“A user can have several different mechanical overlays, each one with controls for a specific application,” the company said. “For example, the user may have one mechanical overlay for video editing, another one for sound editing, another one for gaming, another one for data entry, another one for navigation, etc”.
Apple filed for a patent on a ‘mechanical overlay’ – you can place removable, haptic control interfaces on a sensitive zone on a computer. The computer can then interpret the actions on those interfaces, like buttons, sliders and what-have-yous, and translate this into electronic input.
It opens up a whole lot of possibilities in converting the computer into an efficient and enjoyable interface to work in, especially for those who work on a specific program for long hours – the professionals. It also gives a much more immerse and enjoyable interface environment – manually sliding the tuner up is definitely notches above doing the same with a mouse and an icon on iTunes.
As much as I’m delighted by the possibilities from this design, I must say I’m equally impressed with Apple’s patent lawyers (bunch of folks who perhaps contributed at least as much to Apple’s success as their designers, though probably less glorified).
Patents are intentionally drafted to cover as much base as possible – so that you can enforce or license it across as much application as possible. In this case, Apple had a far greater vision than folks at Creative (with their Prodikeys Keyboard) and gaming keyboard makers. Those have narrowly focused on their own sector, and they made physical and specific peripherals to that regard.
Apple’s patent had the wisdom to see the bigger picture – it is claiming the right to anything placed on top of a sensing surface. This patent would potentially be applicable across gaming, music, finance, basically any electronic interface that can be enhanced with a haptic input – and everybody would owe something to Apple.
Genius (if this patent was granted)!
*On a side note, could we be seeing keyboard-less laptop in the days to come? Buy the MacBookPro 3, and you can purchase the optional iType upgrade at US$199 only! I suppose that would really make the Apple’s iconic clean design even cleaner.]