E-ink Keyboard Rumored for Future MacBooks

Eva Dou, at The Wall Street Journal, describing Apple’s plans to possible replace the plastic keycaps on its keyboard with ones that include e-ink displays:

The new keyboards will be a standard feature on MacBook laptops, and will be able to display any alphabet, along with an unlimited number of special commands and emojis, people familiar with the plans said.

Apple is aiming for a 2018 launch, these people said.

I’m actually more enthusiastic about this than I am the rumored maybe-never-announced MacBook Pro, assuming this keyboard would still have physical keys. In my mind, this MacBook would have a keyboard like it does today, just with a bunch of little e-ink displays in the keyboard, like shown in this MacRumors article.

It’s not hard to imagine the possibilities this could be bring. While many international keyboards use different physical layouts, this sort of system could allow users to type with their own language’s letters on the keys.1 Imagine that in a classroom.

Additionally, this could push the flexibility expected in the next MacBook Pro’s OLED Touchbar even further. Keyboards like this one that use custom keycaps to show shortcuts for professional apps could theoretically be done in software.

Count me as intrigued.

  1. In discussing this with my Connected co-hosts, they both seemed pretty excited about this possible use case.