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While some may believe that keyboards are no longer important in the world of touch-screens, it does not seem to be the truth. Microsoft Corp. has apparently submitted a patent on "interactive keyboard with multiple different key arrangements". In fact, Microsoft seems to be working on a keyboard with integrated screens inside each key, similar to Art Lebedev's Optimus devices.

In abstract, Microsoft describes its interactive keyboard as "selectively configurable by an end user to provide differing key arrangements". The keyboard "includes a plurality of differently-configured keyboard modules" and an underlying display device. Each of the of differently-configured keyboard modules may be "at least partially see-through and include mechanically-depressible keys, the underlying display device and plurality of differently-configured keyboard modules".

The world's largest software designer, which is also a leading maker of peripherals, essentially wants to create a keyboard akin to Art Lebedev's Optimus keyboards (and other similar concepts) with screens built-in inside each key. The keyboard will be clearly different from Optimus Maximus (each key supports has integrated OLED screen) and will rather resemble Optimus Popularis concept with one screen below physical keys. However, one of the problems of this approach may be a limited viewing angle toward the keys as the display is located below physical keys and it may be challenging to achieve a high usability factor in such a device, notes Tom's Hardware web-site.

At present it is unclear whether Microsoft is even working on the interactive keyboard, therefore, it is hard to predict when such device can become available and at what price. Nonetheless, it is pretty interesting that inventors from Microsoft even look in the direction of keyboard improvements as the company itself seems to be heavily concentrated on making its multi-touch Metro UI comfortable and usable.

Microsoft did not comment on the news-story.

Tags: Microsoft, Optimus, Art Lebedev

Discussion

Comments currently: 6
Discussion started: 03/29/12 11:29:09 AM
Latest comment: 04/01/12 03:53:26 AM
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1. 
Microsoft has potential to create an API to handle such keyboards.
It would allow for automatical change (upload/switch) of key pictures sets, when particular keymap is set, or when window of particular program (e.g. game) becomes active.
1 1 [Posted by: KonradK  | Date: 03/29/12 11:29:09 AM]
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It is already made in Optimus products. So all MS has to do is watch, learn and make their own implementation
3 0 [Posted by: PsiAmp  | Date: 03/29/12 03:49:52 PM]
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show the post
0 3 [Posted by: KonradK  | Date: 03/29/12 04:57:36 PM]
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2. 
Microsoft is once again attempting to patent the work of others who have gone before them...
3 1 [Posted by: Divide Overflow  | Date: 03/29/12 04:58:34 PM]
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3. 
Why not making a touch screen keyboard? Oh wait...
0 0 [Posted by: TAViX  | Date: 03/30/12 01:42:12 AM]
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4. 
It would be interesting if they combined this LED concept with pressure sensitive keys that they've been fiddling with in their labs before. The viewing angle problem can be quite easily solved by installing cheap enough to make plastic angle modifying prisms on top of each key with the best viewing angle at around 30 degrees vertically, so that's no biggie. The biggest change would be, as some have mentioned before, in the APIs supporting such concept, so why not go all the way and make pressure sensitive APIs as well while they're at it? Current tech is advanced enough such products could be made en mass and sold cheap enough for all of us to buy. And when you have a huge user base all else is down to how well written and documented APIs are and then just wait for tons of user written plugins and other ways of using your product productively. I can totally see myself writing a typing assistant with built in error correction and other typing options such as T9 text predicting with "on keyboard" hints and options... and similar. Just give us the product MS and we (your user base) will make it work LOL

EDIT: Giving it a bit more thought I gather having an info area on such keyboard would also be neat. Most people can't blind type and having a relevant part of the screen repeat on the keyboard itself and/or provide additional relevant information to whatever the user is doing would be of great help to most. Make that a multi-touch capable touch-pad in the center of the wrist rest area and you've got one kick-ass product!
0 0 [Posted by: MyK  | Date: 04/01/12 03:53:26 AM]
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