A new patent reveals Apple's plans to create an all-new keyboard devoid of troublesome butterfly keyboard mechanism or the Magic keyboard's scissor mechanism.

A patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reveals what appears to be a new type of keyboard that uses light sensors to work. The patent, first spotted by Patently Apple, belongs to Cupertino tech giant Apple and describes an all-new mechanism that can be applied to future MacBook keyboards.

The patent, titled “Optical Keyboards,” explains in detail how Apple plans to do away with the problematic nature of the butterfly keyboard while avoiding the scissor mechanism. These new keyboards will use keycaps that have some components underneath them: a light source that will transmit light, and a light sensor that will receive light to detect presses on the keys.

Basically, here's how it works: the light sources underneath the keys can be light-emitting diodes (LED) or infrared light. These sources will emit light which will be received by light sensors. Pressing on the keys will affect the amount of light the sensors receive. The amount of light the sensors receive, in turn, will be used to determine whether the keys are fully or partly pressed.

Some might worry about how the keyboard will feel when pressed, given the absence of a mechanism that can provide feedback like the one on the scissor keyboard. Apple's patent covers that, and said the new keyboard will have structures having “multiple buckling points” that are “configured to provide multiple tactile feedback responses.”

More interestingly, the patent states that a “metal dome” within the keys “may facilitate enhanced tactile feedback for the user that can be coordinated with the light-based electronic response of the key.” Whether this means tactile feedback to key presses will be accompanied by certain lighting effects remains to be seen.

The light underneath the keycaps will also have several functions. Aside from providing light to be received by the light sensor, the light that LEDs emit will also provide backlighting so that users can see what keys he or she can press. This will also help make the keyboard look aesthetically pleasing.

Although the patent specifically mentioned that the technology is designed for use with keyboards (for MacBooks and other computers), the technology can also be applied to other devices.

Magic Keyboard Apple is working on new keyboard technologies. Photo: Reuters/Robert Galbraith