Google is proposing a hybrid contraption that integrates the spacebar with the trackpad on a laptop, or on a tablet keyboard. Essentially, the trackpad would extend into the space where the spacebar would usually be, and "a top portion of the trackpad may be profiled to simulate a shape of the spacebar"
One or more spring mechanisms may be placed under the region of the trackpad designed to function as the spacebar, and there could be a marked boundary that would delineate the spacebar portion from the rest of the trackpad.
The whole system could function the other way round, however. According to the patent, "an apparatus may include a keyboard including a spacebar, where the spacebar is configured to function as at least a portion of a trackpad".
For us old timers, there's definitely something quite satisfying about thwacking the spacebar with your thumbs between each and every word - so for many this newly proposed system might prove frustrating. For computer manufacturers, however, it's going to be a right royal pain to try and squeeze a full-sized keyboard onto a laptop -- and the wide-load spacebar is partly to blame.
Google doesn't dabble a great deal in the world of consumer hardware, but its Chromebooks have become increasingly popular and the company will no doubt be looking for ways to strengthen its position in the increasingly fragile laptop market. Reducing the space that the keyboard and trackpad take up will result in a more compact, portable device for Google.
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