Future MacBooks and iMacs could come with a Smart Keyboard that changes key labels depending on the language or social network functions a user is accessing. Apple is reportedly in talks with Australian startup Sonder Design, which is responsible for the E Ink powered keyboard that switches key labels while in use.
According to Engadget, the Cupertino giant is discussing things with Sonder about a laptop version of the latter’s dynamic keyboard technology. Sonder has not confirmed that negotiations have taken place, but it did not deny that there is an existing deal with Apple.
Should this deal push through, Apple fans can expect to see this E Ink keyboard as part of the MacBook refresh and future iMac devices. However, there is no guarantee that the dynamic keyboards will arrive with Apple’s computers in 2017. Tech sites are claiming that the prototype should be making a public appearance in 2018.
Explaining why this Smart Keyboard would be useful, the Next Web details that the E Ink technology, which is also used in Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite, will make it possible for the QWERTY keyboard to switch the letters it has to hot keys for Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and even games, such as “Battlefield.”
Sonder’s dynamic keyboard is designed to make the switch on the fly based on the program a user is accessing. Previous rumors claimed that the MacBook Pro that will be launched this month will come with an OLED strip as replacement for the laptop’s topmost function keys. The OLED strip follows the same mechanism as Sonder’s Smart Keyboard, but it is limited only to a number of shortcuts and commands.
Meanwhile, MacRumors claims this reported deal is very questionable since it came from an unverifiable post on Reddit. Pointing out the inconsistencies in this report, the Apple-centric site says talks between Sonder and Apple should be covered by non-disclosure agreements, so it does not make sense that someone familiar with this would leak it. The site even points out that this could just be Sonder’s way of generating interest for its keyboard.
As of writing, the identity of the Reddit post's author has been verified by the social media and web aggregating content site’s mod team. However, the mod team specified that they cannot share details on how they verified the author’s identity.
In the original post, the author stated that the magnetic mechanical mechanism of the E Ink keyboard would make it possible for key labels to swap shortcuts and languages, like Japanese and Taiwanese. MacRumors also indicated that aside from shortcuts and languages, the keyboard could also display a range of social network emojis.