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The Touch Bar could return with support for the Apple Pencil

Apple dumped the controversial Touch Bar with the introduction of the 2021 MacBook Pros. However, it could return — on laptops and as a standalone keyboard — with support for the Apple Pencil as evidenced by a new patent filing (number 20220171474) for “mountable tool computer input.”

About the Touch Bar

Apple added the Touch Bar to its laptops in 2016, specifically the 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pros. The hardware feature was introduced as a sort of 21st-century replacement to the familiar row of function keys that exist on almost all laptop and desktop computers. It was a controversial feature that Apple removed when it debuted its 2021 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros.

About the patent filing

The patent filing involves input devices incorporating a stylus that’s removably mounted to a keyboard or similar device. The tech giant notes that a variety of handheld input devices are used to detect user input. For example, a stylus is often used to provide input by contacting a digitizer or touch-sensitive panel of an electronic device. 

Typically, a user can move one or more input devices, such as a stylus, across the touch panel in a pattern that the device translates into an input command. Some styluses can be touch- and force-sensitive to provide writing or drawing input to the electronic device. Functions of the stylus or electronic device can also be remotely controlled by interacting with a sensor on the stylus while the stylus is handheld. 

Apple has repeatedly said there was little need for touch interfaces on a Mac. The company may have no plans for such products, but that doesn’t mean the company doesn’t experiment with them in their labs. For example, Apple has been granted: a patent (number 11,221,752)  for “character recognition on a  computer device”; a patent (number 10,963,117) for a “configurable force-sensitive input structure for electronic devices”; a patent (number 10,915,143) for “systems and methods for customizing display modes for a touch-sensitive secondary display.” I; and others.

That said, the new patent filing could involve some sort of new Magic Keyboard for an iPad that has a built-in Apple Pencil holder.

Summary of the patent filing

Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent filing: “Computing systems and input devices can include a chassis with a computing device and an input tool with a sensor, such as a pen- or rod-like input tool, that can be positioned relative to the chassis in multiple configurations. In one configuration, the tool can be spaced away from the chassis and its sensor output can cause a first output signal in response to input provided to the sensor. 

“In another configuration, the tool can be contacting the chassis and its sensor output can cause a second output signal in response to input provided to the sensor. For example, an input tool can be stowed in a recess of a keyboard housing or device chassis, and the input tool can produce a first output when it is in the recess and a second input when it has been removed from the chassis.”

Apple was granted a similar patent in March that also hints at a Touch Bar with Apple Pencil support.

Article provided with permission from AppleWorld.Today
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