Apple could use E-ink in its future keyboards

midian182

Posts: 5,667   +43
Staff member

Apple is rumored to be holding a press event before the end of this month where it will show off its new line of MacBook Pros. The refreshed laptops will reportedly feature an OLED touch display above the keyboard that changes depending on which application the user has open. Now, it’s been revealed that a similar system could be implemented into an entire Apple keyboard.

Reddit user Foxconninsider, who works at Tsinghua University (“like the Chinese MIT”), said such a keyboard was on show at a recent closed-doors event on campus, hosted by Apple supplier Foxconn.

Australian startup Sonder was present at the event, showing off a prototype next generation Apple Magic Keyboard that features an E-Ink display on every key. These can change depending on a user’s needs, bringing up different languages, images, and shortcuts. The device could also have many applications when if comes to gaming, especially with titles that use a lot of keys, such as Elite: Dangerous.

Sonder revealed its backlit, e-display keyboard last year. The company confirmed to Trusted Reviews that it is closing procurement contracts with three third-party laptop companies “to integrate our technology into their products.” The Redditor claims a Foxconn executive said Apple’s Procurement Board “was closing an acquisition” for Sonder.

Foxconninsider said he also saw the MacBook Pro’s OLED panel at the show, described as the “new Macbook keyboard module.”

Reddit mods have verified Foxconninsider’s identity, but the keyboard is an early prototype designed for testing, so it’s not guaranteed to appear in any future Apple laptops or as a standalone product.

An Apple spokesperson said: “Sonder has been in discussions with Apple’s procurement board regarding Sonder’s laptop module. Foxconn International Holdings and E Ink Holdings – both strategic partners of Sonder Design Pty. Ltd. are assisting with the above discussions."

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OneSpeed

Posts: 361   +178
I guess if you need to look at the letters as you type, this is the keyboard for you. Gamers need not apply. Who are we left with?
 

treeski

Posts: 1,006   +248
The only usefulness I could see is if you type on multiple foreign keyboards, otherwise...
 

madboyv1

Posts: 1,586   +479
If the keyboard layout is system controlled with minimum customization (as are many things it seems) then I agree with the point of it being good for displaying multiple languages on a single keyboard, but not much else. On the other end, if users are able to freely modify keys and even macro commands to keystrokes, then there are many possible applications, though limited by the monochrome display.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,458   +802
neah, I can assure you that these people will prefer the normal keyboards.
I use both Adobe and various CAD software regularly. Having my keyboard dynamically list what each key is currently functioning as would be a great feature. I want to spend more time working with the software, and less time memorizing hotkeys.
 

Puiu

Posts: 3,879   +2,390
I use both Adobe and various CAD software regularly. Having my keyboard dynamically list what each key is currently functioning as would be a great feature. I want to spend more time working with the software, and less time memorizing hotkeys.
you mean text on the keyboard?.I don't see that working. it's best if you see on screen what those hotkeys do (some software can do that)
but if you're serious about such software then remembering important hotkeys is still faster.
 

Techstar

Posts: 94   +18
neah, I can assure you that these people will prefer the normal keyboards.
I use both Adobe and various CAD software regularly. Having my keyboard dynamically list what each key is currently functioning as would be a great feature. I want to spend more time working with the software, and less time memorizing hotkeys.
I use various apps like 3ds max and live and by the third or fourth time you use it, you just know what keys do what, you don't spend time trying to remember, it just happens as you use it. I want tactile mechanical switch keys, not printed plastic.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,458   +802
I use various apps like 3ds max and live and by the third or fourth time you use it, you just know what keys do what, you don't spend time trying to remember, it just happens as you use it. I want tactile mechanical switch keys, not printed plastic.
This is talking about what the keys are made of, not their switches. I can't think of a single reason why you couldn't embed an e-ink display in a keycap for a mechanical keyboard. But with e-ink you could begin to have more 'dynamic' hotkeying, it would ease the learning curve for these kinds of softwares, and even allow for hotkeying in software that could use it but is uncommon to see in (average productivity software).

Just because one system exists does not mean you cannot improve upon it, especially when it comes to UX/UI.
 

Techstar

Posts: 94   +18
Because the keycap is not electrically connected to the switch and if it were it would alter the resistance and the feel of the switch and break easily.
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,458   +802
A sliding rail system could take care of that - both for power and data. But I can also think of some wireless solutions as well: induction, with NFC or low-power Bluetooth.

Either way, the point is that it is far from impossible, and would open up some very interesting avenues for UX design. It could potentially allow the kind of 'dynamic UI/UX' you find on smart phones, and allow similar principles to be applied to more traditional systems.