Apple filed a patent for a MacBook keyboard without keys

The touch-sensitive trackpad on Apple's MacBook computers is already pretty large, but can you imagine a MacBook which replaces the entire keyboard with one giant touchpad?

Judging from a patent filed in September 2015 and made public Thursday, Apple can. In the patent, the company proposes a "force-sensitive input structure for an electronic device," a customizable, clean, flat surface that reacts to where you press.

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Apple refers to this type of input structure as "zero-travel," meaning there would be no keys or surfaces that move (at least not noticeably) when you press them. The surface would, however, sense the force of your fingers and return haptic feedback as you type.

The biggest advantage of such an input method would be configurability — a user could set aside portions of the slate for a numeric keypad, multiple trackpads, or a special set of keys (see one possibility in the image below).

Sounds nifty, but how would one know which key is where? Apple has a solution: A grid of "micro-perforations or holes," with individual keys and areas becoming visible depending on lighting from below.

Other advantages of this system, according to Apple, include lowered risk of component failure as well as less dirt entering the computer and causing damage.

It might be a long wait until we see this technology on an actual device. Not all Apple patents necessarily turn into products, and even if they do, it might take years until they reach the consumers.

If you think this is rad, just remember this Apple patent from February 2016, which envisions a no-touch, close proximity surface — essentially a surface you don't need to touch to perform actions. If Apple combines these two patents into one, MacBook owners might one day appear to be wizards, performing arcane hand movements in the air to make the computer do their bidding.

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