Why you should care
Because lugging around a keyboard with your iPad defeats the purpose.
There’s no shortage of keyboard models these days, from ones built into our laptops to portable Bluetooth units. But in contrast to the sleek convenience of tablets and phones, doesn’t hauling around any clunky keyboard negate the benefits of a portable device? And typing with two thumbs just isn’t sustainable. Enter the Epic laser keyboard, an answer for those looking to keep their accessory load light.
The Epic is exactly what you’re probably imagining: a virtual keyboard emitted from a laser that translates typing gestures into keystrokes. When your finger passes through the key’s projected area, the sensor reads the reflected infrared light. Peter Cha, director of business development at Celluon, creators of the gadget, says the point was to offer a typing solution as innovative as the devices we pair our keyboards with. Through a Bluetooth-powered projector the size of a credit card, a neon pink deck can be projected onto virtually any flat surface — desks, tables, airplane seat-back trays. An initial version was released in 2013, though the Epic only started to catch on as the price has dropped and updated iterations have made it more accessible. The device goes for $80 and is compatible with the latest operating systems, including iOS, Windows 10, Android and Mac OS X. Users can adjust the brightness and sound; for nostalgia’s sake, like the iPhone, it emits an electronic clicking noise. It can even double as a mouse.
Cha says that Celluon designed the Epic for people who spend a lot of time on their mobile devices and the increasing number of coffee-shop workers who set up outside a traditional office. Major plus: You never have to worry about damaging your keyboard with spilled coffee. Reviews are mostly positive, though there have been some gripes: The projection can be hard to see if used in a bright room or outdoors, and the device lags behind fast typing speeds and can be inaccurate. Cha says there is a “slight learning curve” as you get used to typing on something that isn’t physically there; he suggests starting with a hunt-and-peck method.
Often first-of-their-kind technologies turn out to be wonky the first pass but are a sign of greater things to come. And, hey, it sure beats typing with two thumbs.