Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac
Suppose the keyboard of your MacBook rose up slightly and pivoted toward you when you opened the lid. That’s the idea described by a patent Apple was just awarded.
The concept has ergonomic benefits but also adds moving parts.
Picture a MacBook with retractable keyboard
The US Patent and Trademark Office awarded Apple patent #11,181,949 for Retractable keyboards.
“Keyboards are disclosed that are retractable,” writes Apple in the stilted language used in patent filings. “Movable magnetic or mechanical linkage elements are configured to reposition keycaps and stabilizers between different relative positions. Structures in a movable layer can act on the keycaps or stabilizers to move the keycaps and stabilizers into a retracted position for storage and for saving space in an electronic device.”
Advantages and downsides of a pop-up keyboard MacBook
Apple’s patent filing mentions “saving space in an electronic device” but a retractable keyboard wouldn’t actually use any less space. The mechanism still has to fit between the two halves of the MacBook’s clamshell. Plus, the mechanism for raising the keyboard would actually add bulk.
But there might be an ergonomic benefit. MacBooks are wonderfully convenient to carry around, but typing on one typically involves bad posture and wrist positions. A pop-up keyboard might help that a bit.
On the other hand, a retractable keyboard is a moving part. Something that can break. And that’s not a feature many potential buyers will reject. Especially given Apple’s previous problems with keyboard designs.
All this said, a patent filing doesn’t mean a MacBook with pop-up keyboard will be out any time soon. Or ever. Company engineers frequently patent designs that are never seen again.