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  • Apple Seeks Patent for Invisible Buttons


    Apple's renowned for its minimal industrial design, and the company's influence has led to the simplification of computing as we've come to know it. The corporation that helped kill the floppy disk and did away with the second mouse clicker has another outmoded form of technology in its sights: the physical button. AppleInsider discovered a patent application this week for invisible buttons and controls that would appear and disappear as needed.

    Instead of mechanical buttons, the technology described in the application would use a capacitive element built in to the case of, for example, a laptop. While an iPhone uses capacitive glass, and a trackpad uses capacitive plastic, these surfaces would not be durable enough for use in a laptop, and would not provide the desired "seamless" appearance Apple's unibody designs. So the capacitive element would be made of the same metal that the rest of the laptop is made of. When in use, "micro-perforated" holes laser-cut in the surface would allow a backlight to shine through the metal, indicating that a button or other control is available. One of the illustrations included with the patent shows an iPod-like trackwheel alongside the trackpad of a notebook. When the surface is not in use - if an application that doesn't use that interface is quit, or if the user's wrist is resting on that area - the lights go out and the surface no longer registers input.

    Indicators on the lid of the notebook - such as power or WiFi status LEDs - would also be made of the same micro-drilled holes and would be invisible when not illuminated. In addition, the lid could have disappearing controls of its own, allowing a user to do things like wake up an external monitor, sync an iPod or iPhone, install software or shut down the computer without using the monitor, keyboard or mouse.

    image via AppleInsider
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Apple Seeks Patent for Invisible Buttons started by Paul Daniel Ash View original post
    Comments 20 Comments
    1. DisneyRicky's Avatar
      DisneyRicky -
      Will this be good when you go to put your arm on the front keyboard section? It seems like you will hit some sort of control.
    1. cpotoso's Avatar
      cpotoso -
      Actually, HP and others have touch sensitive parts in their laptops and the implementation is MUCH BETTER: they also go along with a set of LED's so you actually get feedback on what you are doing (e.g., changing the volume). Why would apple get a patent for a less capable implementation? Apple = patent any junk and get away with it.
    1. chrodriguezmarydown's Avatar
      chrodriguezmarydown -
      this looks like a cool feature! cant wait. just hope they dont charge us an extra 100 bucks for it if its optional!
    1. Mr.iPhone's Avatar
      Mr.iPhone -
      Quote Originally Posted by cpotoso View Post
      Actually, HP and others have touch sensitive parts in their laptops and the implementation is MUCH BETTER: they also go along with a set of LED's so you actually get feedback on what you are doing (e.g., changing the volume). Why would apple get a patent for a less capable implementation? Apple = patent any junk and get away with it.
      I don't think you actually understood the patent, These are not physical buttons, We are talking about disappearing capacitive touch buttons...That go bye-bye when not in use. Sorta like the sleep indicator on the macbooks. It's going revolutionary if they can actually do it.
    1. sziklassy's Avatar
      sziklassy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mr.iPhone View Post
      I don't think you actually understood the patent, These are not physical buttons, We are talking about disappearing capacitive touch buttons...That go bye-bye when not in use. Sorta like the sleep indicator on the macbooks. It's going revolutionary if they can actually do it.
      Yes, HPs buttons are not physical either, they are simple lit up. Same difference, they are also touch only buttons. Hell, the power button on my Cooler Master case is also a touch sensitive button and not a physical button. This is far from new, as has been said.
    1. lolcats1's Avatar
      lolcats1 -
      invisible buttons? like touch screens?

      nice
    1. Ray661's Avatar
      Ray661 -
      except you always see that button, and it's plastic, not metal. The purpose of this is that the button lights up when you CAN use it, and disappear completely, where you wn't even notice it's there, when it can't be used
    1. sziklassy's Avatar
      sziklassy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ray661 View Post
      except you always see that button, and it's plastic, not metal. The purpose of this is that the button lights up when you CAN use it, and disappear completely, where you wn't even notice it's there, when it can't be used
      [sarcasm] Oh, the button disappears? WOW that IS revolutionary! [/sarcasm] All it would take it to, um, I don't know, no longer light up that button anymore. These advancements blow my mind!

      I understand that the goal is to build it into the case and that it TECHNICALLY would be different. My point is that they are going for an approach that already clearly exists, just in a different way, most likely simply so they can say they own it.
    1. Mr.iPhone's Avatar
      Mr.iPhone -
      Quote Originally Posted by sziklassy View Post
      Yes, HPs buttons are not physical either, they are simple lit up. Same difference, they are also touch only buttons. Hell, the power button on my Cooler Master case is also a touch sensitive button and not a physical button. This is far from new, as has been said.
      Do the HP buttons disappear? No I have a HP laptop with similar buttons(I believe?) They do function and have a nice blue backlight...but there still cheap plastic buttons, and they never disappear. I also own a macbook pro and I have to say apple puts any of the many computers I have owned to shame. We we'll have to see where this goes, It may be a failure or never even see the light of day.

      Quote Originally Posted by sziklassy View Post
      [sarcasm] Oh, the button disappears? WOW that IS revolutionary! [/sarcasm] All it would take it to, um, I don't know, no longer light up that button anymore. These advancements blow my mind!

      I understand that the goal is to build it into the case and that it TECHNICALLY would be different. My point is that they are going for an approach that already clearly exists, just in a different way, most likely simply so they can say they own it.
      Have you ever seen a macbook pro sleep indicator? If not, It does actually vanish into metal when not in use. When it's not lit up, You can not find it at all...youtube it I'm guessing there thinking about using the same thing here.
    1. Ray661's Avatar
      Ray661 -
      Quote Originally Posted by sziklassy View Post
      [sarcasm] Oh, the button disappears? WOW that IS revolutionary! [/sarcasm] All it would take it to, um, I don't know, no longer light up that button anymore. These advancements blow my mind!

      I understand that the goal is to build it into the case and that it TECHNICALLY would be different. My point is that they are going for an approach that already clearly exists, just in a different way, most likely simply so they can say they own it.
      tell me anywhere in my post i said it was revolutionary. I was simply explaining what the top post said in smaller, easier to read paragraph, in case some people don't understand.

      Also, it doesn't exist already, because everything i've seen might have used a similar method, but i can still clearly see the 'buttons' on my Dell XPS studio 16 that has similar technology, when their backlights are off. They are a touch sensitive plastic case like described above. Don't try to flame my post for me trying to be helpful. I can be a **** too.
    1. cpotoso's Avatar
      cpotoso -
      On the HP:

      1) You do not see the "button" it is a touch sensitive thing on the case itself (very classy), and the LEDs light up to give you feedback.

      2) I own a mac pro (8 3GHz xeon cores), an imac (core 2), a mac mini (core 2), itouch 2 and iphone 3G. Alas, my next machine is an HP EliteBook 2740p. Apple keeps not giving me what I need (a 3.7 lbs, ultraportable that includes a wacom digitizer). You know, perhaps I will like Windoze 7 (I've heard good things), in which case my future purchases will cease to be apple. I am tired of their freakish overindulgent control on what I can do with **my** devices.
    1. mudrock1000's Avatar
      mudrock1000 -
      Many of these new features bother me as far as Macs go. I'm not a mac person myself, especially with the new release. The OS itself is polished and more stable, but when it comes to flexibility, the man drags me down. I don't understand why someone takes "revolutionary" over easier functionality.

      To me, this is a novelty, . Sort of like the mousepad, without right clicking and all those gestures. They may seem neat, but can cause issues. Lol. Thats just me.
    1. CZroe's Avatar
      CZroe -
      Instead of mechanical buttons, the technology described in the application would use a capacitive element built in to the case of, for example, a laptop.
      Does this sound a bit like the MacBook Wheel to anyone else?!

      Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard | The Onion - America's Finest News Source | Onion News Network
    1. cpotoso's Avatar
      cpotoso -
      Quote Originally Posted by CZroe View Post
      LOL!
    1. Ray661's Avatar
      Ray661 -
      Quote Originally Posted by CZroe View Post
      I want a pro version
    1. playboii's Avatar
      playboii -
      my lg screen for my pic has it i just tap on the power button to turn it on it and off no button to press lol took me a while to figure it out tho because when i first got it i was used to the old power buttons.
    1. quidam_brujah's Avatar
      quidam_brujah -
      Sounds like they are trying to patent the underpinnings of Okuda's LCARS interface he invented for Star Trek. Maybe Paramount or Okuda should sue (if they already had the patent.).
      The idea of dynamically reconfigurable control surfaces is a great idea and all they need to do is to get us used to typing without physical buttons. I'd say that'll take about a generation. Look at their current keyboards which are nearly 'keyless' (they're so low-profile, I make typos all the time.) Apple is trying to mold us into being ready for their idea of the 'Star Trek'-future...
    1. adrian1480's Avatar
      adrian1480 -
      a non-story. Apple and others are constantly patenting ideas and technologies *just in case* they decide to revisit and implement something. better to have the patent and not use it than to want it and not have it...and have to pay someone else to use it.
    1. EricJD's Avatar
      EricJD -
      Why does the article say that MacBook/Pro trackpads are capacitive plastic? They're not; they're glass.
    1. Forgoten Dynasty's Avatar
      Forgoten Dynasty -
      Quote Originally Posted by EricJD View Post
      Why does the article say that MacBook/Pro trackpads are capacitive plastic? They're not; they're glass.
      IDK what kind of macbook your using but the i7 thats currently melting to my legs is capacitive plastic.