Apple have recently, 29 Dec 2020, been granted a patent in the United States, US 10,877,570 B1 that defines an Adaptive Keyboard where each key on a keyboard is essentially a miniature display that can be changed dynamically according to the users need, for example, when using a foreign language, or which can adapt to the program being used.
An electronic device may have a reconfigurable keyboard. The keyboard may be formed from an array of keys coupled to a housing. Each key may have a movable key member and an associated key display. Control circuitry in the keyboard may direct the key displays to display dynamically adjustable key labels for the keys. Each key movable key member may be formed from a fiber optic plate. The fiber optic plate may be formed from a coherent fiber bundle with opposing first and second surfaces. The first surface may be adjacent to the key display and may receive key label images from the key display. The second surface may face outwardly towards a user and may receive key press input from the fingers of a user while presenting key label images for viewing.
(eDATASTORE Jan21 US10877570.pdf)
Also read reports which may explain it a bit more:
But wait …. I’ve actually programmed a similar device in the past to work with SolidWorks.
The full project is detailed at Adaptive Keyboard Project (Password Protected – Members Only)
Back in 2009, that’s right more than 10 years ago, Microsoft were developing an adaptive keyboard and were looking for applications to take advantage of keys which could change dynamically.
In the version designed by Microsoft, the keyboard also included a small touch screen at the top of the keys. I considered various designs for how the keys could adapt when using SolidWorks – here is one of the early designs:
This is what the device actually looked like when I began working on it
and when we were first showing it to customers it had evolved to look like this
The project was terminated on 15 March 2010 and never proceeded to full production.
The Adaptive Keyboard did, however, later appear at the UIST 2010 Student Innovation Contest with the results at
There was another Adaptive keyboard available around the same time I was working with the Microsoft version.
The Optimus keyboard, developed by the Russian design studio Art. Lebedev Studio, was first released in March 2007,
and a later model the Optimus Popularis first released in December 2011
Here’s a video from 2016, showing the Optimus Popularis Keyboard