A Tablet PC friendly desktop keyboard


I’ve been thinking a bit about how to make desktop systems a little bit more Tablet friendly. There’s no doubt that a digitizing pad (especially with a view of the screen) is a good way to go, however, there’s also no doubt that one more device on the desk creates a little bit more of a mess.

So I’ve been wondering what it might be like to place this technology not in a separate device, but rather within the keyboard.

Here’s the basic idea:

Imagine a standard sized keyboard with a multi-touch display-slash-digitizer. Rather than make the whole keyboard virtual and lose the natural feel of keys, instead just make the less used keys virtual. This would be the standard mode of the digitizer. You’d see virtual representations of the keys displayed on the digitizer and you could touch them just like you would a normal keyboard. You could even press more than one key just like a regular keyboard since the digitizer surface would be multi-touch.

A secondary view of the digitizing surface would show all or part of the display and work as a standard dual-mode digitzer, like that from NTrig. In other words, you could use a pen on the surface to handwrite or draw or you could use your fingers to gesture or control the windows.

Now I probably drew this too much in favor of portrait mode, but you get the idea.

If I had a keyboard like this I think I’d leverage the inking and handwriting capabilities on my desktop a lot more. Yes, separate devices are OK or even a digitizer built into the display, but from my experience I slowly stop using things if my desk starts to get too cluttered and when sitting at a desk I’m not so sure if digitizing displays is the most economical way to go–especially if the features are used let’s say only 25% of the time.

Oh, and while I’m at it, I’d also like to be able to magnetically dock my mouse to the keyboard (with either a magnet on the mouse or keyboard and a metal strip on both sides), not only to help keep my desk more organized while not in use, but also as a charging surface for a bluetooth mouse when not in use. I like this kind of idea, both helps with organization and provides a much needed charging connection. I hate it when bluetooth mice go dead.

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14 years ago

At first, I thought of the Synaptics touchpad that supports gestures, but it could be so much more.

So, taking this a step further —
If the integrated digitizer + display were detatchable SideShow-like unit, then could carry it around. SideShow would allow you to see email, play audio / video, see a game stats, etc. when walking away from the desktop.

Might be a gaming angle too, like with the SideShow on the Logitech gaming keyboard. http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/keyboards/keyboard/devices/3498&cl=us,en

Like you said, there are a lot of people out there who could use “Tablet & Touch” technology, but don’t because they don’t realize all they have to do is attatch a graphing tablet or that graphing tablet is still indirect (no display).

14 years ago

I like the idea of being able to see email notifications, etc on the keyboard even when the system is “off.” That’s an added twist. Maybe a motion sensor would turn on the display when someone is around, otherwise the display would be off unless you tap on it or hit a key or something.

Now I guess none of this helps all those people with standard notebooks and for that I’ll have to put my thinking cap on….right now I’m leaning towards some type of digitizing surface that slides/snaps over the screen or the keyboard. hmmm.

14 years ago

Very timely Loren. Watch for a notebook announcement tonight that you will find interesting. 🙂

14 years ago

Lenovo announced today the ThinkPad W700 with a Wacom digitizer built next to the touchpad. It’s kind of close to what I’m talking about here, but I’d like to see a display where the digitizer is.

14 years ago

Personally I’d rather see an entire keyboard made from a single touch sensitive LCD screen. Sort of like the one I described for my ideal laptop.

I know there’s a similar concept from the people who designed the Optimus Maximus keyboard, but they haven’t entered production yet.

Personally I’d like Microsoft or Logitech to buy the idea and bring it to market. Then we can benefit from economies of scale and purchase from a known vendor. And since Microsoft and Logitech have an international reach, the keyboards could easily be customized to support various keyboard layouts via software updates.

Plus, because it’s basically a second display, users could decide what they want on the screen (email notification, music player controls), and where it should be.

In fact, we could develop nice, application specific user interfaces for the keyboard. How about a piano keyboard for music programs, or an ArtRage style palette interface for PhotoShop/Illustrator? Maybe an electronic “shuttle” for video editing?

And that doesn’t count the keyboard shortcuts for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc. Imagine pressing the ALT key and seeing the keys show “File”, “Edit”, “New”, “Bold”, “Italic”, etc. Sort of like the old paper overlays that came with WordPerfect back in the day.

14 years ago

I like your mockups; they give a good sense of how a dual screen device would work. I think we’ll see some products like this down the road. The OLPC 2 might be one of the first that gets the most attention. I think I’ve seen a dual screen music reader that’s shipping now. However, there’s a big difference between a specialized reader and a full functioning system as you describe.

One thing your post points out very well is how a dual screen might actually be used in an app like Photoshop. I really like the idea of the main display being used as a preview if you will. Illustrates how there can be a nice division between viewing and controlling an app. One display is focused on each.