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