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    Apple is All Set to Redefine Keyboards

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    Amit Srivatsa
    Amit Srivatsa Oct 22, 2016

    If you thought the adaptive OLED touch bar on the Mac was a great idea, you haven’t heard the latest from Apple. Earlier this month, Apple was working with Sonder Design to develop a one-of-a-kind keyboard for the Mac line up. Reportedly, Apple wants to license their futuristic keyboard technology that transforms the static printed keyboard into a dynamic one.

    Sonder Design Pty Ltd, an Australian startup with ties to Apple manufacturer Foxconn, develops E-Ink keyboards that let users customize and morph keys to include letters from multiple languages, show emojis, international characters, special command functions, and use the standard QWERTY layout.

    So now you can have an emoji keyboard or layouts designed for apps and games with custom keys all built into one keyboard. The keys will be able to switch between different language alphabets and also add shortcuts for the current task the user is performing. To top it all, each key will display an E-Ink surface that can be updated. The new innovation will make the bottom half of the MacBook keyboard as dynamic as the screen itself. Now, beat that.

    Going by the Wall Street Journal confirmation, Apple definitely intends on using this technology and is aiming to ship the new MacBooks with futuristic keyboards in the near future, i.e. 2018. During the October 11 meeting in China, Tim Cook discussed plans with the heads of Foxconn and Sonder for an E-Ink keyboard for a future MacBook. Apple has been considering this idea for at least a few years now. A patent application by Apple in 2014 described a future Mac keyboard that would support in-key pictograms, symbols, and glyphs.

    Apple will be taking the first steps in this direction next week on October 27, when it unveils the new MacBook Pro with an interactive OLED touch bar that will substitute the function key row, contextually displaying different commands and controls. This new MacBook Pro will also feature Touch ID and a thinner body, with USB-C, and a few incremental updates to the iMac line. This just might be the first step towards keyboard wizardry that Apple plans to roll out with upcoming MacBooks.

    The Wall Street Journal (and we, too) believe that this will most likely go on to become a “standard feature” of the MacBooks. This, in turn, suggests that this feature would be incorporated across the Apple lineup – from the cheaper Airs to the expensive Pro models. Having said so, I think it is not unconceivable that a future MacBook could feature E-Ink keys and an OLED function row along the top. One speculation says that Apple might acquire Sonder, which is not beyond the realm of imagination, given the latest news from Wall Street Journal. And, if this this acquisition is on the cards, it will presumably be fast tracked.

    For the time being, don’t forget to watch the exciting unveiling of the new MacBook Pro on 27th. Only 2 more days to go. Can’t wait … #muchexcited #losingourminds

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