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Android Displays Handhelds Input Devices Hardware

Will Touch Screens Kill the Keyboard? 332

CWmike writes "Next-generation touch-screen devices will embed more haptics, or touch-based feedback, into virtual keyboards. 'A lot of companies are really getting into haptics, [using] source feedback and a sense of touch to try to replicate a keyboard on a display,' says Bruce Gant, a mechanical engineer at Product Development Technologies, which integrates touch screens into cell phones and other devices for manufacturers. 'If people really get that down and nail that experience, [virtual keyboards] could replace mechanical keyboards on laptops.' Don't tell that to Motorola, which just introduced the Atrix 4G, and dual-core 4.3-inch smartphone that docks to a laptop with, you guessed it, a physical keyboard."
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Will Touch Screens Kill the Keyboard?

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  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheL0ser ( 1955440 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:33PM (#34782072)
    Keyboard is a lot cheaper, more easily repaired if something goes wrong.
    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:37PM (#34782158) Journal

      Add to that, the best device for avoiding RSI has a large amount of travel and a gradual resistance in the keys. A touchscreen has no travel and a very sudden resistance. Try spending five hours typing on one and see how much your fingers hurt.

      They're fine for consumer devices (i.e. devices for consuming), but not for devices people use to create anything involving text.

      • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

        by I8TheWorm ( 645702 ) * on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:44PM (#34782296) Journal


        You simply can't type on a touchscreen without looking, at least not for any usable amount of time. I love my Galaxy-S with the Swype keyboard, but even that is no replacement for a physical one.

        • Besides they tried the flat keyboard before the big chunky keys ones on personal computers. Anyone remember the ZX81 spectrum, one of the first personal computers? It didn't catch on all those years ago, and there's no reason why it should now. Normal keyboards work a lot better - touchscreen is a forced compromise where phone manufacturers are trying to make phones more streamlined at the cost of functionality. I think once again we'll learn that the price is too high.
        • The summary specifically mentions haptics [].

          No one argues that current touch-screens would be a replacement for no-look interfaces. But if you can start to introduce tactile feedback mechanisms, there is some incredible potential.

        • You are correct, and this is demonstrated by the fact that the average keyboard is not that different than a typewriter from 100 years ago, in basic layout. With the exception of Windows keys (which come off easily using a screw driver...) a good keyboard still has a tactile feel that gives instant feedback to the user allowing them to speed along at a rate most comfortable to them. Screens that will create "click" sounds and other feedback will never compare because "feeling" with the ears is not the sa

      • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

        by skids ( 119237 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @05:00PM (#34782586) Homepage

        I just don't understand how anyone could do any serious typing on the same screen they are looking at. Sure, causual keying in google search terms is easy that way, but when the screen is at an angle suitable for viewing there's no way I could bend my wrists back far enough to type efficiently -- and even in a compromise between the two positions, I'm sure it would kill my hands. I suppose I could put the screen flat down and lean over it, but only if I want to look like Quasimodo in a decade or so.

        Plus my fingernails tend to be kept long (unlike many I actually use them in my job) so I doubt a touchscreen would stand up to my abuse very long.

        • by Senes ( 928228 )
          There's more to it than that. You're not supposed to hold your hand in front of your face and make fine movements for long periods of time. You're supposed to have your elbows pointed mostly downward with your wrists mostly parallel to the floor; the further up you lift them the more you're going to injure yourself with repetitive usage of fine motor skills.
      • Add to that, the best device for avoiding RSI has a large amount of travel and a gradual resistance in the keys. A touchscreen has no travel and a very sudden resistance. Try spending five hours typing on one and see how much your fingers hurt.

        I imagine the experience there would not be too different than trying to type in a lengthy BASIC program on an old Timex-Sinclair 1000 with its membrane keyboard (which was one of the reasons I am thankful that my parents, when they shopped for a computer for me back in the 80s, only very briefly considered the TS-1000 and instead went with the TI-99/4a).

      • They're fine for consumer devices (i.e. devices for consuming), but not for devices people use to create anything involving text.

        Agreed. Touchscreens will "replace" keyboards the same way that Vista and newer replaced them with their speech-to-text: nowhere visible even 3 years after mainstream launch. Heck, iPhones are older than Vista and I still don't see touchscreens in my work or home monitors.

        Here is another [] reason there's no general uptake in shipping-grade ultra-different alternatives. Two minutes in you can tell that without an optional standard keyboard, you would never get past the first 3 minutes of a perl script with sym

    • Keyboard is a lot cheaper, more easily repaired if something goes wrong.

      So are crayons, that doesn't mean we don't have nice pens.

      • I don't write with a crayon or pen for ten hours a day. I don't get keyboard cramp, but I have had writer's cramp in college just from doing equations a notebook for a few hours. brutal.

    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by KermodeBear ( 738243 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:40PM (#34782220) Homepage

      It also keeps my finger smudges out of my line of sight. I hate touch screen anything. They always end up dirty.

      • It also keeps my finger smudges out of my line of sight. I hate touch screen anything. They always end up dirty.

        Or scratched. And on some touch-screen technologies, a scratch makes it erratic beyond reasonable use.

        This is why I hate my touch-screen Sony eReader PRS-650. Not only does the touch screen get dirty and streaky and hard to read through, but Sony has gone out of their way to make the UI unbearable. There is no "up" button to go back up a level or back where you were. While I'm reading the downl

    • Plus I can still read the screen if I use a keyboard with greasy fingers. Good luck to any parent who tries to use a touchscreen shared by their kids.

      • Good luck to any parent who tries to use a touchscreen shared by their kids.

        Was thinking that myself. Toddlers and young children are well know to want to bang on things. Imagine a child banging the mouse on the touchscreen. Shattered glass, while it is most likely to stay in the frame and not hurt the child, it's still a very broken keyboard then.

    • by Q-Hack! ( 37846 ) *

      I will give up my keyboard once the neural implant technology becomes available.

  • "haptics" is an anagram [] for "Caps Hit"
  • Answer: no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Senes ( 928228 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:33PM (#34782078)
    Big media: quit saying "XYZ is dead" every time you're starved for attention.

    No matter how good a smartphone gets, that doesn't mean that old technology people still benefit from should suddenly disappear. My phone has a built-in keyboard; I can text so fast it startles people and any flashy features my phone doesn't have would be all the better with it. Give us more functionality, not tell us we should settle for less.
    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:57PM (#34782540)

      Touch screens have been around for a long, LONG time. There are various places where they are used quite a bit too. Point of sale terminals often use touch screens, and have for a long time. They are useful in some situations, but not generally useful. The reason is because having a touch screen involves having your hands on your screen. This means you occlude part of your view, and of course in a desk environment means that either you are stretching your arms up, which is uncomfortable, or you are hunched over a display.

      The keyboard and mouse endure because for a sitting working environment, they are generally what you want. I want to be able to easily enter text while looking at a display that is in front of my face at a comfortable level.

      Basically touchscreens will be used where they make sense. This can be in things like phones where space is a premium, and you want as big a screen as you can get, or in specialty applications. However they are not going to be the be-all, end-all.

      • Exactly. the Keyboard isn't going anywhere(Mice might fade slowly for tracpads, but that is also a debate).

        Keyboards enter raw data very very quickly. However not everything needs quick data/ large quantities of data to be entered for those Keyboards will stick around.

        Mice well they work well for some things track pads work better for others, some form of mouse will always be available along side the keyboard, As reaching up to click on the screen doesn't work so well.

    • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @05:08PM (#34782704)

      Big media: quit saying "XYZ is dead" every time you're starved for attention.

      Are breathless claims that some ubiquitous technology is dead dead? We spread a short article over twenty pages for you to find out!

    • Big media: quit saying "XYZ is dead" every time you're starved for attention.

      Big media is dead!

      I'm so lonely. :-(

  • by sleekware ( 1109351 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:34PM (#34782084)
    And I will only let go of it when they pry it from my cold dead hands!
    • But... how can you possibly get along without the "Windows key"????

      Serioulsy though, I used to love that keyboard, but my wife made me give it up because she got tired of hearing the clickity-clack all night when I was pulling all-nighters.
    • Yes! I can imagine that better haptics might actually replace physical keyboards for general consumption just like membrane / scissor keyboards replaced mechanical keyswitches.

      But the real enthusiasts, heavy typers and power users are still going to want real mechanical switches like they alway have done.

      [Typing this on a Maltron 3D keyboard with Cherry MX black keys; my IBM Model M is at work, my Model F (like the M - but even more so) is sitting handily next to me.]

    • Curious: How do you bridge from the old school 5 pin DIN to USB? Do you have to go to PS/2 then to USB? Or is there a more direct method?

      I just dug out the keyboard from my IBM Personal Computer for this purpose, but haven't tinkered with it yet.

      • You need a USB to PS/2 adapter that provides enough power to run the beast, about an eighth of a watt. Some cheap USB adapters are unable to source that much current since a typical modern keyboard only takes a milliwatt or two. []

        They have more information, and apparently sell one for about $20 that is known to work. Also on that page are links to projects in case you want to integrate the USB control or learn to repr

      • The model M keyboard has a Ps/2 connector. Sounds like your referring to the earlier PC/AT keyboard which had the 5-pin DIN connector.
  • It seems like it'd be awfully wasteful to build a touch screen to replace a keyboard, both in terms of money and actual resources. Keyboards are fairly cheap on both.

    Plus -- ergonomics?

  • Seriously, try using a touchscreen for more than a text message. Use a bunch of on screen keyboard variants. Swype, android, apple, and any other one you care to try.

    You'll be happy when you are back to a machine that has a real keyboard. Even a mobile with a real keyboard.

    • i don't have a hard time typing on the ipad. in fact i don't find it that difficult to touch type on it. my fingers know where they are supposed to be. I'm no where near as fast as i am with a physical keyboard but i find it far more usable than i ever thought i would. longish emails and slashdot posts are not an issue for me. Writing code is, but that generally requires a lot of arcane punctuation that just isn't right there on the ipad keyboard. When the symbols do come up, they are not in their standard
  • by gilgongo ( 57446 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:34PM (#34782098) Homepage Journal

    Keyboard ON the screen == bad: []

    Keyboard away from the screen and horizontal, no problem. But then, what's the point in virtualizing it?

    • Don't forget, a virtual keyboard just means you only have half of the screen to actually view stuff.

    • That's interesting, but I don't know if it applies... touchscreen in a handheld device has very different ergos than a touchscreen in a conventional desktop configuration, with the screen up in front of you.
  • by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:34PM (#34782102)
    MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft require the kind of precision and sensory feedback that only standard keyboards can provide.
  • Part of the thing about a real keyboard is the feel of the keys. Not the feedback but the raised buttons themselves. Without them many people are left to hunt-n-peck typing since they can't feel the keys brush their fingertips (also think of the little notch on your F and J keys, used for the same thing). Remove the ability to feel the keys without looking and many people won't touch it and businesses won't use it because I gather WPM typing will go down and error typing will go up.
  • by Sonny Yatsen ( 603655 ) * on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:36PM (#34782130) Journal

    If touchscreens do kill the keyboard (and I am very doubtful), then it'll just be another milestone for the trend of crappier and crappier keyboard input devices. Back in the day, the mechanical switch and the buckler keyboards were fantastic. They had the weight, they had the tactile response, they had the satisfying click you get when you press down a key, plus they were nigh indestructible. Then, everyone moved to the quiet keyboards that use the rubber sheet and the dielectric, and it had less of a tactical response. Then people started moving towards those awful chiclet keyboards (are they called Island keyboards?) and they make it so frustrating to type something. If touchscreens take over, it'll just be the next logical step towards crappier keyboards.

    • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

      Oh, I kinda like the quiet keyboards.

      But yeah, we'll keep seeing a frustrating trend to fewer moving parts.

      On the bright side, a generation of T9 txtspk didn't kill the keyboard.

      On the dark side, accuracy with touchscreen keyboards is so bad, that I think it will just drive up the adoption of speech-to-text recognition, because it won't be so bad in comparison :-P

      "Silly computer! I SAID, 'I want a bottle in front of me!' NOT 'a frontal lobotomy!'"

    • Keyboards didn't get crappier. Cheap became more popular.

  • Which is les expensive, a keyboard or display space? I want a keyboard. How will taking away some of the display space in order to provide me with a keyboard on the display improve my experience using a device? So in order to give the same display experience as a device that comes with a traditional keyboard, you need to have that much more display. That means the device that gives me the same display experience with just a touchscreen needs to cost more than a device with a traditional keyboard.
  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Umuri ( 897961 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:36PM (#34782144)

    Touch keyboards cannot keep speed with physical keyboards due to a lack of tactile feedback, space requirements, and hand-strain when typing due to jamming your finger into a solid surface repeatedly (guess its not much different than laptop crappy keyboards, but still). That's assuming you've overcome the software limitation of slow processing that plagues most touch keyboards.

    That being said, they will probably replace keyboards for applications(such as mobile phones) where a keyboard would be a waste and inefficient use of space while not being very effective anyway.

    But in a laptop? God no unless you're going for lightweight style rather than a useful work space.

    Disclaimer: Typed on my model-m.

    • Exactly. This quote from the article seems deeply misguided:

      Similarly, Hsu continues, "There's a perception among the older generations that grew up on keyboards that we would miss a keyboard. But as newer generations are raised on devices that have a gesture-based interface they just won't care," he says.

      There are times when the "older generation" clings to outdated technology for nostalgic reasons, while the youngsters move on to the better tech (e.g. MP3 players replacing CDs). However that's not the ca

    • by arcade ( 16638 )

      I agree with you 100%.

      I recently invested in a couple of 'Das Keybard's. One for home and one for work. They're expensive as heck, but I haven't regretted it for a second. The only person who doesn't like it is my wife, who complains that she cannot use my computer since she can't read the keys (it's one of those all-black unlabeled ones).

      The tactile feedback of a proper keyboard is important. Extremely important. I hate using laptops, quite simply because their keyboards suck.

      Typed on my 'Das Keyboard

  • Input devices and displays have long been shown to work best in different positions. Nobody wants to stare down at a display all day, or stretch forward to touch their screen all day.

    Touch screens are nice for certain situations, but they won't replace keyboards in general.

  • Yes, in the same way that masturbating has replaced actual sex with another (living/willing/etc) person. You would prefer one, but will settle for the other when you have to, or if no one is looking.
  • It's not about feedback, no matter how much it vibrates (or buzzes, or whatever) typing on a flat surface is an ergonomic nightmare.
  • and yet I still seem to have a keyboard. So.... no.
  • iPhone and iPad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FuckingNickName ( 1362625 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:43PM (#34782274) Journal

    If there's anything Apple have taught us, it's that an awful lot of people don't do any real work on their computers.

    For those who do, real computers with real I/O devices will remain.

    • by cosm ( 1072588 )
      Best comment I have seen on here in awhile. Not because I am anti-apple, but that statement just 'feels' true.
  • 'Cos I hate it when a can't type on my Unicomp Spacesaver keyboard. :p

  • Ask him to touch type without looking.

    As for the mouse, that's still not beaten by touch. Touch input doesn't scale. A mouse can select a single pixel or fly right accross the screen, have several buttons and scroll wheels are indespensible.

    It concerns me there's going to be a generation of kids coming that are not going to be able to keyboard, handwrite because they will be touchscreen, game controller and voice interface users.
    • by slimak ( 593319 )

      I agree that writing and typing a good skills today and I really had using touchscreens and the tiny keyboards on mobile devices, but we have to adapt. We used to record history on stone or clay using hieroglyphs, I'm really glad that fad passed. I sincerely hope that a few hundred years from know our descendants will think of us as Neanderthals that had to didn't even had neural implants (or something even more amazing that I am too primitive to even dream of).

  • The main push for touchscreen keyboards seems to be in applications where there is contention for screen space(and niche applications where a keyboard would be difficult to keep clean or unvandalized).

    That pretty much means phones, handhelds, and maybe laptops(for laptops, you run into the problem that the comfortable position for a keyboard and the comfortable position for a screen are quite different, and switching between the two will take a disruptive several seconds...)

    For anything without such c
  • Keyboards provide instant response, per letter, whereas SWYPE's blue trace line only gives you some vague sense of where you fat-fingered that errant letter; to boot, at the end of it all, SWYPE presents you with a teeny-tiny-spaced list of possible matches, requiring me to waste yet more time attempting to avoid fat-fingering a selection. I had hoped that this would be the great panacea it had been hyped up to be. What a waste of time.

  • Why can't have a laptop with a touchscreen. Why does one need to replace the other, instead of compliment each other?

    Oh right, because computers are for people with deep wallets who type with their thumbs, not the people who have been using them up until now.

  • Touch screen keyboards will be just as popular as the "touch screen" keyboards.. like the one in the movie 'Big'
  • Scotty: "how quaint"

  • The most interesting part of this is the Atrix. I can see a near future where you carry your computer around as your phone and it runs a mobile desktop on the local screen and a separate full desktop on the external screen. I still want a slider keyboard though ;-)

  • this is where i orientate my hands. apparently, unconsciously. so i discovered. its an a4 tech keyboard model that i have been using for years. (while renewing the model by purchasing the exact same model when the other one broke). i just found out that, the same model keyboard, but a slightly different (square instead of round edges) casing could throw my orientation and hence typing speed off. the very same model keyboard. i also tried other keyboards, but physical height of keys, their spacing, their pla
  • The screen you can't touch is about the only thing seriously threatened by touch screens. And for some cases the pointing device (mouse/trackpad/etc.)

  • Here's my pitch for tomorrow: Will raping puppies help system administrators focus better during 12-hour shifts?

  • I highly doubt touch screens will ever replace the keyboards for desktops or laptops. Due to ergonomic reasons, the touch-keyboards would still have to be on a separate plane than the screen you're looking at. Imagine your computer's monitor having a touch-screen keyboard, bend your wrists and hands into a position that you could actually type with. Hold that position for an extended period of time. Weep tears as your wrists hate you.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @05:22PM (#34782932)
    Something that would turn any space or surface your vicinity into a keyboard. It could sort of be like air guitar. Having a keyboard on the display device can be awkward, cramped, and dirty. An "air keyboard" could help with carpal-tunnel. You could warp it such that you only move the fingers, never the wrist or forearms.
  • numerous keyboards. I'd like a model M for the daytime, but I'm sure my spouse is happier in the darker hours with the quiet keyboard I currently have plugged in.

    My phone has a touchscreen keyboard, which I've gotten a little bit used to, but there's no way I'd program on it. I don't even like programming on a laptop keyboard.

    On a real keyboard, my fingers do what my brain thinks, and there it is, on the screen. Haptics or not, I'd still have to look at my fingers without some kind of dimpled surface on t

  • Let me revise that. Not just no but hell no.

    I'm at least three times as fast on a well designed mechanical keyboard than I am on a virtual keyboard, despite months of practice. I don't think virtuals will ever replace mechanical in content-heavy applications, and I'm somewhat surprised that anyone would seriously suggest it.

    Like the bumble bee, what's cool about virtual keyboards, even with haptic feedback, is that they work at all. I can write fairly lengthy messages on my phone, but for serious wor

  • Now that I use a SWYPE keyboard on my phone, I realize that it's faster than thumb typing. I think it wouldn't be hard for a keyboard-sized touch to become faster than the physical keyboard it replaces. This would be a great opportunity to kill QWERTY, too. Think about it. You can have five large vowels surrounded by a ring of constants with numbers and punctuation below. You would swype away with the right and pick the word selections with your left hand. It could give you words guesses based on what
  • Next generation...make a physical keyboard with the screen overlaying the keys. Then you get to see and move the screen with a real physical touch. ;)
  • by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @06:11PM (#34783648)

    Ever tried to type on an on screen keyboard?

    Its bad enough having to use one for your username and password...

  • Yes, mostly (Score:5, Insightful)

    by joh ( 27088 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @06:25PM (#34783820)

    For all the users who don't type much (that is for about 95% of all users) the touchscreen will replace the keyboard, no doubt. Devices without keyboards have less buttons (good), you can press, drag and touch where you're looking (good), there are no moving parts (good), the devices are much easier to clean (good) and the devices look better (good). For the typical user a real keyboard is ugly, complex and hard to use. Most people just forget all the effort they had to invest to learn to use it.

    Those who type much and fast will still use keyboards. They're a minority, but a loud one.

    Next question please.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Friday January 07, 2011 @12:05AM (#34787322)

      For all the users who don't type much (that is for about 95% of all users)

      Try 0.95%.

      The average user types quite a bit. This is why QWERTY keybards came about on phones and why the BB/Nokia E71's are so popular with users who do a lot of emailing and messaging.

      On computers it's even worse. Just typing out this comment would be painful, if not impossible. Touchscreens are slower, more inefficient and error prone than keyboards and this is readily evident to the average user.

      Devices without keyboards have less buttons (good),

      Quick explain.

      Thought not. Just because Steve says it's better does not make it so.

      Physical buttons provide many advantages over on screen buttons. they are tactile, responsive, don't move and their function never changes. The last one is important, on my PC the Delete button does what it needs to, the F1 key too. On my Android phone the back button always takes me back to the last application/page I used and terminates the application as opposed to backgrounding it (which is what the home button does). Believe it or not, but such simple things are not beyond the capacity of the average user to figure out on their own.

      you can press, drag and touch where you're looking (good)

      Ye gads,

      Where did you learn to type, The ministry of silly computing habits.

      All typing tutors and instruction I have received tells me you're meant look at the screen (output) not where your hands are. This does make typing faster and allows you to pick up on those annoying typo's so much earlier.

      Typing at 30 WPM+, moving keys are not a feature anyone will find useful.

      there are no moving parts (good),

      Because mechanical KB's are breaking left, right and centre. NOT.

      My keyboard has to be the most reliable one of things in my house. I have a 20 yr old KB's that are still in perfect working order (albeit not AT ports on my gaming rig). My last KB died after 9 years of service, a victim of a poorly placed Jacks and Coke.

      Moving parts != unreliable. On the other hand software frequently breaks due to bad code.

      For the typical user

      A physical keyboard is much easier to use, faster, more ergonomic, more responsive and a lot more accurate. Considerably less stress on the users wrists and not having to look at the keyboard to find a key makes typing much faster.

      Where do you get your idea's about HCI and HMI from?

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @06:43PM (#34784036) Homepage

    This all reminds me of that silly bit from Starship Troopers where Drill Seargant Clancy responded to "but it's a push button world now" buy disabling the recruit's ability to push buttons.

  • by McDrewbie ( 530348 ) on Friday January 07, 2011 @02:42AM (#34788146)
    I just don't like my fingers being in front of what I'm trying to see. That is why I will never use touchscreens. I am no luddite though. I'm waiting for cybernetic implants or nano-bots technology.

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein