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Input Devices Apple

An iPad Keyboard You Can Type On and Swipe Through 93

Posted by timothy
from the better-mousetrap-of-silicone dept.
TechCrunch features an article (the first of three, actually) outlining the development of a clever hardware keyboard for the iPad. It's hard to write about Kickstarter projects, because there are so many cool ideas that seem to deserve funding it's simply overwhelming. The TouchFire keyboard is one of those cool ideas, too, but it's far surpassed the founders' original funding goals and is nearing production. The TouchFire isn't wired, but it isn't wireless, either, in the conventional sense, because it provides no signal of its own: it's a transparent overlay that provides a tactile interface to the iPad's on-screen keyboard, and — the tricky part — is thin enough to actually swipe through when you're not using it for text-entry. The keyboard takes advantage of the iPad 2's built-in magnets for stability, though it works with the original iPad, too. (Hopefully an Android version will come soon, but the variety of screen resolutions and on-screen keyboard shapes makes that harder.) I talked with co-creator Steve Isaac (it's his account at TechCrunch, too) a few weeks back, and he said that the hardest part of the development work has been producing the complex mold shapes that form each collapsible key. The resulting tablet-with-keyboard reminds me superficially, and pleasantly, of the TRS-80 Model 100. (The Tandy actually had much better battery life than an iPad, but could do far less. It also weighed 3.1 pounds and cost more than a thousand dollars in 1983, which means nearly $2400 today; such is progress.) Prototypes are tight (and I don't have an iPad), but I hope to give an in-person report on the TouchFire soon.
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An iPad Keyboard You Can Type On and Swipe Through

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I know tablets are popular, but I don't have one yet because I type faster on real keyboards.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I know tablets are popular, but I don't have one yet because I type faster on real keyboards.

      What sucks even more is that back in 2009, it looked like Netbooks were going to take over. 2 years later, almost all Netbooks are exactly the same as they were back then. No innovation, no competition. The Netbook market died with the introduction of the iPad, even though netbooks are clearly more useful portable computers for people who need to type.

      Now we are stuck with these stupid pad computers and these stupid silicone rubber hacks to substitute a keyboard, and we have to download all of our software

      • 2 years later, almost all Netbooks are exactly the same as they were back then.

        Couldn't it simply be, that netbooks already do the job people want them to do, so the don't need to change?

        What would you change about your netbook exactly, and why?

  • This looks to be... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gweilo8888 (921799) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @12:08PM (#38280682)
    ...an inelegant solution to a problem that doesn't exist. I can already type very fast on my on-screen keyboard without the need for silly tactile gadgets, and haptic feedback exists for the folks who aren't able to do so.

    I just don't see the need for a device that covers half the screen, making it hard to see or read what's beneath; I might as well leave the on-screen keyboard up all the time and lose half of my screen real-estate. Also I don't care what the article says, I do not believe that swipe entry will be as usable through this layer. Nor will it work if I rotate my screen.
    • by Shivetya (243324) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @12:16PM (#38280786) Homepage Journal

      and in between those uses its easy to move away. If it makes typing on my iPad easier then its worth it. The problem I faced was having a BT keyboard to make using the device for input easier.

      Considering the size this is far better solution if it truly does mitigate the issue some have with typing. Yes, I am a "backer". I have bought a few items from the Kickstarter groups, more aimed towards whimsical than this.

      Still haven't figured out if all those that do get funding actually pay themselves a decent rate for their hours. For some projects it really seems that they skip over that part.

    • Haptic feedback (vibrating) isn't the same as key punch and return.

      Anecdotally, this keyboard isn't a solution for me anyway, as it is too similar to the Apple keyboards (more than likely by design). The separation between the keys is too much for me, as I find myself brushing the neighbouring keys when typing on keyboards to improve accuracy. I can't do this on newer Apple devices. I should probably learn to type properly, but this way seems to offer accuracy, speed, and comfort at reasonable levels.
      • I can see where you're coming from, I have similar issue, but my problem is more with fat fingers than anything else.
    • by Junta (36770) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @12:53PM (#38281376)

      I can already type very fast on my on-screen keyboard without the need for silly tactile gadgets, and haptic feedback exists for the folks who aren't able to do so.

      I wonder how "very fast" you type and how that rates relative to others. Whether it be that you have superhuman abilities to type faster without this sort of capability or you deem your speed to be 'fast enough', either way there are portions of the population that do either do not have your ability or are not satisfied as easily.

      For one, I need the tactile feedback because the feedback enables me to move with more confidence. Haptic feedback is little more than a gimmick, I need to feel the different keys. Also, I let my unused fingers largely rest on the keys. I can't touch-type on a touchscreen because my stray fingers are constantly triggering stray keypresses.

      I'm still not crazy about this even if it works as designed. Changing between text entry and non-text entry become a bit more cumbersome and it's a switch I make constantly. Laptops continue to be my favored strategy for this and a number of reasons, but the problems they are trying to address are an issue for a lot of people.

    • I don't think they even need the "entire keyboard repeated in physical form" at all. I imagine typists would only need a thin strip that flips onto the home row to give an initial grounding to the iPad's key spacing. You could probably get away with just flip-on "nipples" for the F and J keys.

  • Swiping (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fnord666 (889225) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @12:11PM (#38280714) Journal
    From FTS:

    the tricky part â" is thin enough to actually swipe through when you're not using it for text-entry.

    From TFA:

    TouchFire is soft and supple if you swipe through it horizontally, so you can easily select the special characters on the keyboard.

    I didn't read anything about swiping when you were not using the keyboard for text entry.

    • by Junta (36770)

      From the video, it looks like they are just saying the keyboard can slide around a bit, but you'd not want to do that for anything other than very light use. It looked pretty clumsy to get to those special keys when they showed someone typing...

  • OK (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arcite (661011) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @12:11PM (#38280722)
    This is one of those add-ons that on the surface seems clever and useful, until you realize that it would be more of a hassle to use when you need it than if you didn't have it in the first place. Disregarding the fact that putting this on your iPad completely ruins the aesthetic (really? We want our iPad to look like a Tandy?), one would be pulling the keyboard on and off every minute or so. This annoyance is compounded by the fact that the iPad interface is not built around a physical keyboard. So you use this to write a simple email, then you have to rip it off when the screen changes.oh thats annoying. Crapgadget.
  • Buy a netbook (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    It amazes me how much crap people will tack on to justify buying a tablet. iPad 2 STARTS at $499, plus all these accessories, and what you've really built yourself is a shitty netbook at twice the price...

    • Re:Buy a netbook (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @12:20PM (#38280828)

      I don't have one because I don't see the point. If I'm home I use the desktop which is more powerful, has better screen, better input and better software. If I'm out of home I use the notebook. If I want to check something quickly, smartphone. Tablets are too small to use at home and too big to be carried on your pocket. You get worse screen, less software and worse input methods for almost the same size as a much better netbook.
      It could have some use to let it lying on the sofa to check some internet while watching TV I guess but that doesn’t justify that price tag. Tablets are mostly pointless and there are very few people that have real uses for them, I just wonder why everybody is trying to convince us that tablets are good. Marketing does work I guess.

      • by sco08y (615665)

        I don't have one because I don't see the point. If I'm home I use the desktop which is more powerful, has better screen, better input and better software. If I'm out of home I use the notebook. If I want to check something quickly, smartphone. Tablets are too small to use at home and too big to be carried on your pocket. You get worse screen, less software and worse input methods for almost the same size as a much better netbook.
        It could have some use to let it lying on the sofa to check some internet while watching TV I guess but that doesn’t justify that price tag. Tablets are mostly pointless and there are very few people that have real uses for them, I just wonder why everybody is trying to convince us that tablets are good. Marketing does work I guess.

        I don't carry a laptop or netbook any more as the iPad is enough to get stuff done. Once you have a Dropbox enabled text editor, a few cron jobs and Jenkins to handle builds, you can do development on the shitter, or anywhere you can get cell reception. All my organizers are cloudy, too, so I can figure out what I want to do, glom together mockups in OmniGraffle, etc, on the iPad.

    • Re:Buy a netbook (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nomadic (141991) <.nomadicworld. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @12:41PM (#38281100) Homepage
      Ehhh, I am anti-Apple and do not have an ipad myself, but it's a fairly slick piece of hardware and I see plenty of people using it extensively in places they wouldn't use a netbook.
    • by Petersko (564140) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @12:46PM (#38281206)
      You and I will walk down the street. You have your netbook, I'll have an iPad. Then we'll time who can check their stocks and email, or pull up the local map for directions the quickest. Perhaps we'll watch some videos. Heck, perhaps we'll sit side by side on the couch instead of walking down the street. You can put the netbook on your lap and see how much fun that is.

      Of course there's little or no hope of the netbook actually competing because it's not a mobile device. It's a stationary one that is light enough to carry from one fixed location to another, and there's a huge difference.

      I swear you netbook-fixated iPad haters just don't have a clue what a tablet is about, and you're just so intent on not learning. It's the worst kind of ignorance - defiant and purposeful.

      Since I bought my iPad my Asus netbook has languished on the shelf. The only time I use it is when I have to do extensive note-taking. I'm getting pretty good at using the iPad keyboard, so I just might sell the netbook.
      • You and I will walk down the street. You have your netbook, I'll have an iPad. Then we'll time who can check their stocks and email, or pull up the local map for directions the quickest. Perhaps we'll watch some videos.

        And I'm driving my 3/4 ton pickup. You're both toast.

        • by BluBrick (1924)

          You and I will walk down the street. You have your netbook, I'll have an iPad. Then we'll time who can check their stocks and email, or pull up the local map for directions the quickest. Perhaps we'll watch some videos.

          And I'm driving my 3/4 ton pickup. You're both toast.

          Not both. Only the numbnut who isn't paying attention to the world around him, and thinks he doesn't need to watch where he's going because he has an important stock to check, email to reply to, tweet to read, or Farmville update to post.

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by ThePeices (635180)

        LOL, you fanbois are so funny.

        So you are telling me that everybody who "hates" iPads have a fixation on netbooks and hate the tablet formfactor.

        Silly Troll! You base your weak fanboism on false assumptions.

        There are other tablets than the iPad, it is not the only one ( sorry to break your bubble dude )
        I wouldnt buy an iPad because I dont think its worth the cost for what it can ( and cannot ) do. The fact its an Apple device, with all its attendant vendor control and lockin, is not the sole reason I wouldnt

        • EAASL (Score:2, Informative)

          by Petersko (564140)
          Me (English): "I swear you netbook-fixated iPad haters just don't have a clue what a tablet is about..."

          You (English as a second language): "So you are telling me that everybody who "hates" iPads have a fixation on netbooks and hate the tablet formfactor."

          No. I was specifically addressing that subset of iPad haters that are netbook-fixated, and placing the original poster in that group.
  • by ettusyphax (1155197) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @12:22PM (#38280850)
    I love how people buy all these hundreds of dollars worth in accessories for their iPad (or what have you) - tactile keyboard, cover jacket that doubles as a stand, extra speakers, a dock for the desktop and a jacket for extra battery life, etc etc. When they probably could have spent less than half that and just got a laptop if that's really what they wanted to begin with. But no, let me just buy into the hype and get an iPad that I have no real use for (not saying there aren't uses) then duct tape stuff onto it until it becomes usable. Ever since the first iPad came out people have been trying to turn tablets into laptops. I'd suggest if they care that much they should get an ASUS Transformer or similar, or hmm, maybe a laptop?

    Also please note I'm not putting down tablets, they're very cool, I have the aforementioned ASUS offering and love it. But I also have a laptop, and I imagine many of these folks do as well if they can afford to throw away cash on pretty toys. Even business users would probably be better served by a Fujitsu or Lenovo convertible. Oh well.
    • by Jaktar (975138)

      You're forgetting that we can't invent poor solutions to our problems with we don't continue to reinvent new problems to solutionize.

    • I got a folding pleather case for my iPad 1 on clearance for $5. It functions as a stand, too. Bluetooth keyboards aren't hard to find on clearance, either, but I happened to get one of the Apple ones from work when they rolled out Macs with better USB keyboards.

      A spare battery hasn't been necessary, even when traveling & watching movies the battery really lasts. I don't charge it more than once every couple of days and it gets used quite a bit.

      Outside of that, I haven't found much of a need for anyt

    • They buy it because it is a shiny new toy and they want it. They have no reason for it, they just want it. However rather than just admit and accept that they want a toy, they then have to try and justify it by attempting to make it useful. So they turn it in to a laptop.

      That is why I don't own a tablet: I have a laptop and smartphone and I cannot think of a single thing I would use a tablet for that I wouldn't rather use one of those for. I'm not saying I can't think of any use, just not any use for me.

      • I use it for doing email or reading (webpages or books) while I'm on my couch or anywhere that's not my desk. I'll also use it at my desk to do a web search or respond to emails, if I'm doing something else at the same time on my computer. It is excellent for watching movies (the battery life is amazing, much better than any laptop) or playing games, navigating, going on Facebook, or any number of other things. As long as I'm not working, the iPad is where it's at. And even when I am working, it helps out.

      • While I admit this keyboard is a little cliche, I hardly think your right on the whole shiny new toy idea. I use my iPad all of the time, and it's not a shiny new toy. Not anymore than a 50" flat-screen television was a shiny new toy compared to a 50 inch rear-projection television. I use a laptop at home when I want to do heavy computing. (virtualization, etc) However, it weights 4 lbs, and takes a minute or two to boot. Battery life is only 5-6 hours, as well. my iPad2 weighs 1.25 lbs, about the sh

      • by jaysones (138378)
        So your position is "the 30 million iPad buyers are rich idiots because I can't imagine needs beyond my own."
    • Our iPad 1 at home is rarely put down. We use it for practically everything, without accessories. Your mileage may vary.
    • by timster (32400)

      There are a lot of iPad accessory options out there but they don't turn the device into a laptop, or into something like a laptop. Even if someone uses a keyboard to write emails once in a while they don't likely use the keyboard for Web surfing, reading maps, or for any of the many other tasks to which a tablet is better suited than a laptop. Also I think you are severely overestimating how popular these accessories are compared to the iPad itself. Frankly it's nice that the iPad is flexible enough to acco

  • I miss the Tandy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @12:34PM (#38281018)

    The 100 was a portable writing tool that has yet to be equaled. It was the mechanics of the thing. Typing on one was a joy. Add to that the perfect instant-on and the ruggedness and it's no wonder that many writers held onto them long, long after they were obsolete. Some people still use and love them. I have one and only the lack of easy data transfer to other devices or the network prevents me from using it as my primary writing hardware.

    I would happily pay the price of an iPad for a new 100 that ran just enough linux for me to get into vi. I'd happily accept the 8-line monochrome lcd. The only required bit of modernity would be a couple of current ports. For a huge upgrade, give it the Enable software suite, a wonderful office suite that did 99% of everything that most users need, all accessed via an arrow-to-do-everything interface that was fast, fast, fast. (Oh, wait, Enable was bought and killed off by..who was it?)

    If this screen overlay thingie is anywhere close to producing a modern version of the 100, I'll buy one and predict surprisingly brisk sales. Somehow, I doubt that's how things will work out.

    • YES. I was just this weekend sitting on my back porch wishing I had something like an old Tandy so that I could type out some ideas. It would be great if a low-cost, reliable device were available. And I don't mean those Dayna things. I was really hoping the OLPC would provide something. Then that ugly thing showed up. And then the netbooks feature-crept out of my price range. Oh well. Problem is that the single-use device is nice, but even I won't buy it, especially with a cart full of poop monkeys need di
    • This. An updated 100, call it a Model 1000. The same keyboard (perhaps a little quieter - I don't have any of those little rubber bands they use on braces anymore). Maybe a bit more screen and of course modern communications gear. Use AA's. It can be about the same size, perhaps a little thinner but not much.

      Use if for text. Text. Text. Not everything else on the planet.

      Of course, it would never fly - there would be too much pressure to make it another iPad / netbook and they would ruin the utilit

      • by eobanb (823187)

        Perhaps you should try building one with a Raspberry Pi (once they're released)? A credit card-sized 700 MHz ARMv6 board with SD storage, USB, and it can run off a pair of AA's. You could connect a small cheap 128x64 monochrome LCD like this one from Sparkfun [amazon.com] to the GPIO, hook up a keyboard, and run a minimal Debian distribution.

        $25 for the Raspberry Pi, $40 or so for the LCD, $10 for the keyboard; throw another $25 in to order a 3D-printed plastic case, use an old 1 GB SD card....total cost would be aroun

        • by eobanb (823187)

          Addendum: with an Arduino you could do it even cheaper and you could build it this weekend, although it would involve more DIY software dev and result in less overall capability (with a Raspberry Pi and a tiny USB wifi module you could read RSS feeds or email, etc).

          Arduino would be about $20; Longtech makes a cheap 128x64 LCD [amazon.com] for $17, keyboard would be $10, and if you fabbed the case yourself for free, total cost would be about $50.

    • by gatzke (2977)

      I sadly never had one, but I still dream about getting that or something similar.

      For me, keypress depth is very important for touch typing. For some reason, I can't get into the crap apple type barely any depth for desktop keyboards. And not a single laptop other than the 100 had a "full depth" keyboard.

      Maybe there exists a decent bluetooth keyboard for use with a tablet? I have not seen them, they are usually low profile.

    • The Alphasmart Neo [neo-direct.com] is almost what you want. It's instant on and rugged, has a nice keyboard and a USB out, and you get hundreds and hundreds of hours of use from three AA batteries. It only has five lines of monochrome on the display, and it has its own locked-in OS, and in the netbook era it's a bit difficult to justify $170 on something so limited. But it's a great machine for cranking out text.
    • I had the Japanese equivilent, the NEC 8201. It was my first computer, bought with my summer job money when I was in high school. I took that with me everywhere, typing in programs from monthly Japanese computer magazines (learning programming and how to read Japanese at the same time).

      I still have my 8201, but it doesn't boot up any more. I wish I understood hardware, because I'd really like to let my kids get a feel for what computing was like 28 years ago.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It looks like someone used a keyboard outline and made some finger jello.

    Everyone has to remember the iPad was created to Consume Media not make it. So why do you need a keyboard? You want your 500$ device do more than what it was designed to do? You should have gotten a real computer that does that already.

    Go a head and mod me. The truth hurts, doesn't it?

    • You sound like some old guy who's seeing something changed and bitching about it...

      Truth hurts, don't it?

  • by dingen (958134)
    I sticky piece of rubber wont make me buy a tablet either.
    • I don't think the goal is to make you use a tablet, I think the goal is more to help those that do.

  • Did I miss the part where this is non-profit or a charity? Why are people donating money to someones business plan?
    • by Yadyn (1374599)

      Because they want to see this product/vision brought to market with an actual purchasable thing?

      Traditionally, start-up funding would be by wealthy entrepreneurs, investors/venture capitalists, or maybe just the founders running up credit cards and loans at their bank. This way, they have a vehicle for funding new ideas to make them real. Sounds good to me, especially because it's completely self-contained to the people who directly choose to involve themselves.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Almost nobody is "donating" money (there's only 63 people who have). Almost everybody is essentially pre-ordering the product. The idea is, I have a product I want to sell but I don't have the money to make it. I offer it for preorder on kickstarter. People pledge to buy it. If enough people make the pledge for me to raise the necessary money, then all of those people will have their credit cards charged by kickstarter, I'll receive a check from kickstarter for the amount raised, I can make my product, and

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BnLbv6QYcA [youtube.com]

    Why bother trying to re-invent the wheel?

  • The Tandy actually had much better battery life than an iPad, but could do far less.

    In what possible way could a 30 year old computer with an 80C85 processor and 32 Kilobits of RAM and an 240x64 non-backlit LCD display be a meaningful comparison to any modern computer? Of course it needed less power. That's like comparing a Model T to a Bugatti Veyron.

    • Philistine. Some of us have memories. Motor memories of good keyboards. Computers and keyboards that were sturdy enough to use as defensive weapons. Batteries available anywhere.

      No touchy-feely screens. No hieroglyphic icons.

      And we liked it like that.

  • News For Timothy, Stuff That Matters (To Timothy)

    • by Jeng (926980)

      Don't like his stories? Then exclude his submissions.

      I figure if enough people block a useless editor then we might be able to force him out.

      Either that or they keep score. "Woohoo! I just passed Timothy for most accounts excluding my submissions!"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    With this you can touch type while holding your tablet? They should research their target market audience's appendages better.

  • by RobinEggs (1453925) on Tuesday December 06, 2011 @12:48PM (#38281260)

    It's hard to write about Kickstarter projects, because there are so many cool ideas that seem to deserve funding it's simply overwhelming. The TouchFire keyboard is one of those cool ideas, too, but it's far surpassed the founders' original funding goals and is nearing production.

    I've been very interested in a kickstarter project for the last six months, one I didn't know about until the deadline passed.. It reached almost 300% of it's funding level, started production, and...nothing.

    They have an official website, and it never seemed to change. It was always "Sign up for the mailing list; we'll let you know when we've completed the kickstarter orders and can take orders from the public!" I had no idea when and if they were ever actually going to put out a product I could buy; I've already bought a conventional model in that time.

    I finally noticed today that they were updating their kickstarter page; they've been posting their progress in detail and expect to take public orders next month. I just wasn't looking there because I didn't get in on the kickstart and did I mention they have an official website?

    Sometimes kickstarter is awesome; sometimes it's an intolerable pain in the ass to be someone's guinea pig in the transition from garage engineer to functional company.

  • vertisement.

    A particularly shitty one, too.

  • That sound, it's not thunder, or a train. That's Steve rolling around in his grave. If he wanted the device to have a keyboard he would have included it at some point in the design. But he really wanted to eliminate all the other "accessory" pieces on computers. I highly doubt he would appreciate a former MS guy mucking with that. That being said, will I get one? Yes I probably would because I can appreciate a novel idea to a slightly bothersome issue. But the price point has to be pretty low. I wouldn't s
  • It's an interesting thought, but I would be concerned that the OS may get a revision and move the key placements slightly and screw it all up.

  • It's surprising that everybody running around claiming the "death of the computer" are working so hard to make their *pads into virtual laptops. Of course, as common sense would suggest, using "tablets" for reading and typing is pretty difficult. Hence, all of the products that hold the tablets in a position like a laptop, with keyboards in front of the screen (like a laptop). For the same price as one of the gadgets (without the accessories), I'm using a full fledged 17" laptop with an i5, 6 GB RAM, and
    • by hrvatska (790627)
      I don't know that people want virtual laptops. They want certain features of a laptop some of the time without the power consumption, weight, and bulk the rest of the time. Sort of a tablet+. All these add ons let people get what laptop features they want when they want them.
  • For all the hassle, it seems it would just be more simple to use a BT keyboard. I've used the Zagg BT one and it is pretty slick, even doubles as a cover, which makes it a cinch to transport with the ipad.

  • Is the issue with the lack of tactile keyboard, or the use of real-estate (screen space), or both?

    I've seen tablets/phones that come with a folding carry-case that also has a slim keyboard in it. In some cases it's a bluetooth keyboard, in others it uses the USB connector.

    It seems a better solution that having to slap a keyboard on your screen.

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