Apple’s next Magic Keyboard could push forward with some serious innovation in the form of e-ink keys which can dynamically change, allowing the user to switch languages or layouts on the fly.
A Reddit user claiming to work at Tsinghua University (described as the ‘Chinese MIT’) said they saw a prototype model of the keyboard in action at a Foxconn event on campus, alongside the new MacBook Pro’s keyboard module (thestrongly rumored OLED touchbar, which replaces the top row of function keys).
Australian firm Sonder – a startup which Apple may be poised to snap up according to the acquisition grapevine – concocted this ‘smart keyboard’, and the test model boasts e-ink (as seen on the Kindle) keys which enable you to change the language or layout of the keyboard.
You can use layouts designed for specific apps, with custom icons on the keys or tailored shortcuts and macros (allowing for one-key press to execute a chain of commands), or change the color of keys (presumably to achieve things like highlighting WASD if you’re playing a shooter). In short, there are lots of potential applications here.
Tops for typing
It’s a Bluetooth keyboard, and in a previous press statement Sonder has asserted that it provides a “comfortable and precise typing experience and a crisp, responsive key mechanism”. It also boasts ‘front lighting’ to allow for seeing keys in a dark room.
According to the source of the leak, the prototype keyboard they saw is an early incarnation of Apple’s e-ink Magic Keyboard, which is destined for release in 2018.
Obviously this stems from a Reddit poster, so needs to be taken with the appropriate degree of caution, although mods at the site did verify the poster’s identity, so it seems this is on the level.
Prototype devices are one thing though, and whether or not any of this will actually come to fruition as a final product is entirely another. Still, it looks like a genuinely innovative peripheral, so we can but hope it arrives, and fulfils the promise of morphing-key-smarts while maintaining a comfortable typing experience.
It’s also good to see further confirmation that the MacBook Pro will come with an OLED touchbar, which adapts in a context-sensitive manner to the app currently being used on the laptop.
Sonder also makes a smart keyboard module for laptops, so it’s not inconceivable that the MacBook could eventually have a full-on morphing keyboard rather than just a row of shape-shifting function keys.