• Apple won a patent for a new trackpad
  • The new trackpad adjusts positioning depending on the need
  • It's unknown when this new technology will be released for public use

A new patent awarded to Apple shows the company's interest in creating a future MacBook that features an adjustable virtual trackpad.

The patent, recently published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, shows an Apple Mac notebook device with a different kind of trackpad. While the current MacBook trackpad features a glass surface and is always located in a fixed location on the device, the trackpad in the patent can be positioned in different areas depending on the use.

The patent describes the new trackpad as having a translucent layer that will allow backlighting to pass through it. This translucent layer spans the entire space beneath the keyboard in the lower half of the MacBook, indicating that the virtual trackpad – referred to as the active or dynamic input area – can be located anywhere, be it in the traditional trackpad location or the usual palm rest areas.

Users will be able to determine the exact location of the active input area based on the backlighting. The future MacBook will illuminate the areas where the users are expected to input taps, gestures or touches.

This is made possible via the translucent layer which is “configured to propagate light through the translucent layer to the light-extraction features to illuminate the active input area.”

13-inch MacBook Pro
13-inch MacBook Pro Apple

The patent explains several ways to illuminate the said “dynamic input region.”

It can be illuminated using light-emitting sources mounted at the side of the input region. It can also be illuminated using light-emitting sources placed at the bottom of the translucent panel and/or its substrates. Both illumination methods will be used to define the position of the virtual trackpad or other visual input.

This invention may work in the same way as the existing Touch Bar, which expands and shrinks as needed. The Touch Bar can expand to fill the entire length of the MacBook, then shrink if not in use. The newly patented Trackpad technology may also allow for such features, adjusting to the needs of users depending on the app or software in use.

Similar but different

The new patent seems to describe another trackpad that Apple recently patented as well. This other trackpad also uses a “dynamic input surface” to allow for user input. This trackpad can be repositioned and resized at will, and its location can be determined also using backlighting.

It's worth noting that although the two sound largely similar, they were invented by two different groups of people in Apple.

Apple new trackpad
Apple is working on a new trackpad for the MacBook. Apple/USPTO