A couple of days ago I wrote about the TouchFire iPad keyboard that is in the process of becoming an actual product thanks to the people pledging over at the Kickstarter website. The inventor of the keyboard, Steven Isaac, lives here in the Seattle area and I was able to meet with him yesterday and get some hands-on time with the current prototype and discuss this exciting project. BTW, there are only three days left to get your order in for one of these and after this Kickstarter campaign ends you will be placed on a waiting list if you wish to pre-order the keyboard.
I love talking with people that are passionate about ideas and even better is talking with those who take those ideas and produce something. As a professional engineer, the most rewarding part of my job is to come up with an idea, design the solution, and then see the product in action working successfully. Steve is very passionate about the TouchFire and I have all the confidence in the world that they will be successful in getting the TouchFire out and into the hands of backers (aka Kickstarter pledgers) soon.
If you want to read more about the interesting story behind the TouchFire, check out the three-part TouchFire Chronicles series over on TechCrunch.
The prototype I was able to try out is not the final product, but even at this stage I was able to place it on the iPad and start typing with ease. The TouchFire is much lighter and more flexible than I thought it would be, but the keys are also very well designed so that you experience good tactile feedback when you press down on the keys. I was able to rest my fingers on the keyboard and then enter text at a much faster pace than I do on my iPad without the keyboard overlay. When I use the keyboard on my iPad in landscape, I tend to now do more hunt and peck typing than two-handed touch typing that I was able to do without any training or anything using the TouchFire.
The TouchFire has magnets along the bottom that secures it to the iPad and also allows you to easily roll it out of the way so you can use the full display when you are not entering text.
One of my concerns with the TouchFire was the bulk and ability to take it with me on the go. I was very pleased to see that it secures to the underside of the Smart Cover and barely adds any bulk so that the magnets securing the Smart Cover to your iPad front still work as designed. The fact that I can have a keyboard with me at all times and use it when I need it is the major reason I became a backer of the product. I do enjoy the Bluetooth keyboards made by various companies, but you have to make a decision to carry the product, sometimes give up your Smart Cover and compromise you case usage, keep the keyboard charged, and pair it via Bluetooth to your iPad. The TouchFire is simply a way to enhance the keyboard already found on the iPad and it works well.
When the full retail product is available, hopefully early in 2012, I will provide you with a hands-on review here on ZDNet. In the meantime, take another look at the Kickstarter website and consider supporting the project and getting in line first for your own TouchFire keyboard.