Range takes a look at the coolest alternative keyboards.
Since the first computer was booted, we've been using keyboards to input data. For most of us, they remain the one and only way to input info quickly and reliably, but they haven't changed much in their form factor. They still use little keys that we clack, clack, clack our way through the day. Well, keys may soon be obsolete...
Over the past few years efforts have been made to make click and clack a thing of the past. Motion sensors are dropping in price leading to a plethora of new input devices that use everything from OLEDS to lasers to bring us the QWERTY. Here's a rundown of the newest and coolest in keyboards. Some are concepts, others you can buy right now.
The No-Key Keyboard The No-Key is in between Microsoft's tabletop Surface and the iPhone. This concept, designed by Kong Fanwen, is made of glass and is backlit. It doesn’t possess any real keys per se, but rather has a motion-capture system set upon the fingers to capture which keys are "pressed".
Optimus Maximus Keyboard By far, one of the most expensive input devices, the Optimus Maximus keyboard retails at a whopping $1590. Incredibly, each of its keys features an OLED display, that shows the function currently assigned to it. These change dynamically when function keys or shift keys are pressed. The keyboard holds 113 keys, meaning there are 113 mini OLED screens that can display images, animated gif files or even Quicktime movies. The Optimus’ layout allows it to shift languages from Cyrillic, Greek, Chinese, Japanese, as well as special symbols, numerals, and math functions. The Russian design studio Art Lebedev, who developed the Optimus is currently working on a smaller Optimus, which will retail for below $1000.
Optimus Tactus Keyboard Following upon the success of the Optimus Maximus, Art Lebedev designed the Tactus concept. The Tactus does not have any physical keys, so there are no restrictions upon the size and shape of the keys that can be displayed. Rather than 113 tiny OLEDs, there is only one giant tactile display. It reminds us a bit of a graphics tablet used in graphic design, such as the Wacom Cintiq.
Bluetooth Laser Virtual Keyboard When you grow tired of typing on your PDA or smartphone's lilliputian keyboard connect this $160 virtual keyboard via Bluetooth to your mobile device. A laser in the matchbook-sized device projects a full QWERTY keyboard onto any flat surface.
USB Flexible Keyboard Flexible silicone keyboards are inexpensive, washable and durable -- the perfect solution when on the go or for those of us who like to eat Philly Cheese Steaks over our keyboards. They roll-up easily into a laptop bag and are a cinch to set-up,plus they come in all sorts of colors and models, from wireless to illuminated. --Range