Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Hardware Science

FDA Approves Self-Sanitizing Keyboard 185

Posted by samzenpus
from the clean-zone dept.
jfruhlinger writes "Deep down, most people know that the germiest thing they touch all day is the thing they're touching all day: their keyboard. But what, if anything, can be done about it? A couple of former Microsoft hardware guys have launched a keyboard that sterilizes itself via ultraviolet light. While the FDA has signed off on it, tests show that the UV only kills about two-thirds of the germs living in it, and that it still needs to be cleaned by hand."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

FDA Approves Self-Sanitizing Keyboard

Comments Filter:
  • by doug141 (863552) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:32AM (#38592870)
    the UV tolerant bugs evolving on this thing.
    • by Jake73 (306340) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:41AM (#38592922) Homepage

      Why use UV? Why not build a waterproof keyboard that gets sprayed with a disinfectant each time it is retracted? It could be quickly dried and the disinfectant recycled.

      For a lower-cost keyboard, I could see UV being an advantage. But for $900, you could do much better.

      • by SpazmodeusG (1334705) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:47AM (#38592970)

        Just make it with the same antibacterial metal that door handles in hospitals are made from. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antimicrobial_copper-alloy_touch_surfaces [wikipedia.org]

        Seems to be a tried and testing technology that works well.

        • by aaronb1138 (2035478) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @02:11AM (#38593102)

          That is exactly what I was thinking. All metals have significant antibacterial properties in pure form due to electron freedom. Stainless steel is similarly naturally antimicrobial.

          Since they are using UV, I hope they had the good sense to use a titanium dioxide finish on it as well, since that massively boosts UV efficacy. Actually titanium dioxide has the ability to actually clean small quantities of finger grease and dirt from the surface as well.

          The best approach would use a micro spattering of TiO2 (think polka dots smaller than most bacteria) on stainless steel or copper alloys with waterproof keys and construction. Once a month, throw it in the commissary dishwasher to remove dirt and grease which give the little germs homes.

          As others have pointed out, the price for this model is ridiculous as well.

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            Anybody know can I get stainless steel keycaps for my model M?

            • I don't know of any premade options; but if you have one of the Model M's with removable keycaps, there are probably enough Model M enthusiasts around that you could CAD up and have printed in laser-sintered, bronze impregnated, stainless steel [shapeways.com](not real stainless steel; but similar, and the copper in the bronze probably helps the antibacterial value. If you could get the quantity up, fully stainless steel parts punched out of sheetstock would probably be doable; but that wouldn't be a 'quantity 1' thing...)
              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                If you could get the quantity up, fully stainless steel parts punched out of sheetstock would probably be doable; but that wouldn't be a 'quantity 1' thing...)

                I bet there is actually a sufficient market. The keys would need to be two-piece to be feasibly inexpensive to construct even on a commercial basis. However, the inner piece could be plastic, which I believe could actually make the price quite reasonable.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Stainless steel is similarly naturally antimicrobial.

            No, it's not. Which you'd have known if you'd clicked on the GP's link. From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

            Unlike copper alloys, stainless steel (S30400) does not exhibit any degree of bactericidal properties. This material, which is one of the most common touch surface materials in the healthcare industry, allows toxic E. coli O157:H7 to remain viable for weeks.

            The GP is also inaccurate in implying that copper alloys are used in all hospitals; this seems to be a relatively recent realization and is only slowly being rolled out.

            St. Francis Private Hospital ... decided to become the first hospital in the world to fully specify hygienic copper door handles throughout its facility as part of its infection control program. A full upgrade of all door furniture ... commenced in January 2010.

        • by tragedy (27079)

          It looks like the critical thing in those alloys to make them anti-microbial is copper. So, in other words, copper keyboards. I'd complain that, if it's actually that effective against microbes, it might slowly poison humans as well, except that the water pipes in my home are made of copper, so I doubt that it would contribute very much to any copper poisoning I might be experiencing. As far as it being a tried and tested technology that works well, the article you linked to seems to indicate that the jury

          • Copper alloys. Copper alone is prone to corrosion... though I suppose manufacturers might like a keyboard that rusts after a few years. You could use silver instead, which is also an effective antimicrobial, and less corrodeable, but pricier.

            We have laptops with easy-swap keyboards at my workplace. Said workplace is a school, and the amount of keys pulled off by vandals accounts for a significent part of the IT team's workload. Easy-swap keyboards are a requirement, just due to how often someone utterly de
            • Copper alone is prone to corrosion... though I suppose manufacturers might like a keyboard that rusts after a few years.

              But with copper it isn't a problem like it is with iron. When iron rusts, the rusted part expands and flakes off, exposing the next layer so that it can then rust too. The process continues until the whole thing disintegrates. With copper, on the other hand, the corroded outer layer turns green but remains intact, so the item doesn't actually deteriorate.

              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                Stainless steel is the obvious choice, because as it tarnishes it merely becomes slightly less pretty.

                There are also shiny coatings that can be simply BRUSHED ON to metals, which etch the surface. I have been using some stuff lately (Magic rust and aluminum polish, something like that, got it at a yard sale) to remove rust from iron and steel parts and to remove corrosion from aluminum parts. Where the aluminum is pitted, the pits are filled with hard material since the oxide form is harder than the metal.

                • Magic rust and aluminum polish, something like that, got it at a yard sale

                  Most likely phosphoric acid, sold in gel form as "naval jelly".

                  • by drinkypoo (153816)

                    Sounds plausible. I've used naval jelly before, it's pretty fantastic stuff. I haven't tried to find a MSDS for this stuff to find out if you're right. Do they add anything to gel it, or does it just happen?

        • Or, for added bling, silver plating. Perfect for Apple products!
      • by skine (1524819)

        Why not build a waterproof keyboard [...]

        If they made a waterproof keyboard, then they would lose the majority of their business.

      • by msobkow (48369)

        Try to track down and check out one of the '80s-'90s era HP industrial keyboards. The tactile feedback sucked, but they were sealed units that could even be spray-washed. You needed sealed units to survive the shop-floor environment for any length of time.

        • by msobkow (48369)

          Of course you'll have to do some serious adaptation to get the proprietary TTY and workstation cables to interface with a PC. The point is, there have been designs that were easier to keep clean in dirty environments.

          HP used to make great industrial-grade hardware before they focused on the commercial market. Maybe they still do -- I haven't seen their latest industrial equipment, and a lot of industry just seems to shrug and replace keyboards often instead.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            Of course you'll have to do some serious adaptation to get the proprietary TTY and workstation cables to interface with a PC.

            Yeah, that ought to take an experienced hacker with an arduino all of ten minutes to breadboard. Talk about serious adaptation!

    • by plover (150551) * on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:42AM (#38592926) Homepage Journal

      That which doesn't kill me makes me stronger. Of course, that which doesn't kill the bugs makes them stronger, too. So will the stronger bugs will make me ever more disease resistant, or just kill me?

    • by tragedy (27079)

      I'm pretty sure we don't have to worry about our meager human-produced sources of UV light providing the evolutionary niche for UV resistant super bugs. There's this thing called the sun that puts out a lot of UV light of its own.

      • The sun puts out of lot of UV, but the UVC which is used as a germicide is almost entirely blocked by the atmosphere.

      • by Yev000 (985549)

        And only UV-A reaches earth and gives you sun burn.

        The Earth's ozone layer blocks 99% UV. Of that, 99% is UVA.

        Its the UV-B (0.001% of UV that hits earth and reaches the surface) that causes damage on a molecular level. This is bad for big molecules like DNA.

        Cells already evolved a repair mechanism for dealing with UV-B to deal with the meagre levels that does reach the surface.

        UV-C is even more nasty than UV-B and none of that reaches the Earth's surface at all

        These lamps are pumping out UV-C and UV-B to di

    • The real trick(and the likely determinant of whether there is actually a problem or not) will be whether or not UV tolerant bugs that are otherwise competitive with their non-tolerant peers and the human immune system crop up.

      There are some downright alarming extremophiles, that can shrug their teeny bacterial shoulders at gamma radiation, hard vacuums, heat, dessication, and sometimes several of the above at the same time; but those tend to be virtually irrelevant to human health because so much of thei
    • by macs4all (973270)

      the UV tolerant bugs evolving on this thing.

      UV has been used to sterilize a wide variety of things since that ability was discovered in 1906 (IIRC).

      Some bugs are more tolerant than others; but it doesn't seem to have caused a sufficient evolutionary pressure to cause "UV-resistant" germs, molds or viruses.

  • $900?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rgbrenner (317308) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:34AM (#38592884)

    It's $900?! Geez.. Why don't I just buy new keyboards every 3 months instead

    • by skine (1524819)

      But also, one can get a UV sanitizing wand for as little as $10.

    • by mrjb (547783)
      Every three months? At 900 dollars you can get 900 silicone keyboard protectors [ebay.com] which will give you a clean keyboard every DAY for nearly the next 3 YEARS. And here's an other crazy idea: Silicone is more heat resistant than bacteria. Perhaps you don't want to toss away those silicone covers in the bin after a day, but sterilize them and re-use them.
    • Yes, and $900 could pay for a LOT of doctor's visits too, so I'll just keep the old keyboard.
    • by Joce640k (829181)

      It's $900 because it's FDA approved and they want to sell it to governments.

      Next up: $3600 toilet seats with UV sanitizers.

      • by msobkow (48369)

        I'm not familiar with any environment or department which even suggests an FDA approved keyboard, much less mandates one. I could see an Underwriter's Laboratory approved keyboard, as they handle safety evaluations for electrical and electronic items in the US.

        But think of the market potential if they can buy enough Congressmen to make these mandatory for hospitals and doctors offices, or even better yet, convince the INSURANCE companies to mandate them to minimize the risk of malpractice lawsuits.

        Ah,

      • I don't know about you, but I don't think my "boys" like that much UV...
    • by mapkinase (958129)

      I would like to see a study on the effects of keyboard germs to health.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Or why not just buy your own keyboard and never clean it? You're not going to pick up contagious diseases from yourself. Besides, a pristine environment is good for your immune system.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        Sorry, that should be: "a pristine environment is bad for your immune system."

  • by Nursie (632944) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:35AM (#38592888)

    Surely it's just exercise for the immune system?

    Most folks seem to have had a white keyboard, seen how filthy it becomes over time and (instead of cleaning the damn thing) resolved to use black ones in future.

    That said I did used to clean the key covers for my old Model M with vodka every once in a while.

    • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:57AM (#38593016) Journal

      The black ones turn just as gross: Take one apart sometime and have a look inside.

      The wife's WoW-playing machine slowly developed some issues with the W and 2 keys on her fancy Saitek keyboard. It was really pretty nasty in there. Some scrubbing bubbles [scrubbingbubbles.com] for the external plastic bits, and a bit of Deoxit [caig.com] on the Mylar membrane switches, and she's got people asking her what she changed because her DPS went through the roof.

      I take apart my favorite keyboard (an old, heavy, squishy white NMB that I really like the key-feel of, Model M be damned) once every year or two and give everything but the keyswitches a good wash in the dishwasher. It's been a good friend for nearly a decade, despite the occasional spill or cigarette ash or the constant bombardment of smoke residue, and I want to keep it around. (The keycaps were worn smooth long ago...)

      So, yeah: I clean keyboards. Time is money, but money can't always buy a keyboard that I actually like. It's more of a functional thing than a spastic reaction to the obvious bacterial flora that obviously must be living on it, but whatever the case cleaning it helps me type in ways that keep me happy.

      • The black ones turn just as gross

        Well obviously they get dirty to, they aren't magic... but you have to go out of your way to see it. The point he was referring to which you missed is that by getting a black keyboard you don't see filth.

    • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:59AM (#38593034)

      That said I did used to clean the key covers for my old Model M with vodka every once in a while.

      I'd rather leave the keyboard alone and just disinfect my insides every so often - although I prefer gin rather than vodka.

    • i remember at one place I worked I loved my keyboard , but it eventually became so grimy they forced me to throw it away and get a new one. Hey I was only one who used it!!!!

      My last job I did a lot of ProTools editing on computers shared by all the audio team. We kept hand sanitizer next to the computer, but it still would get grimy. When I got bad I would just disconnect the KB and get some q-tips, tissues, and denatured alcohol. KB would clean up real nice and the alcohol evaporates fast so even if I

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by Clarious (1177725)

      I am not a doctor, but IMHO, most of the bacterias on the keyboard of your personal computer are _yours_ bacterias, meaning they came from your body, your sweat and you are used to it. So I don't think they will do much harm to yourself, unless your immune system is borked somehow. Of course, a dirty keyboard is still need to be cleaned, so it won't look too bad, or become a colony to bad germs.
      And yeah, this only apply to your personal keyboard, mean no one else but you touch it. Or maybe keyboard sharing

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      That said I did used to clean the key covers for my old Model M with vodka every once in a while.

      Was the vodka 'recycled'?

  • So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOsPam.gmail.com> on Thursday January 05, 2012 @01:36AM (#38592894) Homepage

    So is this going to kick into the new phase of products that help create resistances like tricloscan [nih.gov] does [liebertonline.com] now? And I'm being lazy, there's already a few hundred studies on the links of this. I'm still waiting for people to get it through their head that either we're filthy dirty creatures, living in a filthy dirty environment. And if you're going to sanitize an area, you need to be 100% sure you're getting everything. Otherwise you're simply kicking into darwin mode, and promoting survival instincts for various 'bugs'.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      there is a difference that you're ignoring here. You're talking about an anti-bacterial drug resistance, which is a terrible, tough thing to deal with. Those fundamentally target only anti-bacterial cells based off of the certain cell structure. It means that it's very effective at killing only the bad cells, and it leaves our bodies alone. UV (and say, alcohol based hand sanatizers) is a very powerful anti-bacterial, because UV radiation is very damaging at the cellular level, regardless of whether or

  • keyboards can be cleaned? damn.
    • by tonique (1176513)
      Yeah, that's my solution: never clean the keyboard. Well, ok, I perhaps rattle it upside down once a year.
  • by bogaboga (793279) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @02:03AM (#38593062)

    "...While the FDA has signed off on it, tests show that the UV only kills about two-thirds of the germs living in it, and that it still needs to be cleaned by hand."

    Given that we as human beings are full of germs of some kind (especially on the skin), I wonder whether the germs on these keyboards are germs one should worry about.

    Are they dangerous?

    My answer: Not really, because no epidemic has ever been reported as having had its genesis from an un-cleaned keyboard. I have a feeling that these keyboards will appeal to clean-freaks mostly.

    • I don't know about that. I would suggest that spending to much time in front of a dirty keyboard has led to an epidemic of obesity, social awkwardness, and unnatural obsession with Natalie Portman. That's just apocryphal, of course.

    • by Rennt (582550)

      Agreed, this kind of product is exploitative of people with irrational phobias. These individuals need to realise that every surface in the average office is covered with other people's sweat, urine, semen and maybe blood. Dangerous? No. Gross? Only if you think about it too much.

      What isn't safe is living in a germ-free bubble.

    • It's usefull in hospitals.
      MRSA [wikipedia.org] is a slightly evolved version of a normal skin baterie. It doesn't do much on the skin, but when it gets into the blood people can die of it.
      MRSA is only one of the many bacteria that are harmless when on the skin (actually: many are usefull in the defence against germs that can go through the skin) but many of them are a big problem when they get in the bloodstream. Normally the human immune response kills them, but in hospitals there are (typically) a lot of people whith
    • by mrdogi (82975)

      Keyboards? No. However, I've heard of entire civilizations being wiped out due to lack of sanitized phones.

    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      The application of this is more of a chair-swapping setup, for example a call center where someone works 8 hours at a station and goes home, and someone else uses the same station for 8 hours, and someone else comes in. You don't want to catch cold/flu from someone else, and you definitely don't want MRSA. Disinfecting between swaps, even if it only removes some of the germs, will go a long way towards keeping employees in their seats in stead of out sick.

      And hospitals probably, libraries, and the germoph

  • wait do regular keyboards need to be cleaned?

    I thought you were supposed to just buy a new $7 keyboard when it got too gross to use.

  • I can finally stop wrapping my keyboard in Saran Wrap!
  • by Walt Dismal (534799) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @02:29AM (#38593182)
    Er, are these keyboards sperm-resistant? I don't want to know, my, er, friend, does.
  • by BluBrick (1924) <blubrick AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday January 05, 2012 @02:30AM (#38593186) Homepage
    is obligatory [xkcd.com].
  • you know what keeps a keyboard clean

    wash your fucking hands once in a while!

    I "wash" my vintage murder weapon once every couple of years, my wife's standard membrane shit gets replaced every year if not sooner (really what does a decent modern keyboard cost today, like 10 bucks at the local computer store? 3 bucks for a shitty one?)

    Its really not that difficult people, your computer will function with a keyboard that did not come stock with it.

  • Perhaps someone with enough know-how can chime here with something I've always pondered. There's a range of products which rely on UV light to kill bacteria, mold, viruses etc. Unfortunately, many of these products are underpowered such as this one (I can't say for sure, but some of the reviews don't seem great):
    http://www.amazon.com/Verilux-CleanWave-VH01WW4-UV-C-Sanitizing/dp/B0018A330K/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1325745037&sr=8-4 [amazon.com]

    My question is how much more powerful can we make these. I understa
    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      its not really power its wavelength...

      A germicidal bulb will start burn your skin and eyes you before you could fart, and those are little 10-20 watt florescent models with quartz tubes, prolonged exposure will blind you and start to really screw up your skin.

      which you really dont want spread all over your keyboard, where most geniuses couldn't find the freaking return/enter key without staring at it for a good 45 seconds

      I powered a small 15 watt germacidal bulb that was intended to be used buried inside of

      • by Twinbee (767046)
        Yes I know these things may be dangerous, but some consumer products (e.g. heavy duty rust removers) have hydrofluoric acid in them (yes, that's fluoric, not chloric, and yes you can buy it from town). The potential risk may be outweighed by the benefits if the wearer wore special glasses, and there was a clear way that points 'down' (e.g. this product [amazon.com].

        If that's not good enough, then it could even detect if there wasn't a surface within an inch or two of the device and would then automatically shut itse
    • by Hatta (162192)

      What's wrong with soap and water?

  • Unless you happen to be using a public keyboard, these are going to be germs from YOUR body. If they were going to be a problem, then they already would be. Washing your OWN hands would be a lot more effective.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      Unless you happen to be using a public keyboard, these are going to be germs from YOUR body. If they were going to be a problem, then they already would be.

      Stick your finger in your bum, wiggle it around real good, then stick it in your mouth. They are YOUR germs from YOUR body, but that still doesn't mean they won't make you sick.

      Washing your OWN hands would be a lot more effective.

      One not-yet-discredited (I think) theory is that some auto-immune diseases are caused (or triggered) by the allergen getting somewhere it shouldn't, causing an exaggerated immune response. One my my kids has coeliac disease, and there is some speculation that this is triggered in some cases by repeated exposure to other parts of the

      • by Zironic (1112127)

        Actually you're fairly unlikely to get sick from your own feces, that doesn't make it less gross though.

  • by pbjones (315127) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @02:55AM (#38593296)

    Did I get to say it first??? Ex-Microsoft employees build a useful Blue Screen of Death!

  • by jps25 (1286898) on Thursday January 05, 2012 @02:57AM (#38593300)

    Just buy some 99.9% pure isopropanol and some distilled water. 5L cost like 10-15EUR here and last a long time.
    Then submerge the keyboard or spray it with a 70-80% isopropanol/distilled water solution and let it dry.

  • Disassemble it using your 7/32" nut driver (buy online, it's an uncommon size) and run everything but the circuit board through the dishwasher. Enclose the key caps in a basket so they don't end up melted by the heater.

    Works remarkably well and doesn't take the print off the keys, either. Use alcohol to clean the board. It will have some crumbs on it, mostly, unless you spill liquids into the keyboard.

    • Disassemble it using your 7/32" nut driver (buy online, it's an uncommon size) and run everything but the circuit board through the dishwasher. Enclose the key caps in a basket so they don't end up melted by the heater.

      Works remarkably well and doesn't take the print off the keys, either. Use alcohol to clean the board. It will have some crumbs on it, mostly, unless you spill liquids into the keyboard.

      Serious question: have you actually done this? How do you keep the keys oriented the right direction in the dishwasher so they don't come out upside down full of water and gunk?

  • Germs are everywhere. If you disinfect it with UV light, all you'll end up doing is growing strains of UV-resistant bacteria. And for what point? Only a very small number of germs are pathogenic. The vast majority of bacteria and viruses aren't interested in you at all.

    Like those disinfectant wipes you find in the supermarket that say "Kills 99.9% of Germs," this is something for idiots.
  • No one else seems to have asked the question: Why is the Food and Drug Administration even involved? Keyboards are not food, and UV is not a drug. The company intends to use the FDA approval (of what, exactly?) to to leverage this this $900 idiocy into hospitals.

    Did you know: many keyboards do just fine in the dishwasher, as long as you let them dry thoroughly afterwards. For those that don't? You can destroy a lot of normal keyboards before spending $900 for a gimmick.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Did you know: many keyboards do just fine in the dishwasher,

      So what we need is some certification that a particular keyboard is 'dishwasher safe'.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Because the FDA does far more than just food and drugs. Medical devices for example. Radiation emitting devices for example.Cosmetics for example.

      And obviously company wants to sell the things to hospitals, where putting the keyboard into the dishwasher after every 2 minute use isn't exactly practical.

  • Just make a keyboard with high copper content (copper, brass, bronze), any microbes on it will die... Just goes to show you that steampunk is the way to go with keyboards!
  • Most likely the "germiest" thing you touch is your mouth. That's where the "germs" on your keyboard come from. Even the most fastidious of you are quite literally crawling with bacteria.

  • Our War on germs is going to get us killed. Soap and water are enough. Anything more and we risk making the places where we really need more (hospitals) breeding factories for superbugs. Oh wait, that is what is happening. Stop eliminating superbugs competition. If those keyboards are wiping out 2/3s the germs, I bet 1/2 of the germs or more were good germs. I remember reading an article years ago, no clue on the current state, where some research doctors were trying out putting yogurt on their hands after
  • Well, this idea is hardly new. Check out this Patent [uspto.gov]. Application made in 1999, approved in 2001.

If bankers can count, how come they have eight windows and only four tellers?

Working...