to look at their keyboard to type anyway. Otherwise it's an incredibly annoying distraction. I look at my hands maybe once ever 10 minutes.

    It might be different if I was a hunt-n-pecker like Tim Cook.

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