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Wooting One Analog Keyboard Coming With Optical Flaretech Switches (Update: Fully Funded)

Update, 5/26/16, 8:55am PT: Well, that was fast. After a few brief delays, Wooting launched its Kickstarter campaign (on May 24), and it was fully funded within seven hours. Dollars continue to flow, though; at press time, the campaign is more than than $30k past its initial goal of $33,695, at over $65k. There are still twenty-seven days left on the campaign. The group said in a blog post that it will have some stretch goals, but they were caught off guard--they figured they had time to come up with some.

Most of the time, a keyboard labeled as a “gaming keyboard” simply means it has flashy lighting, light linear switches, and a stylized housing. Wooting, a new Dutch keyboard company, is pushing the limits of what a keyboard can do, adding features that could change how keyboards can be utilized for gaming by using optical switches with an analog feature that allows you to apply gradations of pressure to each key.

At the heart of the Wooting One is the Flaretech optical switches. These analog switches use an optical sensor and light to read the position of a keypress. Unlike a traditional keyboard with digital inputs that are capable only of sending on/off signals, the analog Flaretech switches can send multiple input values to the computer.                                

A game controller is a good example of a device that utilizes and showcases the capabilities of both analog and digital inputs. On a modern game pad, such as the XBox One controller, the ABXY button cluster is sending a digital signal, whereas the joysticks and triggers are sending analog signals. The analog signals allow you to make adjustments at tiny increments, a feature that is essential to most modern games. The Wooting One will be capable of sending out analog signals, allowing users to make precise movement and throttle adjustments right from the keyboard.

In other words, instead of pressing W to move forward at a set speed, the Wooting One lets you move at various speeds depending on how far down you’re pressing the W key.

Thanks to the Wooting software, the Wooting One will be recognized by the computer as a keyboard and gamepad simultaneously. Users will have to switch between gaming and typing modes in order to get the most out of the keyboard.

The size and shape of the Flaretech switches are comparable to Cherry MX switches, with Flaretech even using the same MX cross stems, although the switches will not be interchangeable due to PCB differences. Flaretech switches are hot-swappable, allowing users to easily swap out switches on the Wooting One with other Flaretech switches without any soldering. Wooting has also made the top plate easily changeable, giving consumers an easy way to change the aesthetics of the keyboard.

Although the Wooting One seems impressive on paper, the keyboard is still in development, and not all of the details have been ironed out yet. As it stands, only 16 keys are analog on the current prototype: QWER, ASDF, Ctrl, Alt, Caps Lock, spacebar, and arrow keys. Wooting is currently still experimenting with the the maximum number of keys that games will support (and also trying to make sure the keyboard remains affordable), so the retail version could be different.

Wooting has actively been seeking input from the keyboard community throughout the development of the Wooting One and has made numerous changes accordingly. Wooting hopes to launch a Kickstarter to fund the keyboard in May.

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  • JamesSneed
    I wonder how they are dealing with dust and other particles getting under they key caps? Maybe they have some type of rubber o-ring that is built into the key cap? Anyhow seems like those optical sensors would degrade over time if dust isn't kept at bay.
    Reply
  • livingspeedbump
    I wonder how they are dealing with dust and other particles getting under they key caps? Maybe they have some type of rubber o-ring that is built into the key cap? Anyhow seems like those optical sensors would degrade over time if dust isn't kept at bay.

    I believe the dust would have to actually get inside of the switch itself. Though dust on the slider could work its way into the switch over time. If that will be enough to actually affect performance, who knows? These switches, while promising, have yet to really be field tested so it is really hard to make assumptions ahead of time with them.
    Reply
  • Quixit
    The PS2 had pressure-sensitive face buttons, that didn't go anywhere because they were annoying and useless. I really can't see pressure sensitive keyboard buttons catching one for a similar reason. What's the use case?
    Reply
  • therealduckofdeath
    The PS2 had pressure-sensitive face buttons, that didn't go anywhere because they were annoying and useless. I really can't see pressure sensitive keyboard buttons catching one for a similar reason. What's the use case?
    Depending on how accurate and detailed the analoge thing is, how about sneak/walk/run on one button? Anything with an engine game? Sport games? All sorts of games.
    Though, it all depends on how good these keys really are. :D
    Reply
  • scolaner
    The PS2 had pressure-sensitive face buttons, that didn't go anywhere because they were annoying and useless. I really can't see pressure sensitive keyboard buttons catching one for a similar reason. What's the use case?
    Depending on how accurate and detailed the analoge thing is, how about sneak/walk/run on one button? Anything with an engine game? Sport games? All sorts of games.
    Though, it all depends on how good these keys really are. :D

    Yep, exactly--that's the idea. Depending on how well Wooting carries it off, and how it works in games (it should "just work"), this type of design holds tons of promise for the future.
    Reply
  • livingspeedbump
    The PS2 had pressure-sensitive face buttons, that didn't go anywhere because they were annoying and useless. I really can't see pressure sensitive keyboard buttons catching one for a similar reason. What's the use case?

    Things like throttle, smooth turning in racing games, or really any vehicle movement come to mind. You could also play digital instruments potentially and actually capture dynamics potentially. There is definitely potential here, though until it becomes more popular (if it does) I don't think that potential will be fully realized!
    Reply
  • ammaross
    The PS2 had pressure-sensitive face buttons, that didn't go anywhere because they were annoying and useless. I really can't see pressure sensitive keyboard buttons catching one for a similar reason. What's the use case?

    Things like throttle, smooth turning in racing games, or really any vehicle movement come to mind. You could also play digital instruments potentially and actually capture dynamics potentially. There is definitely potential here, though until it becomes more popular (if it does) I don't think that potential will be fully realized!
    Yep, the question is not the use-case (as there's one or two examples in most/all current games and some apps), the question is developer support. Most people don't/won't have this, so it would be more on the keyboard manufacturer to create drivers to "interpret" for games that don't have support since it isn't popular enough to merit developer support for any reasonable fraction of games. They could implement a "threshold" setting where the keypress is interpreted as "walk" with a light <33% press, "jog" for 33-66%, and "run" for >99%; so basically 3 buttons in one. Combine that with the optional actual in-game native dev support and they might be on to something.
    Reply
  • scolaner
    17912230 said:
    The PS2 had pressure-sensitive face buttons, that didn't go anywhere because they were annoying and useless. I really can't see pressure sensitive keyboard buttons catching one for a similar reason. What's the use case?

    Things like throttle, smooth turning in racing games, or really any vehicle movement come to mind. You could also play digital instruments potentially and actually capture dynamics potentially. There is definitely potential here, though until it becomes more popular (if it does) I don't think that potential will be fully realized!
    Yep, the question is not the use-case (as there's one or two examples in most/all current games and some apps), the question is developer support. Most people don't/won't have this, so it would be more on the keyboard manufacturer to create drivers to "interpret" for games that don't have support since it isn't popular enough to merit developer support for any reasonable fraction of games. They could implement a "threshold" setting where the keypress is interpreted as "walk" with a light <33% press, "jog" for 33-66%, and "run" for >99%; so basically 3 buttons in one. Combine that with the optional actual in-game native dev support and they might be on to something.

    Unless I'm mistaken, that's the whole point of the analog switches--the game reads the input like it was a joystick or w/e, not as a simple on/off function.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    17912407 said:
    17912230 said:
    The PS2 had pressure-sensitive face buttons, that didn't go anywhere because they were annoying and useless. I really can't see pressure sensitive keyboard buttons catching one for a similar reason. What's the use case?

    Things like throttle, smooth turning in racing games, or really any vehicle movement come to mind. You could also play digital instruments potentially and actually capture dynamics potentially. There is definitely potential here, though until it becomes more popular (if it does) I don't think that potential will be fully realized!
    Yep, the question is not the use-case (as there's one or two examples in most/all current games and some apps), the question is developer support. Most people don't/won't have this, so it would be more on the keyboard manufacturer to create drivers to "interpret" for games that don't have support since it isn't popular enough to merit developer support for any reasonable fraction of games. They could implement a "threshold" setting where the keypress is interpreted as "walk" with a light <33% press, "jog" for 33-66%, and "run" for >99%; so basically 3 buttons in one. Combine that with the optional actual in-game native dev support and they might be on to something.

    Unless I'm mistaken, that's the whole point of the analog switches--the game reads the input like it was a joystick or w/e, not as a simple on/off function.

    I haven't seen many PC games that take analog input for movement (except sometimes the console-port games like Darksiders, et al). For example, how would this work in World of Warcraft? It isn't developed with analog movement in mind, but with the "driver workaround" I suggest, it would.
    Reply
  • lorfa
    Optical switches are awesome since they have no contact bouncing, but to use them in this regard seems strange. I can't think of many applications.
    Reply