Apple has been granted a new patent titled - Disappearing button or slider – (US 8,436,816) by USPTO. According to the patent invention, Apple is looking to produce devices with selectively visible and invisible input systems and device display systems. The patent states, “input devices and display systems may become visible when illuminated from behind through invisible holes.”
Here is the patent abstract:
An input device includes a deflection based capacitive sensing input. Deflection of a metal fame of the input device causes a change in capacitance that is used to control a function of an electrical device. The input appears selectively visible because it is made of the same material as the housing it is contained in and because it is selectively backlit through tiny holes.
The patent suggests that the visible controls can also be contextual.
According to PatentlyApple report:
Apple’s visible controls may be a contextual control, meaning that the function of control is dependent upon an operating state of the device such as when iTunes is active so as to control iTunes functions. In other implementations, invisible contextual controls (not shown) can be used to deactivate a camera, eject a disk or USB stick, or to illuminate the keyboard depending on the state of the MacBook. Even the entire keyboard of the MacBook can be replaced with an array of invisible buttons. In fact, all of the conventional keys, buttons, track pads, etc. on a MacBook or other electronic device can be replaced by invisible inputs according to the present invention.
Hopefully this makes its way to Apple products in the near future.