E-ink at your fingertips: The future keyboard?

E-ink at your fingertips: The future keyboard?

Summary: Of the myriad hardware ideas I see floated every day, this is one that I would like see transformed into reality.

TOPICS: Hardware

As someone who spends a lot of time in front of a keyboard, I dream about owning the perfect keyboard. Alas, despite going through dozens of different products, the perfect keyboard is just as elusive as it ever was.

The problem with keyboards is that they've not changed much during the decades that we've been using them. Yes, they've become somewhat more responsive, require less pressure and finger travel to activate, and many are absolutely in love with the whole backlit design. But, apart from that they keyboard of today is not that dissimilar to a keyboard from the 70s.

Well, I have seen the future, and it looks good.

Say hello to the E-inkey keyboard.

(Credit: Yanko Design)

On the face of it the keyboard looks a lot like an Apple Bluetooth keyboard, but each of the keys has an e-paper element, which means that the keyboard can take on different layouts or configurations.

They keyboard can even be customized for keyboard shortcut-intensive applications such as Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office. This would be a huge productivity booster for those who find themselves tied to the keyboard.

(Credit: Yanko Design)

There have been other keyboards that make use of this design in the past—probably the most popular was the Optimus Maximus by Art Lebdev Studio, which used expensive OLED technology for the keys—but none of these ever made it into the mainstream market. The e-ink technology utilized in the E-inkey design would dramatically reduce the cost of the hardware.

The only problem with the E-inkey keyboard is that it is currently only a concept, and exists only in the mind of the designers, Maxim Mezentsev and Aleksander Suhih.

Of the myriad hardware ideas I see floated every day, this is one that I would like see transformed into reality.

Topic: Hardware

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  • Nice...

    although I feel keyboards have degraded a lot over the years. Most of the "normal" keyboards today are laptop derivative membrane junk keyboards.

    I like a proper amount of travel and a decent amount of double de-bounce.

    That said, the e-ink idea, attached to a keyboard using Cherry switches might be good.
    • The E-ink idea is pretty cool.

      That said, the reason keyboards haven't changed much in the last 40 years is because humans still have hands and fingers, and their hands and fingers haven't evolved much in those 40 years. Strange, huh.
      • Think: calculators

        You might be thinking of standard computer keyboards, but I'm thinking of calculator keypads. These HAVE changed (evolved?) over the years.
        The HP keypads in particular have multiple functions, selected via the appropriately colored function key. If there are (say) 3 functions on a key, the main one would be in a larger font. When a function key is pressed, the new "active" function or icon becomes the largest one on the key.
        While a standard keyboard having its letters change (caps lock, greek, thai etc) would be nice, changing the main function on a calculator key would be... great. Oh, and color would be nice, too.
  • E-ink at your fingertips: The future keyboard?

    Me too. I would love to see this idea become a real product. I'd throw a few bucks at a kickstarter project for this.
    • I'd love for you to as well.

      Which will be funny, since it CLEARLY is a Mac keyboard.
      • It is?

        A keyboard that hasn't been invented yet is clearly a Mac keyboard. Wow!
        • Just for the record

          It apparently has been invented. It just doesn't yet sell. At least in the US :-)
        • Yes, as the command key next to the space bar makes clear

      • Not MAC only

        The beauty of this keyboard is that it could be Mac AND PC. No longer is the Windows key etched into the surface. And the keyboard could even change from QWERTY to AZERTY depending on the input language of the logged in user. Now THAT's a user friendly keyboard.
  • I would buy one

    An method of changing key labels is inevitable.
  • Hardly that much of a productivity improvement.

    It requires the user to look at the keyboard before selecting a new function. Hardly a productivity enhancement. A power user would be better served memorizing keystroke shortcuts for his power application. It would seem only a niche product.
    Mike Marquis
    • Power users are the niche users

      First, not every one is a power user, in fact, few are. Are you claiming that enhancing the productivity of non-power users is does not actually count as enhancing productivity?
      And of the power users, few are fully conversant with ALL possible keystroke shortcuts within one application, let alone several at once. Your point smacks more of pretension than truth.
  • Hey you kids, get off my lawn!

    First let me say I think this is very cool technology.

    That being said, I weep for the future of the keyboard. It has pretty much been downhill since the release of arguably the best computer keyboard ever, the Northgate OmniKey. Other than the love it/hate it split keyboards, the general quality of the keyboard has gone down every year since.

    The adaptation of notebook style keyboards to the desktop is just the latest fail. I've even had users tell me they "prefer" this. UGH! Really?

    I figure the final step will be the elimination of keys all together and we will just be typing on a flat slate, because "Thats what people are use to." Thanks Apple.

    (Sorry, I need a tissue... )
    • WTH does Apple have to do with this?!?

      • Slow down and

        Read it again. The "Thanks Apple" only applies to the last paragraph. It was meant to be both a tongue and cheek jab, and a statement of the popularity of Apples iPhone/iPad products. "typing on a flat slate..."
  • One significant flaw

    One problem with the current design is the lack of any method of top illumination (since backlighting will be next to impossible with an e-ink top surface). Some consideration should be put into incorporating a side-illuminating LED below the clear top layer but above the e-ink sheet, to make the key caps visible in low light.
  • You get PAID for this?

    Wow, sign me up! Imagine having to only spend 5-8 minutes talking about something that might, or might not, ever be real and getting PAID for it! Wow, what a gig!

    Wonder if you'll ever try and tackle a REAL story.... probably not.
  • Gamers might be interested.

    I dunno if it will ever be mainstream, but I do see it carving a niche in the gaming market, where custom keyboards are often valued.