AirBar Mac
AirBar Mac AirBar

When Apple introduced its new MacBook Pro in October 2016, it came with a touchscreen—just not the type of touchscreen some users were hoping for. Now a third party is offering the functionality Apple has resisted, and is making it possible for just $99.

AirBar commits to adding the full touchscreen experience that Apple half-heartedly applied in the form of the Touch Bar—a thin, touch-enabled screen laid atop the keyboard of the new MacBook Pro models. With nothing more than a thin, magnetic sensor that sits at the bottom of the display on a MacBook Air, the AirBar adds full touchscreen support to the Apple-made laptop.

Neonode, the manufacturer behind the AirBar, claims the device uses a patented technology that projects an invisible light field over the standard MacBook Air display. That light field is able to discern user inputs from fingers, gloves or accessories like a stylus or paintbrush—and no direct contact with the screen is necessary.

The AirBar processes touches and gestures and translates them into actions performed on the MacBook—a process that requires no additional software. All a user has to do is connect the sensor to their laptop via USB and start interacting with it.

While the bar can remain plugged in during standard laptop usage—typing on the keyboard, scrolling with the touchpad, etc.—the device does have to be removed when the laptop is closed, making it a bit less convenient than the built-in touchscreen functionality of, say, the Microsoft Surface.

Microsoft has slowly been eating into Apple's share of the laptop and tablet market with its Surface devices, which have been stealing back some of the loyal customers who previously jumped ship to the MacBook line. A recent report from the computing giant claims its sales of Surface devices are higher than ever before, while Apple has seen its iPad sales slide to new lows.

Poor reviews for the new MacBook Pro with its touchscreen keyboard bar—including a damaging report from Consumer Reports that advised consumers to stay away from the laptop due to battery issues— could further hurt Apple's standing.

While it doesn't come from Apple, the AirBar might be the solution that spices up the MacBook and adds the functionality that is otherwise missing. The AirBar for MacBook Air is available for pre-order now for $99 and are expected to arrive in late August according to the company's site. Future AirBars are expected for other MacBook models and should arrive later in 2017.