Apple has researched a MacBook keyboard that features a removable key designed to be used as a precision mouse, according to a newly granted patent application.
The patent envisages a seemingly conventional MacBook scissor-system keyboard that features a hidden removable key. This key would be designed to be used as a pointing device and contain a position sensor. Apple describes the system as providing a “comfortable, portable, and precise pointer input for a computer input system.”
The filing argues that some precise tasks, such as graphic design, computer-assisted design and modeling, and editing large and complex documents, are better suited to a handheld mouse than a trackpad. Apple acknowledges that carrying a separate mouse with the computer can be burdensome and may be “redundant when the computer already has built-in pointing devices.”
The removable key is a viable solution to this issue, according to Apple. In some embodiments, the key would be able to work as normal on the keyboard when it is not deployed and feature a small internal battery.
Apple outlines various mechanical systems to facilitate the removable key, including sliding a single or set of multiple keys out of the housing vertically, as well as sliding a key out from the side of the machine horizontally. The patent’s illustrations show the deployable key located toward the edge of the keyboard so that it would not be a key that sees near constant use.
Patent filings cannot be taken as evidence of Apple’s immediate plans, but they do indicate areas of interest for the company and what it is considering developing behind the scenes. While the prospect of a removable key may seem like an outlandish potential MacBook feature, Apple is clearly interested enough in the prospect as to patent the concept. It may be less obtrusive than other unusual features such as the Touch Bar and could appeal to certain pro-users who require maximum portability but could still benefit from occasional precise input.
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