Is This the Future of Keyboards?

Microsoft's Arc Keyboard impressed us with a design that departed from what we traditionally thought of as Microsoft design. And it seems like they're busy with their skunk works, developing future technologies that might breathe innovative fire into their brand, like this adaptive keyboard concept which combines the best elements of a touch-UI, a colour-changing keyboard layout system that delivers something similar to the Optimus Maximus Keyboard , and the text input capabilities of the tried-and-true keyboard.

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The UIST 2010 Student Innovation Contest is annual event which allows students to play with prototype hardware, with this year's contest sponsored by the labs of Microsoft Applied Sciences. Look at the what they get to play around with:

What’s an Adaptive Keyboard? It is a research prototype developed by Microsoft Hardware to explore how combining display and input capabilities in a keyboard can allow users to be more productive. The keyboard incorporates a large, touch-sensitive display strip at the top. In addition, the display continues underneath the keys, allowing the legends to be modified in real time. This lets you do things like change the character set to a different language or display command icons.

What do you think about this hybrid of touch and traditional keyboard input?

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