Apple may have not made any radical redesigns to some of its MacBook lineup during its event last month, but it did throw a bit of a curveball with one new feature of its MacBook Pro series, which helped it become a big hit in its first week of sales. That feature is the new OLED-based contextual function key bar, which Apple calls the "Touch Bar". The new feature is pretty slick, but it's not the first time we've seen this sort of technology.
Back in 2010, Microsoft showed off a demo of what it calls its "Adaptive Keyboard". Made available on YouTube, Microsoft's demo shows a member of the company's Applied Science group playing with a QWERTY keyboard that has a larger touch screen running across the top, with function keys still available for use. That touch screen, like the Touch Bar, could act as a contextual quick-launch bar for certain application functions as well as a way to recall recently-opened documents and photos - basically, a step beyond the capabilities of Apple's Touch Bar.
There are a few key differences between the Adaptive Keyboard and the Touch Bar. First, Microsoft's touch area displays much larger icons/photos, making it easier with which to interact. Second, Microsoft retained physical function keys which, along with the other mechanical keys on the Adaptive Keyboard, change in special circumstances. For instance: lettered keys can change to slide animation tools while editing a PowerPoint presentation displayed on screen. Pretty nifty stuff.
Ultimately, Microsoft decided not to develop the Adaptive Keyboard concept. Instead, the company went hard after touch screens, something Apple has yet to implement into its Mac lineup. However, given Apple's approach to replacing or adding to function keys, perhaps Microsoft will consider revisiting its Adaptive Keyboard concept in the coming years.
Source: The Verge