Handheld designers are faced with a difficult task: Users want to type on a full-sized keyboard, but they don’t want to carry a full-size keyboard around. Two companies are working on devices that use a laser to project an image of a keyboard onto a flat surface which can then be typed on as if it were actually there.
Pin Change Co.
Last year, VKB Ltd. announced that it had developed the first one of these. Pin Change Co. has licensed this technology and plans to release a product based on it later this year.
The first version will consist of a separate projector that connects to the handheld with a wire. This is 2.6 by 1.3 by .95 inches and 5.7 ounces. Pin Change is working to reduce the size of the components so they can fit inside of a handheld.
It uses a built-in, rechargeable, Lithium-ion battery that is good for two hours of continuous typing.
The projected keyboard is 11 by 3.5 inches. It can be used on any firm, flat surface with no protrusions greater than 1 mm. However, it doesn’t work well outdoors.
There will be drivers for both Palm OS and Pocket PC devices.
Pin Change says the first model will be available this fall for about $85.
Canesta, Inc. is also working on a laser-projected virtual keyboard. This company has already developed all the components necessary for including a virtual keyboard in a handheld, smartphone, or Tablet PC.
Canesta will not be offering one of these itself. Instead, it is licensing the technology to other companies. Though it won’t supply any details, it says several companies will ship products during the fourth quarter of this year that include its technology. Though it isn’t known if any of these are handhelds, it has sample drivers for Pocket PC and Palm OS as part of its prototyping program.