The MacBook Pro may become more ergonomic in the future, with Apple looking to add a hinge mechanism that increases the keyboard angle and screen height to create a more comfortable typing position.
Ergonomics are a major consideration for computer users, with long periods spent typing and using a mouse that can lead to ailments such as repetitive strain injuries and other pain. This has resulted in the creation of entire industries, where vendors attempt to sell accessories that aim to make computing healthier, by reducing the strain on the human body.
For products like a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, there are currently only a limited number of things you can do to make it more ergonomic to use. In addition to tilting the entire laptop to create a better typing position, it is still possible to connect an external keyboard and mouse and use it effectively as a desktop Mac.
These solutions are not as useful on the go, as they would usually require bringing additional equipment and accessories.
In a patent granted to Apple on Tuesday titled “Linkage Assembly for a Portable Electronic Device,” Apple describes a number of ways it can make a MacBook more ergonomic for users, without requiring external aids. In short, Apple thinks users might benefit from raising the back end of the MacBook to create a steeper writing angle.
The hinge mechanism could lift the entire top surface of the MacBook to a better typing angle.
Rather than creating a kickstand underneath, Apple takes a more elaborate route of keeping the MacBook’s main base on the surface it sits on. Instead, the top surface of the MacBook can lift up instead.
Two general shapes are suggested for this maneuver, the basic shape being to raise the rear section so that the entire top surface is tilted towards the user, including the trackpad section. An alternative is to simply lift the keyboard element on the back, tilting the keyboard while keeping the trackpad flat.
In all scenarios, Apple envisions the screen lifting with the keyboard, so that it is always visible to the user. The bottom of the screen always meets the top of the keyboard, regardless of how it is raised.
Another version could elevate the keyboard and screen, while keeping the trackpad flat.
The patent also suggests various link assemblies to allow the sections to rise when the MacBook is open. The bindings would still allow the display to change angles to suit the user’s preference, and in some cases would incorporate breakpoints to prevent the display from rolling back too far.
In addition to assisting the strike angle, lifting by the hinge mechanism of part of the upper assembly also offers the possibility of increasing airflow to internal components. The underside of the keyboard could include vents and fan exhausts, hidden from view of the user, with hot air being deflected back by the keyboard.
The idea is not limited to MacBooks. In some drawings, Apple suggests that such a screen and keyboard assembly could be integrated into a table. While it would stay level with the rest of the surface when the screen is lowered, opening it will raise the keyboard and screen to a more comfortable position.
An example of a hinge design, which can help improve air circulation.
The patent lists its inventors as Edward J. Cooper, Ari P. Miller, Kevin M. Robinson and Ian A. Guy. It was filed on May 28, 2019.
Apple files numerous patent applications each week, but while the existence of patents does not guarantee that a product will use the ideas in the future, they demonstrate areas of interest to Apple’s research and development teams.
The overhaul of the main appearance of its Mac products has been the subject of a few patents, and generally comes out in drastic directions.
A May 2020 patent says Apple has considered making a foldable MacBook design, where it’s made from a single piece of material. A flexible section in the middle would act as a hinge for the device.
While not portable, Apple also suggested creating a new version of iMac using a single sheet of glass. The January 2020 patent application proposed a screen with a curved glass base that would serve as a place for a keyboard, while a wedge would act as a wedge to hold the entire system in place.