A Brief Look at the Keys of the Future



For decades, keyboards shared a standard design and a set number of keys. More recently, peripherals manufacturers have realized that different people have different needs, fact that determined them to take various approaches in designing the keyboards.

For decades, keyboards shared a standard design and a set number of keys. More recently, peripherals manufacturers have realized that different people have different needs, a fact that determined them to take various approaches in designing the keyboards. It should be noted that nowadays the focus is both on innovative designs and on improved functionality. Both of these aspects feature a high degree of customization, so that the needs of a great number of people can be satisfied, regardless of how unusual their tastes are.

Innovation is a major selling point, and seeing the directions manufacturers are heading to, one could easily conclude that companies invest a lot of resources into their R&D departments. Some of the products even look like they came straight from a sci-fi flick. Such an example is the Tactus keyboard, pictured below, which employs microfluidics to create physical keys that bubble up when a keyboard is required and disappear when finished typing.

Despite the extended implementation of touchscreens, people still seem to require some sort of tactile feedback. On top of that, touchscreens are making a transition from smartphones and tablets to notebooks and desktop PCs. In conclusion, such a concept could prove useful in more than one scenario. 

Keyboard 1

Another keyboard concept that oozes with innovation is E-Inkey. As its name suggests, this keyboard relies on e-ink and takes keys customization to extreme. The most revolutionary aspect of this particular product is the use of e-ink, since the customization of the keys has been tackled in Art Lebedev Studio's Optimus Maximus. The latter entered mass production in 2007 and came with a price tag of $1,600. E-Inkey is an impressive wireless power-saving product that can handle multitasking effortlessly. 

Keyboard 2

Logitech, the Swiss manufacturer of peripherals, also took its chances at creating eco-friendly keyboards when it presented the wireless solar-powered K750. This keyboard stands to prove that innovative products can also be down-to-Earth, and not only otherworldly futuristic concepts. K750 is targeted towards users of HTPCs, and judging by its dimensions and features, it looks like it fits in that environment perfectly.

A great part of today's keyboard market is represented by gamers. Even though the sets of keys necessary for playing games from a specific genre have been somehow standardized, there is still a great need for customization. At some point, not even the existence of macro keys is enough, as people request modular keyboards that can be shaped according to their needs. Mechanical-switch keyboards are also gaining a lot of popularity nowadays, not only because of their responsiveness, but also because of the ideal travel times. 

Keyboard 3

Razer, one of the most famous manufacturers of gaming peripherals, addressed not only the needs of gamers, but also of geeks, when it launched the Star Wars: The Old Republic keyboard. Besides illuminated keys, this model also comes with a multi-touch full-color LCD track-panel that displays relevant game-related information, while also accepting gestures as a form of input. The keys resemble the ones used in notebook keyboards, so they should ensure a short travel time, as well as

It is really difficult to tell how the future looks like for these peripherals. The keyboards of the future might not even be physical, as far as we know. Instead, they might be projected on a surface, implanted under our skin or even mind-controlled. Thirty years ago, hardware manufacturers wouldn't have even conceived the technologies that are nowadays implemented into keyboards, so imagining how these devices will look like in three decades from now is highly unpredictable. Instead, we might as well enjoy the present products and hope that at least some of the concepts we stumble upon will become a reality in the foreseeable future.

Guest post written by Alexandru Chiuariu, a freelance Web copywriter who enjoys reviewing and testing geeky gadgets more than anything else. Follow his thoughts on Twitter