A bright idea?

David emails me with a link to The Virtual Laser Keyboard, a nifty little device that projects a keyboard onto any surface so you can type data into your phone or PDA. As he puts it in his usual eloquent style:

Lasers are, by definition, cool.

He’s got a point: the virtual keyboard is a very clever, if rather expensive, gadget. However, I’m not convinced it’s a good idea.

As I’ve mentioned before, I suffer from Repetitive Strain Injury in my hands, wrists and forearms, which is a fancy way of saying that too much time on the computer has knackered my arms. And because of that, the Virtual Laser Keyboard is a really, really bad idea for me.

The problem is one of cushioning: part of my RSI is caused by the combination of very, very fast typing speeds and my tendency to hammer the keys with my big meaty fingers. I’ve found that some keyboards are better than others, so for example laptops don’t hurt as much as desktop keyboards do, and as a result I’ve got a laptop-style keyboard (a MacAlly IceKey) for everyday work. A desk doesn’t have any cushioning at all, and I can guarantee that within ten minutes of using a laser keyboard, I’d be in agony.

I don’t know about any warnings on the packaging, but certainly there’s no mention of RSI on the Virtual Laser Keyboard web site; it’d be nice if the manufacturers warned users that prolonged keyboard use can be a factor in RSI, and that hammering away on a hard surface increases that risk. Ultimately, though, it’s a fancy gadget rather than a keyboard replacement – but if you get one, make sure you don’t use it for long periods of time.

Update, 7.30pm

Now this is much more like it. [via MetaFilter]





0 responses to “A bright idea?”

  1. I’ve heard about this before and always thought it to be a stupid idea for the very reasons you’ve outlined. Another problem for me would be that I touch-type by centering my hands on the home keys, the F and J, which I find by using the little raised dots on them that all keyboards have. I suspect that I also use the feel of the concavity of the keys to fine-tune where my fingers are going as I type. I therefore feel that touch-typing on this keyboard will be impossible. After all, the only thing it is really replicating is the key labels, and that’s the only thing you don’t need when touch-typing!

  2. david

    >>using the little raised dots on them that all keyboards have.

    This can be recreated using biscuit crumbs and spit. ;-D

  3. So maybe you can only use it to type, not to touch-type. Still better than a phone’s keypad, though, isn’t it?

  4. Gary

    Oh, of course. Did you see the additional link? I want one of those :-)

  5. david

    Link no worky no more. :-(

  6. Gary

    Damn. Basically the chap has taken an old smith-corona typewriter (which is much less painful on the hands than a computer keyboard) and wired it up so that it works like a normal PC keyboard, more or less. You even do the “woo-cha!” thing with the carriage return to go to a new line.

    I’d love one :-)

  7. Christian

    I suggest using a foam pad as a typing surface. I understand that typing on a hard surface is bad for RSI sufferers. If you are really crafty, you could fabricate a few indentations in the foam surface to create the feel of keys. Maybe that works.

  8. Gary

    That’s an excellent idea. Thanks, Christian.