Apple applies to light up laptop touchpads, iPod clickwheels

Apple has touched on a new way to help you find your way around its products. The company has registered technology in the US that could see the iPod's clickwheel or your MacBook Air's touchpad light-up when you finger it.

The patent application, which was filed recently with the US Patent and Trademark Office, shows in block diagram form how the inclusion of a lighting mechanism would help guide users around a device by relating menu options to lighting changes. It's little like someone switching the hallway light on and off for every step you take up the stairs.

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This causes me to think that the rumored iTablet is close as the benefits of touch-with-on-device-visual-feedback during its development were imagined to be something good to have as a staple of all computing platforms; notebooks and workstation keyboards.

Look for this to evolve into a full-color hi-res small-factor touch-screen within the next two years and become a much desired feature.

EXACTLY!

The touchwheel implementation is pretty simplistic.

However, the touchpad implementation can prove quite significant. It could be used to not only give instruction but for anyof the following in a CRUDE, low-resolution way:

  1. RGB color manipulation either by sliders or an imaginary (crude) color-wheel.
  2. Volume, bass, treble, pan control
  3. Surround control

I could see it being used to have access to many more specialized functions for which finger gestures would become confusing or impossible to learn or for which you currently have to open a mini app to access them.

One way to do this would be to have one specific 'select function' gesture which would cause the pad to display either a 3x3 or 4x4 grid. Tapping one would shift the display to presenting the crude "finger" panel for the function selected. (More functions could be accessed via multi-tap or a hierarchical arrangement, but done in a way to avoid complexity.) A specific "close function" gesture or tap at a specific and consistent place (extreme lower-right) would close the selected function and return the pad to normal use.

Think of how gaming, art, music manipulation (drum pad anyone?) would be enhanced with gestures that have positional significance.

This will prove to be very innovative and well beyond the imaginations of may posters.

Awesome! We'll finally be able to use laptop trackpads and iPods in absolute darkness, since the displays of these devices don't emit any light and our fingers' touch senses can impossibly let us make out their location on trackspads and clickwheels and perform gestures thereon. Another nifty but useless battery drainer.

This 'technology' has been available to anyone for some time, and strangely enough, it's from the same company that makes touchpads and clickwheels for Apple: http://www.synaptics.com/products/lux.cfm

Quote:

The LuxPad solution offers an array of colors to choose from, and designers can also opt to illuminate just a logo or design on the LuxPad. In addition, the LuxPad solution includes Synaptics' customizable device driver, which allows users to adjust their LuxPad settings. The result is a user-friendly interface solution that creates pride of ownership, appeals to the individuality of today's consumers, and is a unique differentiator for OEMs targeting the growing consumer notebook market.

So yeah, it's basically useless eyecandy.

(Sekhmet said @ #3)
This 'technology' has been available to anyone for some time, and strangely enough, it's from the same company that makes touchpads and clickwheels for Apple: http://www.synaptics.com/products/lux.cfm

This company makes touchpads for all kinds of laptops and music players.

Anyway, the lighted touchpads seem useless to me

(Sekhmet said @ #3)
This 'technology' has been available to anyone for some time, and strangely enough, it's from the same company that makes touchpads and clickwheels for Apple: http://www.synaptics.com/products/lux.cfm

Apple stopped using Snyaptics' touchpads and clickwheels a while back, actually, in favour of making their own.

The main difference between Synaptics' touchpads with light and Apple's is that Apple's touchpads can light up with specific patterns and in specific areas. Basically like a miniature touchscreen (except a lot more basic).

MacNN's article on the subject has a pretty thorough breakdown of it.