The real upside to using a keyboard for data input is that it is extremely efficient. It’s a tried and true technology, and the most common layouts have been in use for decades, if not longer. There is a downside, however, and it’s that the efficiency comes at the cost of versatility. Keyboards, after all, only do one thing – even if they do that thing well. As a result, we’ve created all sorts of peripherals designed to overcome this weakness; the most obvious of these is the mouse, but trackpads, trackballs, and other more specialized equipment are also employed.
Enter the Luminae Keyboard+ and Touchpad+. These two devices seek to correct the inherent single-minded purpose of traditional peripherals by letting you decide what the keyboard or touchpad does, when you want it. Your keyboard can be a traditional keyboard, replete with number pad, or it could be a combination keyboard and touchpad, or 3D modelling peripheral, or gaming macro heaven – you get the idea. The company has created its own free software for both PC and Mac users that will let customers create and order their own custom skins (expected cost: a little over ten bucks each).
From the outset, the Luminae devices look outstanding, like something directly off the set of the latest sci-fi blockbuster. A solid metal base holds the devices firmly to the desk surface; it’s within this base where all the technology hides. There are cameras, to capture the redirected infrared light, Bluetooth wireless tech to connect the devices to your computer, a rechargeable lithium battery, and more. TransluSense CEO Jason Giddings noted that you can hook the unit up to your computer to charge the device, and use it while it charges – when done, pop out the cable and it’s wireless once more.
The Keyboard+ and Touchpad+ will both support a minimum of 10 simultaneous inputs – the standard for any modern multitouch device. Giddings remarked, however, that they can fairly easily push past that many inputs, but given the keyboard’s intended scenarios, they’d be of limited use (how many fingers do you have).
Regrettably, there were no working models when I stopped by the booth, thanks in part to some issues with the current firmware on the devices. Still, I saw enough to be excited for the project as a whole – and I’m not the only one. In addition to snagging top honors at CES’ Last Gadget Standing contest, TransluSense was founded with the help of thousands of others on popular crowd-sourcing site Kickstarter (Disclosure: I paid $5 to TransluSense on Kickstarter when its campaign launched months ago). That funding was enough to attract the interest of actual investors, and the company has raised over $3 million since its inception.
There are a few concerns I have with the products, namely as regards long-term use. Using a glass trackpad shouldn’t pose much of a problem, as the majority of today’s top touchpads are actually coated with glass. A glass keyboard, however, seems unappealing to type on for hours at a time. When I brought up these concerns, Giddings responded that the products aren’t for everyone, pushing that the benefits outweighed any potential weaknesses. He also noted with some enthusiasm that we’ve been training to type on glass for a while now, thanks to the rise in smartphones and tablets. It’s hard to argue with his logic, and while I’m curious to see how my fingers would feel after a typical work week with the products, I’m mostly excited to see the finished product.
After all, who doesn’t want a piece of the future on their desk?