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Microsoft May Be Preparing LED Screen Keyboard

By - Source: USPTO | B 25 comments

A few years ago, Russian design studio Art Lebedev made some waves with a fancy keyboard that has configurable keys enabled via OLED displays that are built into every key.

While it is a standout, it is ridiculously expensive. Art Lebedev wants $2068 for the Optimus Maximus.

However, there was a patent filed by Microsoft that could have a similar functionality for considerably less money: The company's "interactive keyboard with a viewable display" was submitted as a patent in September of 2010 and published by the USPTO on March 22, 2012. A second supporting patent extends the patent with the option of "multiple different key arrangements".

The differentiator to the Optimus Maximus is the fact that the keyboard uses only one display that is integrated below "at least partially see-through mechanically depressible keys". The problem 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.

If Microsoft can, in fact, build such a device and offer it for a reasonable price, such a keyboard may be the most significant evolution of keyboards in decades and tide us over to a time when haptic touch screen keyboards overcome their latency problems and turn into useful keyboard replacements.

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  • 16 Hide
    dgingeri , March 27, 2012 4:32 PM
    nizTypical Microsoft: Rip off someone elses idea and market it years late.

    Well, nobody else was making it a reality. it stayed a concept only kind of thing until this filing. Look at so many other things from scifi that stayed concept only for years. Somebody has to make it happen. I'm fine with it being Microsoft. They seem to have the resources to do it right.
  • 13 Hide
    zak_mckraken , March 27, 2012 4:50 PM
    If they can make it so it can go for $50 or under, they will sell like cupcakes. They would have many advantages over regular keyboards in businesses and governement :
    - true multilingual keyboard through layout settings
    - dynamic keys that displays the upcoming output (caps, shift, alt)
    - keys that doesn't wear off over time
  • 13 Hide
    alvine , March 27, 2012 4:15 PM
    make it water proof too
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  • 8 Hide
    dgingeri , March 27, 2012 4:11 PM
    I like this idea: interface touch screen input device with context sensitive controls. it turns into whatever you need depending on what is selected. This was actually the concept behind the LCARS interface in Star Trek The Next Generation. (Yes, I'm a big fan of LCARS. I want it on my phone, on my computer, and in my car.) Something like this could easily be integrated into Windows 8, which has much the same interface.
  • 13 Hide
    alvine , March 27, 2012 4:15 PM
    make it water proof too
  • 16 Hide
    dgingeri , March 27, 2012 4:32 PM
    nizTypical Microsoft: Rip off someone elses idea and market it years late.

    Well, nobody else was making it a reality. it stayed a concept only kind of thing until this filing. Look at so many other things from scifi that stayed concept only for years. Somebody has to make it happen. I'm fine with it being Microsoft. They seem to have the resources to do it right.
  • 13 Hide
    zak_mckraken , March 27, 2012 4:50 PM
    If they can make it so it can go for $50 or under, they will sell like cupcakes. They would have many advantages over regular keyboards in businesses and governement :
    - true multilingual keyboard through layout settings
    - dynamic keys that displays the upcoming output (caps, shift, alt)
    - keys that doesn't wear off over time
  • 8 Hide
    zak_mckraken , March 27, 2012 4:53 PM
    amdfreakwouldn't it be much less expensive to create a touchscreen the size of the keyboard. One could touch the keys over the touchscreen. Problem solved. :-)

    We're talking about a keyboard with physical keys here, not a touchscreen. Physical feedback is essential and provides less strain on fingers and hands.
  • 2 Hide
    kinggremlin , March 27, 2012 4:57 PM
    zak_mckrakenIf they can make it so it can go for $50 or under, they will sell like cupcakes.


    $50? Why don't you just ask them to bundle it for free with Windows like Internet Explorer. It's easy to spend $50 or more on a decent traditional keyboard. It's probably unrealistic to think they could sell something like this under even $100, but if they could keep it somewhere near $100, they will have really achieved something.
  • 2 Hide
    trumpeter1994 , March 27, 2012 5:04 PM
    I remember seeing the optimus maximus years back in a preview by gameinformer. I haven't heard of it again until now though. If Microsoft pulls this off though then I can see them entering the gaming keyboard market where they'd probably compete with Logitech and Razer among others.
  • 0 Hide
    dgingeri , March 27, 2012 5:10 PM
    zak_mckrakenIf they can make it so it can go for $50 or under, they will sell like cupcakes. They would have many advantages over regular keyboards in businesses and governement :- true multilingual keyboard through layout settings- dynamic keys that displays the upcoming output (caps, shift, alt)- keys that doesn't wear off over time

    Would be nice, but touchscreens that size cost tablet makers about $150-200 already, and $150 is really low quality. I'd say these are likely to be about $300 by the time they reach us.
  • 0 Hide
    markdj , March 27, 2012 5:10 PM
    my guess is $199 with lots of fancy color features to go along with the custom key layouts
  • -5 Hide
    dgingeri , March 27, 2012 5:11 PM
    zak_mckrakenWe're talking about a keyboard with physical keys here, not a touchscreen. Physical feedback is essential and provides less strain on fingers and hands.

    Know what's lower stress on the fingers? Voice input. Forget classic keyboards. interactive touchscreen interfaces and voice input is a much better model.
  • 0 Hide
    nurgletheunclean , March 27, 2012 6:01 PM
    Very gimmicky. it's a physical keyboard with customizable keys and has some sort of haptic feedback or even a mechanical key press. I see this going about the same way as ergonomic keyboards. Some people like them, but 99% don't. Rearranging keys is only going to confuse people who are used to a querty layout. People are creatures of habit, it's very difficult for people to adopt new interfaces, such as trackballs, ergo keyboards, even touchpads (glide pads). Function lock for laptop number pads on top of lettered keys will drive most people crazy, much less 10+ variable key layouts.

    Apple could probably get their fan base to jump all over this. But I think Microsoft's users are too practical to adopt this product.
  • 0 Hide
    Miharu , March 27, 2012 7:22 PM
    Seem to me just different layout just like there is tons of laptop keyboard layout.

    No keypad, with keypad, 101-keys, natural keyboard, Japenese, Korean,...
    Flat buttons, normal buttons, flat with round end,...

    You just buy the layout that you want and docking one "keyboard" layout on a "keyboard" docking.
    Buttons and controller on 2 different parts number.
    Doesn't seem something all new except it's keyboard and it's should come with OLED.

    I want a OLED keyboard so if Microsoft can make one abordable... will surely buy it.
    And for the latency, I read few weeks ago that Microsoft build a 0-1ms touchscreen.
    If they apply this technology, there'll be no trouble at all.

    The real question with Microsoft it's always... "when".
  • 0 Hide
    joytech22 , March 27, 2012 8:29 PM
    zak_mckrakenIf they can make it so it can go for $50 or under, they will sell like cupcakes. They would have many advantages over regular keyboards in businesses and governement :- true multilingual keyboard through layout settings- dynamic keys that displays the upcoming output (caps, shift, alt)- keys that doesn't wear off over time


    Under $50? Dude.. Wishful thinking but this keyboard I have right now was $110 from Thermaltake, A keyboard with built-in OLED screens is going to jack up the price so much.
  • 1 Hide
    maestintaolius , March 27, 2012 8:30 PM
    nizTypical Microsoft: Rip off someone elses idea and market it years late.

    Oh please, the writers for Star Trek TNG came up with the "dynamic keyboard" idea long, long before the 2010 patent application (don't even get me started on the iPad vs TNG PADD). Hell, if you have the "star technical manual" the console teardowns look almost exactly like the current gen tech.
  • 0 Hide
    Tab54o , March 27, 2012 9:13 PM
    they already have mechanical buttons you can buy with tiny lcd screens on them. this would just be an entire keyboard made of them. You can buy them off the shelf

    see here
  • 1 Hide
    Fyrilin , March 27, 2012 9:28 PM
    nurgletheuncleanVery gimmicky. it's a physical keyboard with customizable keys and has some sort of haptic feedback or even a mechanical key press. I see this going about the same way as ergonomic keyboards. Some people like them, but 99% don't. Rearranging keys is only going to confuse people who are used to a querty layout. People are creatures of habit, it's very difficult for people to adopt new interfaces, such as trackballs, ergo keyboards, even touchpads (glide pads). Function lock for laptop number pads on top of lettered keys will drive most people crazy, much less 10+ variable key layouts.Apple could probably get their fan base to jump all over this. But I think Microsoft's users are too practical to adopt this product.

    I agree that you don't want to change your default keyboard layout but consider specialty applications for the users of large programs such as CAD workstations, Adobe suite, games, or even power Windows users. Each of those programs have specific and widely-used keyboard shortcuts or specific keyboard layouts to optimize the tactile interface. Also remember that MANY keyboards have specific function keys that can be re-mapped. If they do the software for this right, you could assign profiles for programs (or users) to that re-map the images for each key to show what their shortcut command would be or hit that key combination with one key or highlight the WASD keys for gamers. Gaming mice are doing this for extra buttons already.
    I see this type of interface to be microsoft doing what they're trying to do with Windows 8: create a single product that can modify itself or be modified to fit many different needs. It simplifies their engineering processes (assuming their engineers have the ability to generalize software), unifies products (saves $), and makes the end-user happier because now there is an easy to use but flexible device.
    I'm all for it. I would be willing to pay $150-200 if they get the software/hardware right with no lag.
  • 0 Hide
    dgingeri , March 27, 2012 10:55 PM
    Tab54othey already have mechanical buttons you can buy with tiny lcd screens on them. this would just be an entire keyboard made of them. You can buy them off the shelfsee here


    They aren't "off the shelf" items. Sure, they're made already, but they go to a keyboard that costs over $2000. These are custom parts that cost quite a bit. Also, lots of little screens require lots of controllers, bringing the cost up considerably.

    In order to cut costs, Microsoft is making this keyboard that has clear keys and a single LCD screen under them. A single screen requires only one controller, bringing the cost down compared to the multi screen type. Also, the little screens cost a lot more than once big screen of the same overall size.

    Personally, I would prefer it without the clear keys. a flat panel touchscreen as an interface would be nice.
  • 0 Hide
    ceh4702 , March 27, 2012 11:26 PM
    http://www.riimini.com/

    What is so special about a keyboard that lights up. Could just as easily use a flourescent light to light up the keyboard like an LCD screen uses. These little keyboard can be light up?
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