A next-gen MacBook could come with a large trackpad that can be dynamically adjusted depending on the user's needs and the task, literally, at hand.
That's going by a new patent (spotted by Patently Apple (opens in new tab)) granted to Apple — and seemingly lost in the furore of new products coming from Apple's Spring Loaded event — which describes a customizable trackpad dubbed the “Dynamic Input Surface (opens in new tab)."
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Granted by the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) the patent explains how a dynamic trackpad that could be manipulated by a user's fingers to span the whole width of a laptop's keyboard deck. And the trackpad area could also be moved around to different parts of the laptop's lower half, say moving it to the left or right-hand side.
Such a trackpad would give the user ample space for a variety of different scrolling gestures. This would appear to remove the need for users to lift their fingers from the input surface to continue scrolling through content on their screens.
This would be a marked shift from the static trackpad found on the likes of the M1 MacBook Pro.
To do this Apple proposes the use of a layers comprising of a "partially flexible" metal contact portion of the laptop with areas that could be selectively illuminated. This could be facilitated a surface with holes in it and lights below that light up the parts of the contact space being used or touched.
To enable the contact material to be flexible, likely to give a tactility when using a trackpads, something Apple's Force Touch trackpads are great at, Apple proposed the use of a deformable gel layer. Without getting too technical, the patent basically explains how a large section of a device, in this case a machine that looks a lot like a MacBook, could be essentially a large dynamic Force Touch trackpad.
In effect, you'd have a multipurpose dynamic input surface, operating as both a trackpad or some other form of "input device" when not in use. This might seem farfetched, but Apple already has a patent that shows off a reconfigurable solid-state keyboard designed to simulate key feedback but sill provide a form of flexible screen that can change key and input functions dynamically.
Such a dynamic trackpad or reconfigurable keyboard might not arrive in the rumored next-gen MacBook Pro 16-inch or MacBook Pro 14-inch. But it shows hoe Apple could redesign its future MacBook to be a lot more flexible on the input front, and indeed set a new standard for laptop innovation. Or such concept ideas could remain stuck in patent limbo; only time will tell.