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Backed to Business: New typing options as travel returns

As one writing text entry option adds a screen, another adds the signature of one of the 20th Century's literary giants as a third slims down a folding option.
Written by Ross Rubin, Contributor

Even after a year in which the idea of touching a device could trigger pandemic anxiety, the keyboard remains the go-to tool for text entry. Crowdfunded devices, and updates to them, offer new takes on the pressing issues when keyboarding on the go. 

As always, remember that crowdfunding campaigns entail the risk that the creators may not be able to fulfill deliverables. Pledge only what you can afford to lose.

Crowdfunding platforms have proven fertile ground for a host of both retro device designs and mechanical keyboards, and the Fichip Multifunctional Keyboard with 12.6" display straddles both. Available in versions that include scissor switches and a full keypad or with a choice of Gateron mechanical switches, both versions are topped by a full-color touch screen that can work with both PCs as a second display or smartphones via USB-C. 

In this sense, it's a bit like several laptop docks for phones that can also act as second displays for laptops, but flattened into a larger, thinner, and more colorful version of the TRS-80 Model 100. Unlike that pioneering portable, it lacks any internal software or a battery, and even the smaller mechanical version is a lot to manage on a lap. However, like that product, it won't break the bank, and still has configurations available for less than $300. The Kickstarter project has raised nearly $300,000 and is expected to ship in August.

A Kickstarter campaign helped to resurrect the idea of the folding keyboard. But, just as with a folding phone, the device thickness doubles when it's in its folded state. Microsoft sought to address this with two 5mm screens on the Surface Duo, and now Mipow USA (not to be confused with Mpow, another accessory brand recently banned from Amazon) is seeking to one-up that with the 3.5 mm Slim-Fold keyboard.

The keyboard is available in a black or Fisher-Price-like multi-color scheme and rests handsomely on your desk or forehead. Its 65 circular keys include a row for numbers and can be used with all popular operating systems; MiPow claims it can resist spills. With structural integrity being a potential issue with such a thin device, the keyboard comes with a protective case that folds out into a stand that is apparently sturdy enough to support an iPad in landscape mode. The Kickstarter project has raised nearly $50,000 and is expected to ship in August.

Astrohaus' Freewrite, a mashup of an e-ink display and mechanical keyboard geared toward rapid, distraction-free text generation, began as a crowdfunded digital take on the essence of the typewriter strongly identified with generations of writers. The team, in fact, was so inspired by one of them that the original name of the product was Hemingwrite, a name it had to abandon before releasing the device and its clamshell successor.

However, relations with the Hemingway estate have apparently improved, resulting in the Freewrite Hemingway Edition. The limited-edition ups the distinctive design of the original by making over its body in brushed aluminum and adding Papa's signature as a design element. It also comes with a custom attaché case, all of which bumps the price of the homage up to $899, a $300 jump from the second-edition Freewrite. 

Fans of Hemingway's economical prose willing to splurge a bit can order the now-authorized Hemingwrite at Astrohaus' website.


Backed to Business: Watching birds and tracking the rat race
As humans begin returning to offices, a pair of pet tech products let you keep tabs on animals beyond cats and dogs.

Backed to Business: When gadgets accept a gesture
Earbuds that understand your nods, a mouse controller you can wear, and a keyboard that has the trackpad under the keys are among the gesture-aware devices that have made the crowdfunding rounds.  

Backed to business: Crypto wallets, smart desks, and wireless modems
One campaign makes the case for a desk that connects to the internet, while another argues for a crypto wallet that doesn't.  

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