Posts Tagged ‘Keyboard’
I’ve been enamored with the Das Keyboard since it launched in 2005. These supremely clicky, IBM-style keyboards are some of the most rugged mechanical input devices you can buy. Their Pro model — an all-black monolith with black keys and no key markings — is the gold standard for Gibson-esque console jockeys who believe that the best keyboard can be used as a weapon and shouldn’t be touched by mere mortals.
The company just launched a new “quiet” version of its Das Keyboard, Model S Professional Quiet, and I thought it would be fun to talk with Daniel Guermeur, founder of the company who went from being an open-source software maven at the turn of the century to making one of the most sought-after and coolest keyboards on the market. While Guermeur still works in software, his clicky Das Keyboard is probably his most lasting legacy in the gaming and programming world, a unique tool suited to unique professionals.
John Biggs: We’ve been talking about Das Keyboard for years, but I don’t think anybody’s really talked about how you started the company, what the inspiration was?
Daniel Guermeur: The company started in the year 2000 as a software company. At that point, we started with open source software. We actually commercialized or distributed one of the first point and click content management systems.
Within 30 days of that software being released, it was No. 1. It was the most downloaded server software on SourceForge. We had been selling there, so our model was to provide tech support for that open source software.
We did pretty well until the end of the dot-com boom, and at that point, every, most software companies had trouble finding customers, so we had to downscale a little bit. But we still kept going with that. We were pure software at that point.
Me being a software person, I spend my time on the computer, like 8 or 10 hours a day every day and the weekends and so on. Even more than 10 hours, I guess. One day I realized that I’m a pretty slow typist and if I typed faster, I would actually achieve more. I kind of tried to understand why I was slow and it was because I was looking at the keys.
So I thought, hey, if I could not look at the keys, my mind will know where the keys are. It will memorize where the keys are. So I asked my assistant to find me a keyboard with nothing on it, no key inscriptions and she came back, saying, “Hey, it doesn’t exist. I could not find one.”
So I told her, “Hey, could you contact somebody, could you find a factory in China and have them make one just for me?” And she did. And so three months later, I received a blank keyboard, totally black and totally blank and I typed on it.
And amazingly enough, I doubled my speed within 30 days.
DG: So I was pretty happy because I was very slow. I was around 30 words a minute, now I’m at 65, something like that. And I kept it on my desk and the amazing part is that people who came to my office, friends and colleagues say, “Hey, wow, you have a blank keyboard. You must be really good.” I said, “Yes, that’s me, I’m really good.”
So there was this cool factor I didn’t know about before people told me, that it really looked bad ass. And so I kept going, using my keyboard and after about a year, I had so many requests from people asking me, “Hey, where did you buy that keyboard? We want to buy one because it’s so cool.”
I said, “Hey, let me do a little study and you’ll be able to buy it from my website within one month.”
I went to see my friend, Maurice Miller, who’s one of the founders of Rackspace and I told him, “Hey, I want to ask your sysadmins to test my keyboard to see if they would buy it because a blank keyboard is something that nobody wants to buy except crazy people like me.”
My assumption was that people who are in the tech world, like sysadmins and programmers, they would like that because they were more or less like me. They said that they really liked the keyboard. About 60 percent said they would buy it, so I thought, “Hey, it’s a marketing result.” It was an informal marketing survey, nothing scientific. I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty impressive — 60 percent — it’s incredible. I’ve got to try that, to set it up online.”
What I did is I created a one-page website over the weekend. I took a picture of my keyboard. I think it was on Monday we made the website public. It was linked to a stock Yahoo store, totally ugly. The whole website, the concept was that the blank keyboard is only for the geeks — for the ubergeeks. That was the angle.
We sent one email to Gizmodo — a five-line email — saying, “Hey, Gizmodo. We’ve got a kick-ass, a bad-ass blank keyboard called Das Keyboard,” and we sent them the link. That’s all the marketing we did. I thought, they probably won’t publish that, ever, but my idea was that if I sell 15 keyboards, then maybe there was a market. Then if I have totally misjudged the opportunity I’ll sell probably five, so between five and 15.
Actually, Gizmodo published a little blog post, and within five days we had millions of visitors. The keyboard was featured in the New York Times. In the print edition we had a picture of the keyboard. It was on Slashdot, CBS News, we got MTV, World News Report, we got a ton of people talking about the keyboard.
We got millions of visitors. The web server was so busy we had to upgrade the machine. It kept crashing. We got thousands of orders within a few days.
JB: I just realized that was my post on Gizmodo. I’m looking at it now.
JB: I wrote that. I just checked. I wrote that in 2005.
DG: Thank you so much. Wow. That’s awesome.
DG: Yeah, so I’m talking to you.
JB: Yeah, I’m the guy who made your company work.
DG: I think you are, yes. Yeah, that’s really awesome. Hopefully at some point we can meet in person so I can shake your hand.
JB: That would be nice. Anyway, keep going.
DG: We had a huge demand, and we didn’t plan for that so we didn’t have any inventory. We identified a few possible suppliers, but we didn’t talk to them. We said, “Hey, what do we do? We are a software company. We know nothing about hardware, and we have customers.”
We said, “We should try to deliver within three months.”
We contacted the customers and said, “Hey, we are out of stock. Are you willing to wait three months, and then we’ll ship?”
The vast majority said, “Yes, we are totally wanting to wait three months because that keyboard is so bad-ass. The blank keyboard, we want it.”
We said, “OK.” Then we worked really hard to procure all the keyboards and deliver them. That’s how it started.
At that point we decided, “Let’s upgrade the quality of the keyboard,” so we have been starting to improve the design, improve the technology, always focusing on the highest possible quality of every component we use.
Then we actually were able to carve a niche with positioning, which is Das Keyboard is the ultimate typing machine, where everything we design, the spirit of it, is to have the best, highest quality possible. The best typing experience possible.
That was our idea.
We think people spend at least eight hours a day typing on a keyboard, which makes a keyboard very important. That’s the object many people touch the most in their entire life. It’s a keyboard. That’s why we think, if you have a very responsive keyboard, very comfortable, your whole life gets upgraded. I don’t know what kind of keyboard you use, but I can tell you our customers really love it. When we have a new opening here on Metadot, they come and they start typing on it. They just love it.
We started with the blank keyboard. That is the one I have on my desk. Then we said, “Hey, there is a lot of demand for a high-quality, very tactile keyboard, but with inscriptions,” so then we decided to do it as well. We call it the Professional. The blank one is the Ultimate. The other one is called the Professional.
We went through several generations of products. The latest one is generation No. 3. It’s the latest, and we have several flavors.
Two models — which is Ultimate, blank one, and the Professional — and within those we have options, like the typing experience. One is the blue key switch, which is the most clicky. We have the brown key switch, which we call Soft Tactile, so it’s less clicky but still very tactile. Less clicky means also it’s not as audible as the blue key switch.
Today, we launched what we call the Quiet Keyboard. It’s a quiet key design. It’s a red key switch with a quiet key design, which makes it very quiet. The tactile feel is absolutely unbelievable. Maybe we should send you one like this so you can…
That’s the demand we have now. It’s a little bit like the tomato sauce. You have tomato sauce with the gigantic piece of meat, and some people like that, and some people prefer when the meatballs are smaller, or a lot smaller. There is like a flavor of experience that people want to have. What’s amazing is that, on paper, the specifications are very similar, but the user experience is so different.
JB: Where did you get the name? What’s the inspiration of the name? Is it just because it sounds cool?
DG: It’s a combination of things. First of all, the switch technology is German. I’m French, and my partner is German, so we looked at a good name; we looked at a blank keyboard, and so on.
A good name that actually meant something for many people was the word “das,” which is German for “the,” and “Keyboard” is really honest, so it will be “The Keyboard,” but with some German elements to it, which is about high quality, high performance, and good reliability, like the German concept of technology. That’s the idea behind it.
JB: What’s the future of the keyboard? Do you think you guys are going to be making keyboards in five years? Do you think keyboards are going to stick around?
DG: The answer is yes. In the ’80s, already I heard that the keyboard is dead — people are going to use voice recognition within a few years. I thought, “Wow, that sounds cool. I want to use that.” But the reality is that when people do serious typing they use a workstation, and they have a big screen. They have an awesome mouse, and they need to have an awesome keyboard.
If you check on Google Trends, the search trends of “mechanical keyboards” — just those two words — you will see that the demand has been exponentially increasing in the last years. There is a huge demand, and I think the demand is going to increase, even though people buy less desktops.
I think people who are still doing that are buying better-quality components that they use for a longer time. Hence, I think Das Keyboard is the key to doing that.
We have lots of things in the making. A lot. If you look at the competition, typically they do, “Hey, we have a keyboard. Now we are going to do a mouse, and maybe some different keyboards, more keyboards, so 20 keyboards or 50 keyboards.”
We are not going to do that. We have a different strategy. It’s a strategy that nobody has done yet. I cannot tell you all of it now, but the idea is that we’re going to focus on a very limited number of keyboards and we are going to increase the kind of products we sell, different kinds of products.
The concept that we are trying to address is that people want to be more productive when they work and we are going to give them tools so they are more productive in general.
JB: I saw the reusable earplugs on the site. That’s funny because it’s so true. This is the loudest keyboard ever. Who is the strangest or most interesting person that you’ve met who has been using Das Keyboard? Anybody famous or amazing that you know?
DG: I know that Noam Chomsky has one.
JB: I’m not sure that’s a good thing for some people.
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One of the most impressive things we happened upon at CES this year was the Tactus keyboard, a special fluid-filled layer that could be baked into a tablet or smartphone to provide users with a physical keyboard that could recede back into the screen when it wasn’t needed.
Since then the company has been flying under the radar, but it turns out Tactus has been hard at work on a prototype device with help from a prominent player in the touch interaction space. Tactus confirmed to TechCrunch that it has partnered with touch panel experts at Synaptics to create a reference device — a 7-inch Android-powered tablet — that it will begin shopping around to OEMs and carriers at the end of June.
As you might expect, the company was hesitant to name names, but newly-installed sales and marketing VP RK Parthasarathy noted that “multiple tier 1 OEMs” are already waiting for a chance to fiddle with the 7-inch reference design kit, and that the first Tactus devices were still slated to be shown off some time this year… just not around these parts. Instead, Parthasarathy expects the first official Tactus-enabled tablet to make an appearance at a trade show in Asia in Q4 (the tight-lipped VP wouldn’t confirm which) before popping up at CES in early 2013.
Fortunately, it seems as though those Tactus-enabled tablets may able to compete on price just as devices like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire do right now. Despite the seeming complexity of adding a fluid-filled outer layer to a tablet’s screen, it’s apparently a walk in the park compared to the alternative. According to Parthasarathy, the process of handling and cutting down glass for the traditional cover lenses that sit over tablet displays is cumbersome and pricey enough that implementing a Tactus layer is a viable financial alternative. The fact that the keyboard can be made to work with whatever OS sits below it is an intriguing proposition to boot — there’s nothing stopping Microsoft or Apple from running with these things short of a mismatch in vision.
The move works rather nicely for Synaptics too — the company’s touch layers have become ubiquitous in laptops and smartphones, but short of an appearance in Samsung’s 10-inch Galaxy Tab 2.0 Synaptics hasn’t had much success in cracking the tablet market.
“The tablet market has been evolving, and Synaptics has been criticized for being late to the game,” said Synaptics technology strategist Dr. Andrew Hsu. Granted, the tablet market is still relatively small compared to the handset business — while Synaptics’ presence in tablets has been modest, it hopes that partnering with Tactus can help them pick up steam in an already-crowded market.
It’s an incredibly neat concept and seems to work well enough in practice, but are people really clamoring for a return to more tactile way to interact with their devices? After all, big names in the mobile space like Samsung have been tinkering with ways to users to manipulate their gadgets without the need to lay a finger on them. In short, are touchier keyboards really the way forward? At least one person would probably agree, but as far as Tactus is concerned there’s nothing to stop an OEM from baking a whole host of interaction methods into a single device.
“What we’re seeing is a natural evolution,” Parthasarathy pointed out. “We don’t believe there is a single interaction mechanism that belongs on every device. Users will have a multitude of interface options, but serious content creation requires a physical interface.” We’ll soon see if the Tactus vision ultimately pans out — with any luck, that initial batch of Tactus tablets will go on sale a few months after appearing at CES.
You might not have noticed, but Toshiba’s been playing the Android tablet game for the last few years. Now, a new leak suggests Toshiba’s next slab will house NVIDIA’s new Tegra 4 mobile chip (clocked at 1.8GHz, according to an AnTuTu benchmark) and almost the very latest version of Android — that’s 4.2.1, if you’ve been keeping count. According to techblog.gr‘s stolen glances, there’s also a dockable keyboard with chiclet keys, but no trackpad. It appears to be more of a standalone dock than connected lid, with the tablet connected and propped at an angle rather then joined at a seam, although it may lie on top of the tablet to protect the screen when not in use.
We also got a peek at the ports along one of the edges, which includes micro-USB, micro-HDMI and a microSD slot, but no word just yet on internal storage and, well, much else at this point — not a digitizer in sight. We’ve added a shot of the keyboard add-on after the break and if you’re interest has been piqued, there’s more photos at the source.
Filed under: Tablets
KALQ Is A New Split-Screen Keyboard Layout Designed To Speed Up Thumb Typing On Tablets & Big Phones
After the success of gesture-based keyboards such as Swype, the next obvious disruption to keyboard technology is optimisation of the legacy Qwerty layout that’s persisted since the typewriter era. Not that people haven’t tried alternatives to Qwerty already (e.g. Dvorak et al.) – and generally failed to make them stick. But that’s not stopping a group of academic researchers — including the co-inventor of the gesture IP behind Swype — from devising a new touchscreen keyboard layout in the hope that people can finally be persuaded to shift their typing habits.
KALQ, which is named, like Qwerty, after a string of its keys, is designed to speed up thumb typing on tablets and phablets (aka big phones). Its creators, who are from the University of St Andrews, the Max Planck Institute for Informatics and Montana Tech, claim that once users have accustomed themselves to the non-Qwerty layout — with about eight hours practice required to be as fast as Qwerty and 13-19 hours to surpass your Qwerty typing speed — typing performance can be about a third (34 percent) more efficient than thumb typing on split-screen Qwerty layouts.
They are planning to release KALQ as a free Android app for tablets and phablets, which will also work on smaller screen smartphones but stress their research and performance claims relate specifically to larger devices, rather than phones. They are also not directly comparing the performance of the new layout against any of the gesture keyboard input methods (Swype, SwiftKey’s Flow etc) — their performance data is based on a direct comparison with thumb typing on a split Qwerty.
Dr Per Ola Kristensson, Lecturer in Human Computer Interaction in the School of Computer Science at the University of St Andrews, who is one of the academics involved in the research, told TechCrunch they tested KALQ on a Galaxy Tab 7.7, adding that while the keyboard may also offer speed improvements on smartphones it’s not a claim they have tested. Kristensson is no stranger to keyboard disruption, being the man who wrote the pattern recognition algorithm underlying Swype, and co-founder of ShapeWriter, the startup that commercialised the gesture keyboard system in 2007 — before being acquired by Nuance in 2010 (the company that now owns Swype).
Kristensson said the KALQ researchers used a subset of publicly available emails from the Enron trial that were tagged ‘Sent from my BlackBerry’ as their data pool, analysing the mobile users’ use of language to figure out the best positions for the keys. As well as using computational optimisation techniques and looking at how devices behave when users are touch typing, they also modelled thumb movements with the aim of making a fast yet comfortable keyboard. KALQ is an English-language optimised letter layout, but the process that came up with its layout is “general,” said Kristensson: “You can feed it whatever language you want. So the layout may change, depending on your country.”
There’s been lots of crazy text input technologies proposed… The problem with a lot of them is they are not fast enough.
For English speakers, KALQ’s split-screen layout repositions the alphabet into two unequal blocks of letters, with consonants in the left block (plus Y which can be classed as either) and vowels plus the remaining consonants (including K, L and Q) in the right. A space key is included towards the edge of each block for easy reach with either thumb. The letter order is specifically designed to minimise typing long sentences with just one thumb — which is cumbersome and slows touchscreen typists down — and also places frequently used letter keys centrally close to each other to minimise thumb movements. In addition, the layout generally aims to encourage typing on alternating sides of the keyboard — which Kristensson said is a more ergonomic and comfortable way to type.
As well as learning the new letter layout, KALQ typists need to learn to move both thumbs at once to get the fastest speeds. “Experienced typists move their thumbs simultaneously: while one thumb is selecting a particular key, the other thumb is approaching its next target. From these insights we derived a predictive behavioural model we could use to optimise the keyboard,” noted Dr Antti Oulasvirta, Senior Researcher at the Max Planck Institute, in a statement.
The researchers said trained KALQ users were able to reach speeds of 37 words per minute — which they said is the highest ever reported entry rate for two-thumb typing on touchscreen devices, and “significantly higher” than the approximately 20 words per minute entry rate users can normally reach on a regular split Qwerty layout. The group will be presenting its research next month at the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Paris. The Android KALQ app will be available for download in due course.
Persuading users to adopt a new keyboard layout is likely to be a tough ask but Kristensson said the problem with most of the Qwerty layout challengers to-date has been that they are not disruptive enough — in terms of the performance bump they offer users who have to go through the pain of learning how to type quickly again.
“If you want to get people to change their layout you basically have to get people to invest, you have to get them to give up the assigned cost, their previous investment in Qwerty typing. And then we have to invest new time in learning KALQ,” he said. “There’s been lots of crazy text input technologies proposed. Actually hundreds of them. Most of them have failed. I would say probably 99% of them have filed but the problem with a lot of them is actually they are not fast enough so why would people reinvest in learning a new text entry method if it doesn’t provide a substantial performance advantage so I think [KALQ] is one of the few keyboards that can provide that. So I’m hopeful.”
Asked whether the group might look to commercialise the research, he said the priority is to try to encourage people to adjust their typing behaviour and accept a Qwerty alternative but added that the group may look to monetise their algorithms in other ways — by, for example, using them to optimise other menu-based user interfaces.
“What I’m hoping here is that we will have impact,” he told TechCrunch. “I wanted to get people away from thinking about the Qwerty keyboard. And I think impact here may mean that we will release [KALQ] for free — but remember we are the ones who have all the algorithms to come up with optimal keyboards so we learn a lot about how to optimise user interfaces in general. My co-investigator, Antti Oulasvirta, he’s completely passionate about optimising any sort of user interface. So the process we use here can also be used to optimise other user interfaces like menu structures for example so there is lots of potential for the underlying technology. This is just one instantiation of that. But I think trying to sell a new keyboard — that’s a risky proposition. I’m not sure a venture capitalist would go for it.”
Keyboard cases for iPad are many and multiplying, but at this point it’s a question of refining the best concepts, not creating dramatically different devices. The Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case for iPad is a great example, taking a lot of cues from the massively popular Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad and folio style designs to create a solution that might be as near as perfect as tablet typers can get.
- Keyboard is 6.4mm thin
- 160 hours battery life
- Magnets for secure closure and three viewing angles
- MSRP: $ 99.99
- Product info page
The Ultimate Keyboard Case is not small, but it isn’t big either. It avoids feeling anywhere near as bulky as a total hardcase like the Brydge, but don’t expect something with the low profile of Apple’s Smart Cover, for instance. But it sill manages to be just about as low-profile as the Logitech Ultrathin, and it has a few extra tricks up its sleeve, including a protective cover for the back of your iPad, three possible viewing angles for your device, and a sound port built into the case that redirects the iPad’s speaker output for better listening.
The materials feel top-quality, it weighs only 411 grams (slightly more than the Ultrathin’s 355 grams) and its keyboard layout feels natural and won’t impede your touch typing abilities. The design of the keyboard component and faux leather hinge means that you can use it with the keyboard folded back in behind, without keys awkwardly facing outward where you can accidentally hit them with your fingers, as is often the case with folio designs.
As mentioned, the Belkin Ultimate Keyboard Case is great to type on, with one small quibble: the recessed design of the keys means that it can be awkward to hit the space bar, since your thumb will also brush up against the base of the case itself. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it does annoy when you’re coming from a standard notebook or desktop keyboard. But the dedicated keys, including a microphone key that brings up Siri on later generation iPads or voice dictation on earlier ones, as well as the convenience factor outweigh any downsides.
The Ultimate Keyboard’s other big feature is its use of magnets to allow for three different viewing angles. It’s a nice trick, and one that works well. The one limitation here is that if you’re trying to type in an unstable setting, say on a very bumpy car or train ride, the magnets can actually become dislodged. As long as you’re using the Belkin on a flat surface and you aren’t on Safari, however, the magnets do their job and offer a bit of flexibility vs. the Logitech Ultrathin.
I feel like we may be reaching peak keyboard case, especially for the standard-sized iPad. But Belkin’s Ultimate Keyboard Case, though somewhat late to the party, shows that there’s still some depth left to be plumbed in terms of wringing innovation out of the overcrowded space. At $ 99.99, it’s not cheap, but if you’re looking for a way to make your iPad a much more capable text-entry machine, while still offering full protection for your iPad itself, this is a good option.
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Click http://www.belkin.com/us/Ultimate-Keyboard-Case-for-iPad to learn more about the Ultimate Keyboard! The thin and lightweight Belkin Ultimate Keyboard C…
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Microsoft would certainly argue that its Surface tablet design is renowned. The business is doing more than just extolling the virtues of kickstands and VaporMg cases, nonetheless. It simply acquired a trio of design patents that cover both the Touch Cover keyboard and the magnetic coupling on the tablet that so frequently gives Microsoft something to dance about. You will not find any deep understandings into the technological workings right here– still, this might offer some prospective Surface KIRF developers a reason to think twice.
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The iPad was never designed to be a laptop, but some people can’t resist the urge to change a gadget’s nature. For that purpose, Logitech is outing keyboard folios for the iPad and iPad Mini that double as a hands-free viewing stand for those long-haul flights. Your fingers will be hovering over a Bluetooth keyboard with membrane scissor keys, covered in your choice of colored fabric shell. The hardware is marked down to be available in the US and Europe in April, setting you back $ 100 for the iPad edition and $ 89.99 for the 7.87-inch version — and if you’d like to learn more, you can check out the videos we’ve stashed after the break.
Just a few months after Corsair revealed its high-end K95 mechanical gaming keyboard, the company has unveiled a slightly lower-end K70 for those who want to save a bit of money. Essentially an upgrade to the K60, the K70 still has those Cherry MX Red mechanical switches, but each key is now individually backlit — the backlighting can be adjusted to four levels of intensity and can be independently enabled or disabled. Other features include 20-key rollover, a 1000Hz reporting rate, contoured keycaps for WASD keys, dedicated multimedia controls, a detachable wrist rest and an extra USB connector. The K70 will be available in April for $ 130 in two different color schemes; silver aluminium with blue backlight and anodized black with deep red backlight.
Filed under: Gaming
Source: Corsair K70
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