Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Revisiting the Touch Bar

Chuq Von Rospach got an iMac, which means that he’s spending less time with his Touch Bar-equipped MacBook Pro. And he hasn’t missed it all that much:

It seems to me Apple fell in love with the technology of the Touch Bar system, which if you dig into it a bit is a stunning piece of engineering, and expected all of us to fall in love with it as well. The problem is: Apple rarely sells things to us based on neat technology, it sells us based on the stories of how that technology will solve problems for us, and right now, the problems a Touch Bar solves for us that we care about being solved are few and far between.

Can Apple find the “killer app” (god, I hate that term) for the Touch Bar? It sure needs it. I’m not sure what that would be, though, but I want to give them another release cycle of MacOS for them to figure it out.

Von Rospach followed up on this today with a largely-speculative post centred around the idea that Touch ID is a transitional technology on the way to fast and accurate facial recognition that may find its way across Apple’s product line. What he doesn’t speculate on, however, is how the Touch Bar may be improved, especially if Touch ID — arguably the most useful aspect of Touch Bar-equipped Macs — goes away.

That’s fair; as Von Rospach says, I think Apple might be taking a bit of a wait-and-see approach while prototyping future versions of the Touch Bar. My hunch is that it needs some form of tactile feedback. The Taptic Engine is a good start, but I think it needs to be more precise so that the haptics feel like they’re coming from a specific point across the width of the bar, not a generalized click.

But I also wonder if the very concept of the Touch Bar is far better suited towards some industries than others. I can see film and audio editors potentially using it to navigate long timelines efficiently, but it’s probably not solving any problems for programmers. I’m almost certainly writing more based on what I want rather than what is logical, but I’d love to the Touch Bar become a simple configuration option for any MacBook Pro. Users who don’t need or want it don’t have to equip it, and could have all the performance they need with a traditional keyboard.