Apple is truly pulling out all the stops this autumn, with the announcement of the new Macbook Pro adding to the iPhone 7, AirPod and Apple Watch Series 2 releases last month. Is this release just another example of near identical tech being slightly upgraded and dressed up as revolution? In this case, the answer is a resounding ‘no’. The new Macbook Pro contains some pretty big changes, and one in particular may radically alter how we use our computers.
The headline innovation of this year’s Macbook Pro iteration, and the one causing most excitement, is the ‘Touch Bar’. Replacing the function keys currently located above the number keys, this touch screen is described by Apple chief design officer Jonathan Ive as “a multi-touch bar that provides a more intuitive, more immediate connection to your content.” What does this actually mean? It means a completely reactive set of buttons for the keyboard that will be optimised depending on the kind of content you are currently viewing or interacting with. Editing a movie? The Touch Bar will let you scrub between frames. Typing a message? The Touch Bar will contain predictive text suggestions and emojis. Making a purchase? The Touch Bar will allow you to use Apple Pay.
The capability for such a reactive UI has been around ever since touch screens have been incorporated into laptops. In this sense, Apple certainly isn’t first to the party. What makes this move revolution rather than evolution is instead in the way it fundamentally changes the trusty old keyboard for the average joe. Keyboard design has remained puzzlingly static for the last 30 years, with many commands and buttons seemingly obsolete for the majority of desktop and laptop users. When a company like Apple upsets the apple cart with a major design change like this, however, software designers are likely to take notice and incorporate interesting uses of the Touch Bar into their programs. This in turn may see similar technology filtering into more affordable hardware, with the end result being a pretty seismic change in the way we interact with our computers. If the Touch Bar is as good as it sounds, we may well see highly adaptive and reactive UI on computers becoming the norm in the near future.
(Credit all images: Apple)