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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