A series of six patent applications from Apple covering their new Touch Bar for the MacBook have been published recently by the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), one of which also describes a Touch Bar designed for the iMac keyboard. According to Patently Apple, the patents are divided into two distinct groups. with one group covering the Touch Bar, while the other group covering the Touch ID.
Three patent applications cover a “Keyboard with an Adaptive Input Row” or Touch Bar, in which Apple refers to an electronic device having a keyboard or similar user-input device that includes an adaptive input row. The adaptive input row may include a display used to present a set of indicia or visual cues that correspond to a set of adaptive commands or functions. It may be responsive to a user touch, allowing selection of one or more of the set of adaptive commands or functions.
“Some example embodiments are directed to an input row stack that includes a display positioned below a cover. The input row stack may also include one or both of a touch sensor and a force sensor. The touch and/or force sensor may be used to determine the position of a touch along the length of the row. In some implementations, the input row includes a touch-sensitive region that extends beyond a display region. The extended region may be used to perform dedicated functions or operations”.
The second group of three patents covers Touch ID integrated into the bar. Apple notes that the invention “generally relates to buttons that incorporate biometric sensors”. The applications also make an interesting point about touch ID not having to be restricted to the Touch Bar, since according to Apple, “a shutter button of a camera device also can be a restricted-access button”.
Apple’s Touch Bar patents relating to the Touch ID were filed in September 2016.