Touching keyboards


So I may be using a 20 year old keyboard. But I can't say the design of current available keyboards impress me. Somewhere between then and now there was the "innovation" of adding additional keys, lit keys, and programmable keys. In fact, new boards seem to be returning to so called "mechanical keyboards", which sounds like a step backwards to me. Then again, anything is a step forward for me ;)

tldr; I'm looking for a new fancy keyboard :)

So when I started to search for a new board I kinda knew what I was looking for. And in this day and age I was sure it'd be available somewhere. It's really simple actually. I just want a touch screen under my fingers. Not to look at, but to operate with. Fully configurable, which can serve as a mouse as well, and possibly some meta data like with gaming or hardware details. It could still have tactile feedback, palm rests could help you put yourself in the right spot. Tiny rugged frames could help you orientate for the keyboard while still keeping the possibility to use the whole thing as a mouse. I mean, come on. We're in the tablet era. This step is only making more sense the more you think about it.

But. No. The closest thing I could find is a concept that's been proposed in 2010, kickstarted as tricktrack and funded in triplicate in 2011, showed up as the "Luminae Keyboard" in 2013, but seems to have vanished in 2014. Domains have been parked. The web is only showing screenshots. (This page seems to suggest it's still a thing though... but the timestamp of 2011 doesn't bode well either).

Alternatives. So I'm a gamer and a coder. On linux. This means many of the fancy pancy boards that need some kind of aux software are quickly eliminated since they generally don't work with linux. Beyond that I don't need a zillion buttons. I do want the regular keyboard, of course. Regular arrow keys. Regular layed out home/end/del etc. And some kind of keypad, since that's pretty much the only way I can quickly type long numbers blind. I don't mind if the keypad double serves as a touch pad, in fact, I'd probably love that.

Scrounging the net for keyboards turned up only a handful candidates. Which is super disappointing. Come on, this is 2014, where's the innovation? Okay so onto the models I did like.

The model that's currently peaking my interest is the "RAZER Deathstalker Ultimate Elite gaming keyboard".

Here's the model:

And here's what it really looks like:

The two differ a bit but I don't think that surprises anybody here. The keyboard has a flat design, which is what I was wanting to try anyways. It won't have these mechanical keys so I'm not sure how that'll work out. Normal arrow keys and insert/del pad. I'm sure the print screen and pause buttons function as usual, despite their logo. So onto the main selling point; the touch screen. If you do an image search for this model you'll quickly see that the buttons at the top are programmable, including their icons. The other features seem pretty standard to me.

It has a steep price though. About 250 euro/dollar. But I'm not too concerned about the price tag for something I may use another 20 years ;)

This model is probably the first I'm going to check.

The next model is the "MadCatz S.T.R.I.K.E. 7". Yeah.

Here's the model:

And here's what it really looks like:

So, some elephants in the room. There's a heads up display thing. I'm drawn to the board partially because of that. Though at the same time I don't see myself lunge my palm from the rest just to touch it. It's different from a touchpad at the keypad area because you actually have to lift your arm in order to touch it. I know that sounds trivial, but when I can see this becoming very tedious in the long run.

The board is very customizable. Various parts can be moved around to construct your ideal layout. While that's a nice feature, I still (think I) prefer the default layout so I probably wouldn't change that. Makign it kind of a waste on me.

I'm very curious to the left-hand palm rest. It looks... weird. And I'm wondering if the gap in the middle won't be annoying. Then again, I don't seem to be touching that area right now either, but I'm on a split keyboard and it makes a little more sense there. Either way, I'm not sure on the rest. May be awesome, may be nuisance.

This board looks like it may have mechanical keys but apparently it doesn't. Domes all the way.

The price is higher than the razer, about 300 euro/dollars.

The next model is the "Eclipse LiteTouch LCD Touchscreen" Keyboard. Sounds promising.

And real thing:

(There are various models actually, most quite similar) The touch pad is completely configurable, it seems. Serving both as a mouse or as configurable keys. The arrow keys are present, though chucked together with the left part of the board. My biggest beef is sticking those home/end/del keys there as well. Pretty sure my finger muscle memory will not like that.

The touch screen integration seems right on par with what I'd want. Sacraficing the middle arrow key part for it however, is not. I may try this board when the others fail but I'm not too sure about it.

So what else. In short, it's kinda meh.

You can find some small techs on alibaba/aliexpress. Like this glass keyboard for example. Mileage may vary though and since aliexpress broke partnership with paypal, I stopped buying stuff there.

There's the "Optimus Popularis" keyboard which allows you to fully style and configure all keys on the keyboard. That sounds nice but it feels quite useless for me. I read somewhere that their new model will sport a single touch screen under the keys (rather than one small touch screen for each key individually). Now if they could just drop the keyboard overlay... Ohwell.

Another concept is the laser keyboard. While pretty nice and actually not so far away from a touch screen anyways, I'm pretty sure I won't enjoy these things just yet.

I'm looking forward to the day where we can have fully touch screen keyboards. Nothing like minority report because nobody can do that all day. But a touch screen where your keyboard is right now combined with two regular screens (LIKE THERE IS ANY OTHER WAY) to look at is gonna be the future. If something like google glass doesn't take over first, of course. Orientation can be fixed by haptic feedback, tiny rugged wireframes, and maybe even future tech where touchscreens can just create the buttons when in keyboard mode. It's not that crazy folks. It's da future :)