A new KickStarter project launched by engineer Jason Giddings hopes to bring a little piece of Sci-Fi to your desk. Assuming he can raise enough cash (it looks promising), Giddings will begin the production process on a touch-based keyboard and mouse. Both devices are comprised of tempered glass with infrared LEDs mounted on a metal sleek base with a camera to capture your input.
Infrared LEDs are placed along the edge of the glass and when you touch the device, the light is reflected out of the bottom of the panel where it's detected by a camera housed in the metal base. From there, software determines what key you've touched and forwards the entry to your computer. Giddings says he plans to use open source software so people have more control over their devices.
While we're attracted to the novelty of translucent multi-touch peripherals, we're not sure how practical they would be to use during extended productivity sessions. Touch-based keyboards work fine on smartphones, but we imagine it'd be awkward and uncomfortable to rapidly tap on a hard surface with all your fingers for hours at a time. One of the iPad's best-selling accessories is a hardware keyboard.
Beyond the added sensation of tactile keys, it seems their springiness would help reduce the impact on your joints. On the other hand, maybe you'd just learn to type gentler? If I type on the desk surface, I unintentionally use the force required to type on my standard keyboard, but a touch-based interface would require less pressure. Unfortunately , it'd probably be difficult to switch between platforms.
Meanwhile, reviews of current touch mice are mediocre at best, and it seems Giddings' would be sacrificing even more functionality. Devices such as Apple's Magic Mouse or Microsoft's Touch Mouse still have somewhat conventional tracking technology, they just offer touch-based buttons instead of tactile ones. However, Giddings' design is more like a laptop's touchpad -- not my ideal desktop pointer.
Although we're reserving final judgment on the devices, 168 people have supported the venture by donating nearly $41,500 (the project needs $50,000 to get rolling). Some 89 backers have pledged over $350 and three of them have put $1,200 or more on the line. Donating these amounts gets you production units, but you can win a production set by pledging $10 and coming up with a catchy name.