Microsoft's adaptive keyboard prototype, similar to the Touch Bar

More about the Touch Bar: the old Microsoft project, Lenovo’s discarded idea and how to run a trial version on the Mac / iPad

Only time will tell if the controversial Touch Bar of the new MacBooks Pro will become a valuable tool for amateur and professional users around the world or will simply be relegated to the dishonorable list of ideas and beautiful features in the concept, but useless in practice and forgotten by time.

While the future does not arrive to enlighten our minds on this absolutely crucial issue for the future of humanity, we are here analyzing Apple’s inspirations and possible ways to get our hands on the magic bar before new computers arrive in stores – and much before they reach stores in Brazil, more specifically.

Microsoft's adaptive keyboard prototype, similar to the Touch Bar

The first issue to be addressed here today has to do with an old Apple nemesis: Microsoft. Apparently, the Redmond giant has been working on an adaptive keyboard concept – quite similar to the idea behind the Touch Bar – for no less than 15 years. Who reports is the The Verge.

Conceived in 1999, the idea is admittedly more ambitious than that of Apple’s Touch Bar, but the intention behind everything is basically the same. Here, we have a screen at the top of the keyboard – very similar to the Apple solution, although bigger – that displays content based on what is happening on the main screen, above. This secondary screen, however, extends to the keyboard buttons, which can display specific keys also according to the active program.

The Microsoft concept did not come true for a simple reason: at the time it was developed, the company did not manufacture computers; now that the Surfaces are there to amaze tech fans around the world, the uncle Satya company focuses on machines with touch screens, which kind of do without this type of keyboard solution.

Still, the similarities with the idea that, in the end, was implemented by Apple, are remarkable. Do we have a case of slight undue inspiration here?

Lenovo’s discarded idea

You can argue that no, but in relation to this Lenovo prototype, undoubtedly the similarities are even more frightening (and… suspicious?). A previous version of the Thinkpad X1 Carbon, presented in early 2014, presents what would be basically a version of the Touch Bar in the Windows world and without Touch ID.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon prototype with feature similar to Touch Bar

The implementation is practically the same, with an almost identical design, and the idea of ​​changing the keys according to the context of the main screen also seems to have been imported directly by Apple two years later.

The Lenovo prototype ended up not seeing the light of day due to consumer criticism directed at the keyboard (since Lenovo did not have enough courage and simply moved keys like “Esc” and “Delete” to absolutely inappropriate locations instead of killing them) and also to the “poor implementation” of the concept – apparently, in 2014 people were not prepared for a small screen replacing the function bar. We will see if, almost three years later, this paradigm remains.

Testing the Touch Bar

Regardless of where Apple took its inspiration from to create the Touch Bar, the fact is that the feature will certainly be embraced by all the biggest developers in the Mac world over time. If you make applications for macOS and want to familiarize yourself with the bar before it arrives in the world – or if you are just curious about it – this is already possible thanks to a shared application on GitHub.

THE Touch Bar Demo App allows the user to open a Touch Bar simulation window on the Mac’s own screen by pressing the function key to operate the window via the machine’s trackpad or mouse. The most interesting option, however, exists if you have an iPad available: in this case, just connect the tablet to the Mac via USB and an application will display the Touch Bar at the bottom of the screen, allowing you to operate the bar “exactly” as on the new MacBook Pro.

To install the Touch Bar Demo App, it is necessary to have a Mac running macOS Sierra 10.12.1 (specifically build 16B2657, which supports Touch Bar) and simply extract the application from the ZIP file to be downloaded, placing it in the folder applications. If you want to test it on your iPad, you need to open the TouchBar.xcodeproj file, connect the tablet via USB and select the device next to the TouchBarClient in Xcode.

And let the idea machine begin!

[via Cult of Mac, 9to5Mac]