by Anton Shilov
03/28/2012 | 10:29 PM
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.