Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Virtual Keyboard

Your keyboard can reshape itself to provide any layout and texture you wish.
  (+8, -1)
(+8, -1)
  [vote for,

This is a spin-together of several ideas, especially the Pin-Matrix Terminal idea - see links. Lots of people have wanted something like this, but I can't find a proposal for anything this complete.

Your keyboard no longer has fixed physical keys. Instead, It is a pin-matrix - a grid of small pins which move up and down. These pins are also coloured, presumably be feeding fibres through them. The pins detect pressure on them, and provide relevant feedback to simulate physical keys.

The result is that it can quickly reshape itself to any keyboard layout, and simultaneously light up to show that layout. The layout can be controlled by software, and can change from program to program.

The feedback from the pins makes them feel like real keys. However, you can tune this feedback to give you the feel you like. Everyone likes a different sort of keyboard, from soft flowy bumps to typewriter klunks, and the virtual keyboard can respond to that.

When software starts to take advantage of this, the possibilities are endless:

- Typing in french, german, dvorak, etc? Your keyboard not only puts the right keys in the right places, but changes the labels automatically.

- Typing in chinese, japanese, korean? Keys move around to make the system easier to use, key labels change as you type to indicate their true meaning. For example in Japanese, press L and the label on the A, E, I, O, U keys turn into the hiragana for RA, RE, RI, RO, RU. Type the hiragana for a known kanji, and buttons appear along the top of the keyboard listing the most likely kanji for you to morph it into.

- Typing in HTML or some other language? Let the keyboard give you a collection of extra tool buttons for generating pieces of code.

- Learning to play the piano? Let your virtual keyboard help you out, by simulating piano keys, complete with rotational feel as you depress them.

- Don't like where your caps lock key is? Move it. Want to have your control and alt keys at the top rather than the bottom? They're yours. Want to invent a button for ae, or ff, or your signature? Behold, 'tis done.

- Don't like the feel of your keyboard? Think they keys are too soft, too clunky, to mechanical, too rubbery... change them.

- Want the little dot on your home keys to appear on the D and K rather than the F and J? No problem.

- Switch to a music program, and get a volume control and a complete set of play, pause, eject buttons. Switch to a game and get game-specific keys, all labelled with their real purpose, and all possibly bigger or smaller as you want them to be. Switch to a video editor and get specific controls for all the wierd functions you may want to do.

I don't imagine the virtual keyboard being used as a display, but the key tops only need indicate a few colour changes - say, black to white - to change the layout.

sadie, Apr 24 2002

Pin Matrix Terminal http://www.halfbake...20Matrix_20Terminal
Main point of inspiration. I bow down and worship. [sadie, Apr 24 2002, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Configurable Keycaps http://www.halfbake...figurable_20Keycaps
Inspiration #2. [sadie, Apr 24 2002, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Legoboard http://www.halfbakery.com/idea/Legoboard
People thinking the same way [sadie, Apr 24 2002, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Roman Numeral Keypad http://www.halfbake..._20Numeral_20Keypad
One of many ideas that becomes possible. [sadie, Apr 24 2002, last modified Oct 04 2004]


       Hey, one idea i forgot to mention: teaching your kids to type with a bouncy, kid-friendly keyboard.
sadie, Apr 24 2002

       While i'm at it, how about making your home keys feel different from the other keys so that you can instantly tell if your hands are in the wrong place.   

       Come on, somebody respond. I'm getting all lonely here. *sniff*
sadie, Apr 24 2002

       hi sadie, while you are waiting find the kiddy keyboard that UnaBubba posted. I forget what he called it!
po, Apr 24 2002

       The pin matrix, is it fine grain enough for each key to have a raised or lowered representation of each symbol on it? If not, how do the labels appear on each key?   

       Any idea which allows you to move the caps lock gets a croissANT FROM ME.
calum, Apr 24 2002

       gave a croissant from me. and me!
po, Apr 24 2002

       I use an ergonomic MS Natural keyboard - and for reasons that do not appear obvious to me, a few revisions ago the decision was made to alter the layout of the stand-alone arrow keys from 1-above-3 upside down T shape, to the 1-2-1 cross shape, which is just enough to totally fuck me up. They also changed the Home/End etc. group from two rows of three to three rows of two. It's totally beyond me why this was done, but it's made my life quite difficult. (Though not as difficult as trying to go back to using a standard keyboard.)   

       This idea would solve my problem, provided it would be able to recreate the ergonomic split layout.
waugsqueke, Apr 24 2002

       I see no reason why there shouldn't be an 'ergonimic' model, as long as you don't tie the shape too strictly - the pins would have to continue across the middle divide in case people wanted to put buttons there.   

       Maybe I didn't make clear how the keys are labelled. There's a fibre-optic running up each pin, which shines light in a pattern to make the image of the letter.   

       The software controlling it would have to be pretty sophisticated to preserve the feel of a solid 'key' object, but i see no reason why it shouldn't be possible.
sadie, Apr 24 2002

       Come to think of it, there's no reason that you couldn't physically tie the pins together in some dynamic way - perhaps little (we're now talking VERY little) flanges that come out of each pin and lock to the ones around it? That way, the software would recieve a grid-area of depressed pins when you hit a key.
sadie, Apr 24 2002

       sadie, I (and many others like me) consider the word "flange" to be extremely rude.
calum, Apr 24 2002

       *very puzzled look*   

       btw, it's he.
sadie, Apr 24 2002

       I didn't know this either, but apparently "flange" is English Marine slang for female genitalia.
jutta, Apr 26 2002

       First I've heard of that one.
waugsqueke, Apr 26 2002

       Already done, albiet more practically. See here: http://www.vkb.co.il/
gb2000, Apr 26 2002

       [calum]: Get over it. There are dozens of perfectly good words which are well-defined with time-honored technical meanings, but which have at one time or other picked up additional (rude) slang meanings. That in no way justifies avoidance of these terms in the context of their original meanings. As used in the context of [sadie]'s annotation the word 'flange' is not cause for offense on the part of any reasonable literate person. Go look it up in a dictionary. If the slang meaning is there at all, it will appear *after* the proper meanings, not before.
BigBrother, Apr 26 2002

       I've seen it. It's a very different thing, and while it would be compatible with moving the layouts it doesn't have any of the nice 'feely' features.   

       There's lots of different forms of virtual keyboard possible. But does anyone have the guts to start writing software to take advantage of them?
sadie, Apr 26 2002

       I didn't know it, and I'm english (not genetically, culturally). In fact, I live in a navy town.   

       Er... is 'flange' the right word, anyway? I'm not a mechanical or nano-mechanical person, it's just what sounded right at the time.
sadie, Apr 26 2002

       I have no problem with the word "flange" either in its dictionary or playground meaning. Hence I have nothing to "get over." I was not making a complaint. I was trying to make a joke. Clearly I failed. From now on I shall be more circumspect in my use of humour so as to avoid becoming the target of the condescension of those whose notion of what is funny is different from mine.
calum, Apr 26 2002

       A misunderstanding, calum. Indeed, it appeared to me that you were offended.
waugsqueke, Apr 26 2002

       Yeah. Sorry to all for being snide/pissed off. I forget that jokes (as such) are difficult to pull off on a foum such as this. I think I'll leave my snide response up, though, so that in years to come, I may stumble across it and think to myself "My god. I was such a total flange."
calum, Apr 26 2002


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