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Future Mac laptops could use an Apple Pencil as an input device

Apple has filed for a patent (number US 20240152218 A1) for a “Mountable Tool Computer Input” that hints that the Touch Bar could be revived as a Mac laptop strip that supports the Apple Pencil.

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 relates generally to input device systems. More particularly, it relates to input devices incorporating a stylus that is removably mounted to a keyboard or similar input device.

In the patent Apple 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. The touch panel may include a touch-sensitive surface that, in response to detecting a touch event, generates a signal that can be processed and used by other components of the electronic device. 

A display component of the electronic device may display textual and/or graphical display elements representing selectable virtual buttons or icons, and the touch sensitive surface may allow a user to navigate and change the content displayed on the display screen. 

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.

As the accompanying image shows, one way of doing this is by having a touch bar strip on a Mac laptop that offers Apple Pencil support.

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.”

Article provided with permission from AppleWorld.Today
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