PART of the appeal of Apple devices is that they’re undeniably sleek, sporting smooth, curved corners and flush surfaces. When designing the iPhone and iPad, Apple intentionally minimized the amount of physical buttons the devices had, adding to the overall sleek style. However, what if Apple needed to add some more physical buttons to its iconic devices, but didn’t want to sacrifice the sleek design ideals? According to a patent granted to Apple, the company has found the solution: invisible buttons. What better way to provide more controls, but keep them hidden, securing the iconic sleek iDevice design? Now, Apple hasn’t tapped into its inner Harry Potter magic and can suddenly make things invisible at will, but rather, the buttons would be made of the same material as the device’s housing, and set flush to the surface. So, the button would appear to just be part of, for example, the iPad’s bezel. When using the button would be applicable, a small backlight could illuminate its location. It’s also possible for the invisible buttons to have a sensor that would keep them hidden until the user motioned toward them. The idea can also be applied to slider controls, if for some reason Apple would ever need its devices to have a physical slider away from the touchscreen.
INVISIBLE BUTTON PATENT:
The patent doesn’t only apply to mobile devices, though. Apple could use the technology on virtually anything that has buttons or keys. Imagine context-sensitive buttons only appearing on a laptop keyboard when a certain action becomes available, only to disappear when that action is unavailable. The idea helps device manufacturers keep a sleek, minimalist design, but without having to sacrifice methods of input — certainly a boon for those that prefer button control over gesture control, but who also like pretty hardware.
Now, when next you see an Apple device, imagine it with INVISIBLE BUTTONS…technology is just an endless possibility!
Karo Osarumwense (Science and Tech blogger).
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