Sunday, March 23, 2008

Celluon laser keyboard

Innovative keyboard but not a great UX ...

"A laser keyboard? A LASER KEYBOARD? Indeed: you plug this little £120 gizmo, made by Celluon, into the USB port of your computer (or connect via Bluetooth), find a suitably flat surface, and voila, upon it will appear, etched in red laser light, the outlines of the keys of a standard Windows keyboard. Wow! It's like a very, very small prog rock concert from the 1970s right there on your desk! Put Genesis's Seconds Out on the iPod!

Is that impressive or what? No more need to lug around a keyboard with your Palm (does anyone still use those?) or Tablet PC (you bought one of those?) or Windows or Symbian smartphone (some people have them, I hear). You can even plug it into a normal laptop or desktop machine if you'd like to get the sensation of making words appear just by tapping your desk.

The keyboard is generated by scanning a laser beam very rapidly over the desk, rather as cathode-ray TV generates the picture by progressively squirting lines of electrons onto the tube you're watching. A detector watches to see whether anything interrupts the beam (by capturing reflections to a detector mounted by the laser) and can figure out which "key" - or "keys", since the scanning happens very much faster than typing - are being "pressed". Does it work? It does. I tried it on an HP laptop running Windows XP, which recognised it at once (after the software had been installed). The sensation of tapping one's fingers on the naked desk is very strange, because we're used to keyboards which give a certain amount of tactile and force feedback.

But here's the problem. I'm a touch typist, yet though I tried for quite a while, I couldn't get any accuracy with the keyboard. Missed keys, wrong keys, missed spaces were common. (I tried hunt-and-peck. But that's slow.) Yes, you can negotiate menus, and even move the mouse by swirling your finger around once you're in a mouse control mode (for example, with a dialog box). But it's not better than a little mouse you could carry in a pocket.

Another problem is that you can't enlarge the keyboard. (True, you can't with standard keyboards either, but this is just light.) Raising the laser makes the image on the desk larger, but then the reflections aren't captured, so nothing happens when you type. And, finally, the gizmo plus the virtual keyboard takes as much, if not more, room than a real keyboard. It's not better than fold-out portable keyboards that have been around for ages, or flexible ones from companies such as Eleksen."    (Continued via The Guardian)    [Usability Resources]

Laser Keyboard - Usability, User Interface Design

Laser Keyboard


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