written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 9/3/2009
Continuing our "Future Hardware" series, we look at what the future of keyboards holds for all of us. Read on inside for more information about the future of keyboards.
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We Didn't Start the Keyboard
When we look at a keyboard, it’s a rather primitive device. Based back in the olden days of typing, we have to deal with an archaic typing method that was designed to intentionally slow us down, along with a piece of hardware that’s flimsy at best.
Most thought that the evolution of the keyboard ended at the intersection of a wireless, Bluetooth keyboard with backlighting and an LCD screen. I am here to tell you the future doesn’t even have a keyboard in mind.
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Minority Report’s Nothing Compared to This
One of the big milestones in movies for we computer nerds was Minority Report. The movie was a Kubrick-esque tale of a future where crime doesn’t occur because it’s predicted before it even happens. As cool as the concept was (and it’s definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it), the best scene in the movie involved Tom Cruise manipulating a touch-screen display that was a rounded glass display roughly the size of a 50-60" LCD TV.
The movie’s portrayal of the screen involved Tom Cruise frantically moving icons around and even performing complicated procedures all without the use of a keyboard or a mouse. That being said, is the future going to be all touch-screens and Microsoft Surfaces?
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Moving Past Touch Screens
Probably not – the more interesting concept of a keyboard in the future comes to us from the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. In the very first few scenes of that CGI movie, we see the main character manipulating what looks like a holographic wrist keyboard. This seems like a more logical futuristic progression than a touch screen.
Fundamentally, a touch screen isn’t capable of providing the haptic feedback that typing a key is able to provide. The click of a key lets us know we’ve pressed it hard enough, and more importantly, allows us to type in the dark completely without backlighting thanks to muscle memory. Know where the keys are, and you’ll always be able to find them, even without a light.
Teams of scientists currently working on holographic displays are reporting now that the use of ultrasound could function as a form of haptic feedback for interfaces that require typing.
Assuming we have the wrist computer and the wrist keyboard, or even the holographic keyboard displayed by other means, it would be a more portable and more practical approach than what’s currently available on the market.
Keyboards would not offer the type of feedback capable on a programmable holographic device. Once such a thing exists, users would be able to program keys and buttons to respond to the velocity of their touch (the way midi controllers currently do) and to respond perhaps even to the surface temperature of their fingers to control a room’s temperature or other features.
Clearly, the keyboard still has a way to go before the above becomes a reality, but touch screens appear to be reserved for a different piece of hardware. In our final article, we’ll be looking at how touch screens will revolutionize the computer mouse forever.