Future Mac keyboards may be illuminated, more colorful
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Future Mac keyboards may be illuminated, more colorful

Apple is eyeing ways to make its Mac keyboards more colorful and more informative. A company patent (number 20100306683) for user interface behaviors for an input device with individually controlled illuminated input elements has appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Methods and apparatuses are disclosed that provide user interface behaviors for input devices with individually controlled illuminated input elements. Some embodiments may include receiving a request for input device lighting from a program, determining illumination information for light sources coupled to input elements of an input device based on the request, and dynamically controlling illumination of the light sources based on the illumination information.

The illumination information may include brightness, color, and/or duration. The input device may constitute a keyboard with individually controlled illuminated keys. In some embodiments, the illumination may present information related to the program, functionality of input elements, and/or notifications.

The request for input device lighting from the program may be based on input selections received from the input device such as illuminating keys on a keyboard that are possible next letters in a word being typed or keys associated with a pressed command key. The inventors of the patent are Aleksandar Pance, Alex J. Crumlin, Nicholas Vincent King, Duncan Kerr and James E. Orr IV.

Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "Electronic devices are ubiquitous in society and can be found in everything from wristwatches to computers. While electronic devices such as computers operate in a world of ones and zeros, human beings do not. Thus, many computers include intermediary devices that allow human beings to interface to the computer. One such device is the keyboard where the user interfaces with the computer by pressing certain keys and then watching a display device connected to the computer to determine if the user's desired response was achieved.

"While most conventional approaches utilize keyboards and other intermediary devices as strict input devices, some devices may convey output information to the user of the computer via the keyboard. For example, when a user presses the CAPS lock key, a light at the top of the keyboard (or on the CAPS lock key itself) may light up to indicate that such a selection has been made. Alternatively, some conventional approaches may provide a keyboard that associates lights with its keys where the keyboard may be statically configured at boot time.

"Methods and apparatuses are disclosed that provide user interface behaviors for input devices with individually controlled illuminated input elements. Some embodiments may take the form of a method, including the operations of: receiving a request for input device lighting from a program executing on a computing device; determining illumination information for one or more light sources coupled to one or more input elements of the input device based on the request; and dynamically controlling illumination of the one or more light sources based on the determined illumination information. The illumination information may include brightness, color, and/or duration of the one or more light sources. The input device may constitute a keyboard with individually controlled illuminated keys.

"In some embodiments, the illumination of the light sources may present information related to a program in operation on an associated computing device. For example, the light sources may function as a graphic equalizer on an input device or generally relate to at least a portion of an image on a display device. In other embodiments, the illumination of light sources may indicate or change functionality of a program utilizing the input elements. For example, input elements can be utilized to access functionality of a first-person shooter game. In still other embodiments, the illumination of the light sources may present a notification associated with the program such as an "E" key on a keyboard to indicate that an email has been received by an email application.

"In some embodiments, the request for input device lighting from the program may be based on input selections received from the input device. For example, a program may receive keystrokes from a keyboard that constitute a portion of a word and the program may request input device lighting to illuminate keys on the keyboard that are possible next letters in the word. By way of another example, a program may receive a command key keystroke from a keyboard and the program may request input device lighting to illuminate keys on the keyboard that are associated with the command key."

-- Dennis Sellers

 
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