Future MacBooks Could Have Hidden Touch Controls for Lids

The new MacBook Pro line for 2011 was only announced and released yesterday and we’ve already written many articles about this, including highlighting the new Light Peak (Thunderbolt) technology, FaceTime HD and also pricing. However, we’re already looking ahead to the next range as we have heard today that future MacBooks could possibly have hidden touch controls in their lids.

The new feature would enable iTune applications and others to be controlled even when the MacBook was closed and an Apple patent for this was filed this week with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, according to Neil Hughes over on Apple Insider. Usually capacitive sensing devices have only worked on non-conductive materials but if this development goes ahead it could also be used on exteriors of devices such as future MacBooks, which have metal surfaces.

Things like the battery level or the connection strength of WiFi could also be indicated on these exterior hidden “buttons” but along with that the virtual buttons could be used to control what’s going on, even with the lid closed, by using proximity sensors or capacitive touch sensors. Even starting up and shutting down the computer could be performed from the exterior. For more about the technical aspects of this including diagrams head to the Apple Insider link above.

An article on The Next Web, sourced from Patently Apple, also talks about these “invisible media player controls” for use on MacBook lids. A really clever part of this new design would mean that these virtual “buttons” would not be visible all the time but would show themselves as a hand neared them. If you were to use this for iTunes for example, all the normal functions, such as turning the volume up or down, rewinding, fast forwarding and playing, could be performed from the outside of future MacBooks.

If you’re interested in MacBooks and particularly the latest MacBook Pros released yesterday, you may be interested in a teardown of the 15-inch version which we wrote about earlier. What are your thoughts on these external touch buttons and could you envisage the use of these virtual “buttons” on future versions of Apple MacBooks? Let us know by sending your comments using the box below.