Razer's been toying with the concept of dynamic, adaptive keys for over a year now, unveiling the Switchblade "design concept" in CES 2011 and later bringing the technology to a couple of commercial products -- namely, the Blade laptop and the still unreleased Star Wars: The Old Republic keyboard. But as novel and potentially useful the feature may be, the extra hardware required sure adds up to the total cost of those devices.
Roccat Studios, the German manufacturer of gaming peripherals and accessories, believes the answer lies in a middle of the road solution. Today the company announced a smartphone app dubbed Power-Grid that acts as an extension of your normal keyboard with fully customizable in-game functions and macros.
The free to download Power Grid app is scheduled for release shortly after CeBIT, in beta form and only for iOS devices, but Roccat says an Android version is expected a little later after Gamescom 2012.
The app comes standard with four control displays, or grids, including one customizable and three preloaded with a range of features aimed at keeping users absorbed in the game. The first is called the "Incoming Center" and it essentially routes all outside communication from services like Skype, Facebook, TeamSpeak, Twitter, and others to an at-a-glance display on the gamer's smartphone so they won't need to minimize their game.
The second grid, "Stats Control", lets gamers monitor their PC's vital data including CPU status, RAM usage, hard drive space, network traffic, and more. The third grid is called “Sound Control” and, as the name suggests, it lets gamers tweak their audio settings or fire up the media player. Finally, the fourth and last grid allows you to create a customized set of commands for MMOs or even non-gaming applications.
In addition to the free Power-Grid app, gamers will need to download the Roccat Power-Grid Launcher from roccat.org. This program not only connects smartphone and any PC -- no Roccat peripherals required -- it also features a powerful editor that lets players create additional custom grids and share them with others.
Those interested in trying out the beta can apply here to become a Power-Grid tester.
Towards the end of the year the company plans to release a couple of companion devices aimed at making the whole experience a bit smoother for those who want to make the extra investment.
First up is the Project Phobo keyboard. Featuring a dock for your Power-Grid equipped mobile in place of a numeric keypad, the device will act as an extra control interface for the Power-Grid app, charge the handset while docked and even lets gamers take voice calls with a connected headset. The second peripheral is a USB dock built from their previous Apuri that acts as a stylish stand and charger for your smartphone.