The US Patent and Trademark Office recently granted Cupertino-based tech giant Apple a new patent. The patent, spotted first by Patently Apple, allows the use of tiny displays on individual keys of a keyboard. This will allow the letter/character on top of the displays to be customisable. Hence, the entire keyboard will be able to swap keys to switch languages or implement various country-specific layouts. If Apple allows it, users may even be able to completely swap keys according to their own preference.
The keyboard with “dynamic labels” will be able to change its layout according to the task at hand. Imagine the functionality of Apple’s Touch Bar, across the whole keyboard. Switching languages, on the other hand, will be as convenient as switching virtual keypads on a smartphone. The functionality could also perhaps be extended to various keys showing their secondary functions on display.
However, for this concept to work on an actual keyboard, Apple will have to design the whole keyboard from scratch. The keys may have to be now constructed of different materials. Moreover, the choice of display will also determine how other elements like battery life and heat are balanced.
Note that this technology is only a patent as of now, and it is possible that this will never be turned into a real keyboard on a MacBook. This could be due to a lot of reasons, one of which is the cost of producing such a keyboard on a large scale. The cost of a MacBook with such a keyboard will also go up considerably and maybe more than people are willing to spend. That being said, there is also a plus side to the deal. With a single keyboard that can essentially turn into any regional keyboard, Apple will eliminate the need to produce region-specific systems across the globe.