VKB, or very kewl stuff

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Well we have heard this story before. A laser virtual keyboard, which you can type on and it will plug into your phone, and you will never have to carry a laptop again. Blah blah blah! Actually just got a demo of a small gizmo which pairs with a cellphone using bluetooth, and displays a keyboard on any surface. The product, which is not fantasy is going to be available for about $200 or so from RadioShack and other online stores. The company behind it, is a fabless chip company from Israel, VKB. Their technology is actually quite simple – a laser diode married to a CMOS camera. The movements of the fingers are captured by the camera and translated used proprietary algorithms into keystrokes on the PDA/Phone. They have been selling a version of this device in Japan and some european countries. Soon, they will release a chip that will be embedded directly into the handset.

Carriers would love this one. Since keyboard would allow more typing, hence more emailing, it means more usage of their uber expensive r EV-DO or W-CDMA networks and hence more revenues.

I saw a cool one from Siemens, which is admittedly a test unit. I played around with both the devices and they seem to work well, especially if you like to peck on a keyboard. The keyboard which is the size of a keyboard of a 12-inch laptop, lacks the tactile feedback we are so used. As someone who types close to 60 words per minute, the keyboard wasn’t good enough. But it is still a whole lot better than trying to thumb type a whole weblog post on a phone number pad.

So what is my take on this company? Great idea – they can take it to any market! For instance, embed this into a TV and raise 4 fingers to switch to Channel 4. Or embed this into medical equipment for specialized tasks. My guess is that within 12-to-18 months they get taken over by one of the large mobile chip makers. Qualcomm comes to mind.

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Jesse Kopelman

The only problem I see is how are you supposed to read the screen if it is far enough from you to project the keypad? This seems like it would involve a lot of hunching over and eventual visits to the chiropractor. Anyway, where is the glove + goggles + 3D GUI combo from Johnny Mneumonic. It’s not enough to look like you are talking to yourself when on the phone, I want to look like I’m Vogueing.

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