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The I-Tech Virtual Laser Keyboard 125

Posted by kdawson
from the playing-air-keyboard dept.
avtchillsboro writes, "The NY Times has a rather fluffy article (registration required) about stuff you can buy to 'accessorize' your smart phone & or cell phone (so passé!). What caught my eye was the I-Tech Virtual Laser Keyboard. From the vendor's website: 'The Virtual Laser Keyboard (VKB) uses both infrared and laser technology to generate an invisible field and project a full-size virtual QWERTY keyboard on any surface... The I-Tech VKB reacts exactly like a real keyboard. Direction technology based on optical recognition enables the user to tap the images of the keys, complete with realistic tapping sounds(!), which feeds into the compatible PDA, Smartphone, laptop, or PC. Note: The VKB is both PC and Macintosh compatible!'"
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The I-Tech Virtual Laser Keyboard

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  • Old Tech (Score:3, Funny)

    by kthejoker (931838) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @04:26PM (#16268559)
    I booked this to my del.icio.us on February 8, 2005, and it's just now hitting Slashdot front pages? I'm not that far ahead of the curve, I promise.
  • Now just tack on one of these matchbox-sized projectors [audioholics.com] and a fast PDA, and you're set.
  • You can get them... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wampus Aurelius (627669) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @04:35PM (#16268645)
    ...from here [thinkgeek.com].
    • by emilv (847905)
      They've been up on ThinkGeek for eons of time.

      Or is my browser able to look into the future and see upcoming products at ThinkGeek? You never know with this new "Core Duo" mechanism.
    • by VJ42 (860241)
      Isn't ThinkGeek also owned by OTSG (/.s parent company)? Perhaps they should have known about this before, since ThinkGeek has been selling it for ages, thus validating all the people above screaming "dupe".
  • ... the price is still $179.99 in the "Special Summer Sale". I am looking forward to getting one for road warrior use, but it looks as though I will have to wait another couple of years at least.
    • by Darundal (891860)
      Road warrior use with what? When it came out, it was this giant "event" in the PPC world...then a bunch of people who run PPC sites got their hands on one for reviews...bottom line...it sucked.
    • I would say that it's twenty bucks cool, not $179.99 cool.

      Maybe ten. Blow money's a bit tight this paycheck.
  • Slow news day (Score:1, Redundant)

    by tttonyyy (726776)
    As Yoda would say, "If on ebay you can buy it, on slashdot it does not belong".

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item =300031914752 [ebay.com]

    Save the environment, recycle your old slashdot news here!
    • Doesn't sound Yodaish enough. "If on ebay buy it you can, on slashdot belong it does not." Shows how old this is when there's nothing to discuss on it except how Yoda would talk about it :)
  • They suck (Score:5, Informative)

    by dorpus (636554) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @04:45PM (#16268743)
    Laser keyboards have a high rate of false key presses, because your fingers have to pass over other keys, and you can't feel the keys.
    • by Aqua OS X (458522)
      true true.

      It looks cool, but if you think about the thing it's a fairly stupid idea. This keyboard enters data by looking at finger location, not by finger pressure. Among other things that means it may misread resting fingers and misread fingers approaching a target key. It also lacks tactile feedback.

      That thing is about as useful as a steering wheal made out of dreams.
    • by orielbean (936271)
      Also, there is a significant delay to the key=press time on the keyboard, so you really can't get over 25-30 words with this at its best. About the same speed as my thumb keyboard on my Treo 650...
  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @04:52PM (#16268807)
    "Sony anounced today a recall of their ultra high power laser keyboards. After several unfortunate power surges resulted in lost fingers they felt a recall was wise."
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by sowth (748135)
      Oh, come on. Everyone knows Sony wouldn't recall for that. It needs to explode first, then chop off your fingers.
  • Magic Touch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @04:53PM (#16268823) Homepage Journal
    "The I-Tech VKB reacts exactly like a real keyboard."

    One of the reasons I type so much faster than I can talk is that I get so much tactile feedback from the physical keys on the keyboard. My hands know when I've mistyped usually before I can even see the difference on the display. A little lingering feeling in my hands that they've missed the pattern they were expected to type. Despite the simulated clicking sounds to my ear, I expect that I'll make a lot more mistakes on a keyboard which doesn't offer tactile feedback that I've hit a key, complete with a little "throw" through its unique 3D spatial path.

    That kind of feedback is extremely important to using any device. It's why eliminating any grasped tool for purely gestural expression seems doomed inferior to actually touching something. Maybe just a dumb pad that gives just tactile feedback, without needing to deliver any sensory info back to the processor, is plenty to complete the loop. But just tapping my fingers on an unresponsive surface, or one different in shape/texture/response every time, will be much worse than typing on even a tiny crowded keyboard, or maybe even A9 keypad entry.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I dont see the problem here. You can just project onto a real keyboard if you need the tactile feedback.
      • it isn't necessarily as stupid as all that. A mat with tactile pads that fitted the projection would actually be quite sensible for doing a lot of typing. Because there would be no real keys in the mat it could be cheap, roll up or fold up, and would be reliable (no wires.) You could alss leave mats in the office and at home, avoiding the problems of using multiple subtly different keyboards without having to carry one around (I use 5 and it often causes momentary mental block.)

        In fact, this is actually qui

    • by nanojath (265940)
      exactly - there's a reason they call it "touch" typing - I feel like tactile feedback is a huge component of keeping oriented to the positions of the keys without looking at them. I bet using this keyboard requires a lot more visual checking to avoid drifting off center. Although the situation where this matters most - rapid transcription from another text source - is not really what this is for.

      Then again, I'm having a hard time figuring out the real benefit beyond the space age factor. Are you really s
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        I like the idea of freedom to carry just the one little mobile phone device. Since the keypad doesn't need anything but a responsive surface, maybe they can make a micrometer-thin film embossed with keybubbles that stiffly yield to presses. Thin enough to fold back into a tiny volume storeable in the phone. Useable when speed/accuracy are required.

        There's surely some material that's stiff enough to resist deformation anywhere but locally, but flexible enough to compact, while yielding under a few grams fing
    • Most writers prefer PC keyboards to Mac for that reason. I love my Mac but the snap and fell of the PC keyboards is far better so I still try to write on the PC. Also the Mac is too cramped. Okay for modelling and data entry but they do suck for writing. It really shows up after a few hours. I have to admit for all my dislike of Microsoft OSs I like their ketboards. I find them cheap and comfortable and I can usually use one until the print wears off, i have a few in the closet for back up like that.
      • by seinman (463076)
        So why don't you just plug the keyboard you like into the Mac? PS/2 to USB adapters are only about five bucks, if that's the only thing holding you back. I use my awesome tactile feedback keyboard on my Mac thanks to one of these adapters.
      • I love my Mac but the snap and fell of the PC keyboards is far better so I still try to write on the PC.

        So why don't you use a PC keyboard on your Mac?

        I have used PC keyboards exclusively since Apple switched to USB, because that coincidentally is when they introduced teh horrid mushy keyboards they have now. I actually get confused because teh CMD/Apple/Windows key is in the "wrong place" on a Mac keyboard.

        The horrid Apple laptop keyboards are a bigger problem. I have found a decent Bluetooth keyboard by L
    • by technos (73414)
      Tactile feedback isn't required. You'll get used to not having it in no time. I got burned a decade ago, I have reduced sensitivity in my hands as a result. I still 'touch type' just fine, albeit 20wpm slower than before.

      True, I look at the keys once in a while when I first start typing, or I'm transferring a hand from the mouse to the keys, but aside from that, you don't actually require feeling them to type.

      I tend to rely on the sound the keys make when they're depressed as substitute. If I've mistyped so
      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        I appreciate your real insights into this problem. I always appreciate that we're all disabled in various ways when using compromised technology for sensory/manipulation.

        But I wonder whether you're going to be better at giving up tactile feedback than someone like me, who's used to getting it all the time. Not just typing, but always using my hands that way. If I gave up all manual sensation, I'd connect differently to the world. I might not have the focus to compensate with hearing enough for the loss of t
        • by technos (73414)
          But I wonder whether you're going to be better at giving up tactile feedback than someone like me, who's used to getting it all the time. Not just typing, but always using my hands that way. If I gave up all manual sensation, I'd connect differently to the world. I might not have the focus to compensate with hearing enough for the loss of the finger feelings.


          It's really not that big a deal. Once the learning curve has worn off, there is no real focus required. And the way you experence the world is largely
          • by Doc Ruby (173196)
            Thanks for the interesting insights. I think you confirmed the value of the proprioception. Because I learned to "type" on an Atari 400 membrane keyboard, and I know how its little ridges offered shape cues. Not just the pressure of my fingertips for touch, but deflecting/deforming my whole hand a little as I glided around. My hands knew the "map" of the contours. When I used one of them at a collector's home last year, I was able to get right back into speedy typing, by angling my fingers closer to paralle
            • by technos (73414)
              What would be really interesting would be testing this I-Tech keyboard on you, compared to a membrane keyboard. If I had an extra, I'd send it to you :).

              I've actually used one for a short amount of time, and thought about buying one earlier this month. Typing on it was fine.

              Why I didn't boils down to issues completly non-related to the fact I'd have to type on a flat surface. It was physically larger than any portable keyboard I had used in terms of depth, and would not be something I could stick in a back
      • by Cybrex (156654)
        Great point about the audio feedback. I just posted a lengthy comment about my experience with one of these keyboards from this weekend, and wish I'd thought to mention that. You're absolutely right- the click is an enormous help in keeping accuracy up, and it's not so loud as to be obtrusive or annoying.
  • Great, another "feature" I'll have to endure in addition to all the other obnoxious noises idiots have on their phones.
  • From FAQ:
    How do I submit stories to Slashdot?
    Before you submit a story, please take a minute to make sure it's not a duplicate of a story we've posted already. Check the main Slashdot page and make sure it hasn't already been posted. If it's not breaking news, you might also run a search to see if it's something that might have been posted on a previous day. Roughly ten percent of all our story submissions are duplicates of stories we've already posted.

    I wonder that slashdot of all doesn't have some
  • Sit around and bang your fingertips against a hard table or desktop for a few hours and get back with us.
  • http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa092998 .htm [about.com]

    Intel 4004 - The World's First Single Chip Microprocessor . This technology is going to revolutionize the world!!! One day maybe 1 in 25 houses will have a 'computer' .. Most people predict this to be a fad and new greater emerging techologies such as the 8-track will make a much larger impact on our society!

    Fuck Slashdot, get your ass together. I come here to feel special about my dorkdom and now I don't even have that!
  • I typed in slashdot.com but got deja-vu!
  • Don't you get it?!! It's just an advertisement! Old stuff needs new advertisement...
  • Consider what a toll your finger joints would be taking over years of using this device. I'm willing to bet that the cartlidge in your joints would 'handily' be destroyed by hard, inflexible impacts on a desk-like surface over time.
    • Why hard? It would be zero pressure. I guess if you were mad and 'pounding the keys'.

      Other than that, I can't see why there would be any pressure at all. Infact, the sensor probably can be calibrated so you never ever TOUCH the surface, but just glide your fingers over it. "Gesture Typing" basically.

      I'm not sure that's what I'd want, but I don't see myself going to your extreme either.
  • Videos (YouTube) (Score:4, Informative)

    by LionKimbro (200000) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @05:48PM (#16269293) Homepage
    The I-Tech VKB reacts exactly like a real keyboard.

    I hoped so, wished so, but the videos I've seen [techeblog.com] defy this.

    You can see that you have to type slowly, and, it'll miss some keypresses.

    Still, it's really cool, and portable: You don't have to carry a keyboard around with you.
    • So does this mean when one of my coworkers annoys me I can smack them across the back of the head with it and make a satisfying clunk sound ?
    • by pljvp (815748)
      it is coool technology, developed by a company called Canesta.
  • I mean, come ON. Virtual lasers have been around since Space Invaders...
  • I've seen quite a few posts related to this being a dupe.. however, this is really the first I've seen of this type of keyboard in actual existance, other than on a CSI miami episode.

    The episode features a secretary that used one of these keyboards to write a blog about the company without anyone knowing it. When I saw the episode, I was amazed at the writer's inguenuity in thinking up such a good gadget... I thought it was TV Drama. Little did I know that the gadget actually exists.

    I guess the question i
    • by ATMosby (746034)
      It exists. I own one. It has a very high cool factor and a very low practical factor. fun to put it on top of an object with clear space in front of it and type in the air. Add a smoke machine and this thing rocks. I just wish it was possible to remap the keys to different shapes/pictures. AT P.S. I saw the csi miami episode, googled for it, and purchased one before the episode finished.
  • "News for news. Stuff that matters"? Yeah right...

  • If there were some way to shrink this device and integrate it with a umpc, it could be wonderful. I know, I know.. "no tactile feeedbacck!!!" Well, nobody said you had to live your life on a umpc. But such a device would be wonderful for typing in a url quickly (something which is pure hell on a cellphone).
  • Tried one in Terminal 10 at JFK. It's teh suck. It functions as described, however, there is no tactile feedback to tell you that 1) your fingers are in the correct place, and 2) that you have hit a key. The audible feedback is delayed be at least 200msec, and so you're still left guessing if you can type faster than 5 keys per second. Blah.
    • Disclaimer - I've never seen one of these IRL, and I've no idea if they're any good...

      But everyone seems to be missing the point that these aren't remotely *intended* as replacements for full scale desktop keyboards. They are replacements for the nasty little pads you have on your phone or PDA - and from the look of them, I can imagine for some purposes they'd be pretty handy. The problem of course is the price.... as much as your phone again by the look of it...

      • No. The problem is that you have to have a flat surface on which to use it, and by implication, your device has to be resting on that surface as well, because you sure aren't holding it if you're typing with both hands.
  • http://www.nec-design.co.jp/showcase/#pism [nec-design.co.jp]

    Imaging 4 pens in your extra coffee mug, (or pocket protector). One converts to a mini-projector, one to a laser keyboard, one is a wireless NIC, another is a Wireless USB drive?

    Anyway...it seems a cool use for this technology, even if it's just a concept.

    I swear there was a page with more details about the function of each pen, but the link above is the best I could find.
  • by soleblaze (628864) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @08:32PM (#16270697)
    I got one of these a few months ago, figuring i'd be able to use it to type faster than I would with the hand writing recognition/on screen keyboard of my lifedrive. Turns out I make enough mistakes, and need to go slow enough with it that the handwriting recognition is faster on it. The On Screne Keyboard is probably the fastest method of inputting (provided you don't have to use symbols and such). I've been meaning to put mine on ebay for the last months, but i'm a lazy bastard.
  • other layouts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gumbi west (610122) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @09:13PM (#16271105) Journal
    Does anybody know if these are offered in either split (aka natural) formats or alternative layouts (i.e. Dvorak). There is no reason not to except to keep overhead low.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Doppler00 (534739)
      Nope, I e-mailed the company one time asking about alternative layouts for lanugages and Dvorak, and they said the usual "we have no plans at this time..." excuse. From what I read, the product probably isn't very useful for someone who's a touch-typist anyway.
    • I raised that issue in this discussion [slashdot.org] recently, and someone replied that the keyboard is projected from a kind of transparency, it's not dynamically generated. So I guess they could, but I imagine you'd have to either pre-order a bunch (say at least half of a production run) or otherwise be able to assure them that they'd be able to recoup the investment. I imagine that Dvorak wouldn't be too hard, you should be able to use an existing driver and just change the keyboard picture you project. Split might
  • Hell! Now combine that with an LED beamer and a PDA in the size of a credit card and you've got THE DEFINITE mobile phone that allows you to browse the net, write emails, make video phone calls...
  • by TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) on Sunday October 01, 2006 @10:09PM (#16271587)
    Old news, yeah, but with the concern hospitals have over a) using technology to reduce doctor errors and efficiency and b) maintaining a clean environment where, frankly, no pda or keyboard or tactile interface is yet clean in the slighest (disposable sleeves for pda, maybe, but stil..

    I'd say the neatest thing is in hospitals where a bit of disinfectant on smooth surface is all it takes to keep transmission of shared consoles down - hey, even sliding paper rolls for the purpose. Any way just thought 'gee that's appicable'..

  • these are so old there are on special in some parts of OZ at a lot less than US$179. I like the idea for about 10 seconds then thought about how painful it would be to type with your fingers hitting a tabletop or something. To be fair, the did actually make it into production, unlike so many other 'breakthrough' gadgets.
  • Dupe or no dupe, the timing of this article is great for me, as a buddy of mine got one last week and I got an opportunity to play around with it extensively over the weekend.

    First, to the folks who are saying "It's teh suck compared to a full-sized keyboard 'cuz you don't get tactile feedback", thanks for the brilliant insight.

    This isn't designed to compete with a full-sized keyboard except perhaps in geeky coolness. It's designed as an alternative to typing on the tiny keyboards built into PDAs or using t
    • by Phroggy (441) *
      I need to find out if the layout works with the Mac's Command key, which normally maps to the Windows key on PC keyboards. The virtual keyboard doesn't include a Windows key, but if I can work around that I'm definitely getting one.

      System Preferences -> Keyboard and Mouse -> Keyboard -> Modifier Keys

      You can remap the Command, Option, Control, and Caps Lock keys as needed.
      • by Cybrex (156654)
        The problem is that I use ctrl, option, and cmd all the time, so losing any one of them would be a potential deal-breaker, and that doesn't leave many other valid options for remapping (I couldn't do without the 't' key, for example, though I probably could make due without caps lock).

        The virtual keyboard does have a function key, but as it's used to send some commands to the device itself I don't know if it'd let me use it (for example) in place of the command key. That's actually what I'm hoping for.
        • by Phroggy (441) *
          Ah, I see what you're saying - this keyboard has Ctrl and Alt, but has no Windows key, so there's nothing to map to the Mac's Command key. Yeah, it sounds like mapping Caps Lock to something is probably your best option. Maybe map Alt to Command and Caps Lock to Option? Or if you're an old-school UNIX nerd, map Caps Lock to Ctrl, and map Ctrl and Alt to Opt and Cmd respectively.
  • These stereo headphones connect to any Bluetooth phone and stream music wirelessly from the phone's memory or from any MP3 player. In fact, many new phones can send stereo music to Bluetooth headphones, a feat impossible until earlier this year. This technology, called A2DP, is available in the Pearl.

    The NYT writer didn't actually try the stuff he's 'advertising'. You can't listen to your tunes over bluetooth on the Pearl. I have one, and I tried. It supports A2DP but not the correct profile or something,

  • I've been wondering when someone will create a device which requires no input surface (either voice, or something like this) with something that projects its output as well (presumably something such as this could be made to do it). At that point, there is no particular limitation to how small the device itself can actually get. My Palm would be much more convenient to carry around if it were, say, the size of my watch.
  • Siemens showed a similar device on CeBit 2002 or something.
  • by gungh0 (1005895)
    "Lets all move to California & start using slow modems"
  • TFA: "uses both infrared and laser technology to generate an invisible field and project a full-size virtual QWERTY keyboard".

    An "invisible field? Well, I suppose that lasers, being light, are actually an electromagnetic field, but otherwise this is just trying to make it sound all Star-Trekky (or perhaps, Doctor-Evilish), complete with technobabble.

    And looking at their site [virtual-la...yboard.com], there are some more gems:

    "An infra-red plane of light is generated just above, and parallel to, the interface surface. This ligh

  • It would be worth it if it would keep the laptop running for at least 48 hours. If it were a detachable unit and provided 12 volts hell there's a lot that could be done with it.

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