A new patent reveals Apple’s plans for a multi-input design for future MacBook models.

According to a new patent granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple is planning to equip future MacBook models with additional input methods using either a touch-enabled spacebar or an extended trackpad.

The patent titled “multi-input element for electronic device” was first spotted by Patently Apple. It described several embodiments wherein the MacBook Pro will have an additional touch-sensitive input surface.

Apple’s new patent, in one area, noted that a capacitive sensor array included in the space bar is designed to detect the location of a touch on the surface of the space bar. Moreover, the space bar may also include a force sensor that will determine if a touch on the surface of the space bar has enough force to exceed a programmable threshold.

In some embodiments, the touch-sensitive surface has multiple touch-sensitive regions that may be associated with specific functions. Some embodiments define four quadrant regions of the key: one patent image showed the space bar has having a row of four touch-sensitive regions, while another image showed the space bar as having two rows of two touch-sensitive regions.

The future MacBook, in some embodiments, can be configured to determine if the touch made on the space bar is a simple keypress or a gesture input. The MacBook will determine whether the touch is an actuation of the space bar or a gesture input based on the duration of the touch on the space bar, or the length of time since the last keystroke on the keyboard.

In some cases, the first of four touch-sensitive regions is operable to receive gesture inputs, which may invoke a word-selection command, a line-selection command or a multiple line-selection command. The gesture input can also invoke a combination of these.

Lastly, the patent illustrates an idea where the trackpad has been elongated to reach the keyboard area, replacing the traditional space bar. The patent noted that “the touch-sensitive input surface may function as both the touchpad and the space bar.” The elongated trackpad may have multiple input regions.

Macbook Future MacBooks might have touch-sensitive space bars or elongated trackpads replacing space bars, a patent shows. Photo: SnapStock/Pixabay