Saturday, February 24, 2007

Tools: Tech Toys: Virtual Keyboard

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Arthur C. Clarke

Magic? Maybe. What is the coolest new tech toy around? How about a tiny device about the size of a cigarette lighter that projects a full-size "virtual" keyboard on your desk or any flat surface using lasers, one of which projects the keyboard image, while the other senses the touched keys. I hate those tiny keyboards on PDA's, and think this is the best idea I've seen. You set up the device and it projects the image of a keyboard on any flat surface. It does look like something from Star Trek, but this technology is available now. Back in the 80's I had my first brush with virtual reality (VR) in a visit to the EDS facility in Texas. I have been hooked ever since. I've even been a groupie of the 'father' of VR, Jaron Lanier.
A recent visit to the hospital to visit my Dad made me think about the keyboard they use to enter patient information. I could only imagine the germs! With this device, you would be able to use a keyboard, and then disinfect the table.
The product costs about $150 and is worth more than that for the cool factor alone. I read several reviews that suggested it was difficult to pair the system with a device, and that the non-tactile keys were hard to get used to. I am sure that later versions will solve some of these issues, but it's still a cool tech toy. Another cool keyboard works similarly with the infrared, but is an actual keyboard that is on a pliable, foldable pad, for about the same price. Either way, for techies, coool is what counts.

The Bluetooth VKB Virtual Keyboard has a wide range of applications:
- Personal digital assistants
- Cellular telephones
- Space saving computers
- Tablet PCs
- Laptops
- Industrial environments
- Clean rooms
- Sterile and medical environments
- Test Equipment
- Transport (Air, Rail, Automotive)

Roughly the size of a disposable lighter (90 x 34 x 24 mm), the VKB enables users to type e-mail or long text as easily as with a conventional keyboard. Imagine how much easier it would be if you had a proper mobile phone keyboard that fits in your pocket.

Click on the title at the top of this post to access the site from HGTV 's 'I Want That: Tech Toys' (photo included)