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back to article But it's only wafer thin: Skinniest keyboard EVER is designed by Camby biz

Wireless technology specialist CSR has come up with the world's thinnest touch keyboard, which is less than 0.5mm thick. Ultra thin keyboard The ultra-thin keyboard The flexible Bluetooth-capable interface can change any surface into a keyboard or extend the touchscreen of tablets and smartphones, CSR said. The Cambridge- …

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*yawn*

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Anonymous Coward

Seen this in a really bad movie: "Ultraviolet".

People printed out one-time use cell-phones there on pieces of what appeard to be paper that looked just like this.

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Exactly

> Seen this in a really bad movie: "Ultraviolet"

And this is real life. At times it may seem like a bad movie, but there are fundamental differences...

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Unhappy

Re: Exactly

The lack of Milla Jovovich in my real life is probably the most important and most depressing difference.

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Coat

Re: Exactly

Note of course the really clever RF stuff is still on a chip added later.

Now if you could print out a Milla Jovovich in 3D....

I need to slip off and study this further.

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i like it

after thinking about how there's keyboards that get projected on your desk, others that get rolled out, others that fold out, i couldn't really think why this would be so newsworthy.

But then it occurred to me that it would be nice to have a keyboard as fist page in every notepad, agenda, schoolbooks, etc.

I know how we're supposed to be living in a paperless office (or world for that matter) but in my office we still write stuff down using pens while we have a computer screen staring at us, so we're not in a paperless-era yet.

Not saying this is how they're going to use that tech, but it would have advantages

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Rolling diameter

That's all I care about. Assuming it works relatively well, that is. Bought a thin flexible graphics tablet the other week, but the ruling diameter is not much better than flat, no point really. If this can go into a smarties tube it could be good for portability, if it is rigid and snaps/fails like thin glass, less useful.

Be interesting to see in real life.

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Re: Rolling diameter

And if they could make it inflatable so there is a bit of 'feelback'. If you are touchtyping a flat surface soon goes out of registration!

I wonder if the bald bloke in front of me on the bus would mind if I typed on his head?

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Re: Rolling diameter

The lack of feel would be my major gripe.

Just try the Microsoft tablet folio keyboard on their tablet to see just how horrible a flat, dead keyboard can be!

Rolling diameter would be useful to know, plus its ability to withstand swatting flies.

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JDX
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If they make it cheap enough

Every iPad case could have one as standard (like the Surface but you don't have to pay silly money). Apple could invent the idea of a tablet with keyboard... or more seriously could be the first company to actually do it in a slick way people want to buy/use (actually I think MS did that with Surface but nobody noticed).

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Headmaster

Re: If they make it cheap enough

I think you'll find that quite a few people have noticed (and then bought) the Asus Transformer Pad series of tablets. Admittedly not as popular as Apple or Samsung but I think they are the third best-selling range of Tablets out there.

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Re: If they make it cheap enough

A tablet with a keyboard, isn't that a notebook?

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Re: If they make it cheap enough

The Surface comes with two kinds of keyboard. The Touch has membrane like keys. The Type has a proper keyboard albeit with thin keys and restricted travel.

I was playing around with both at the weekend and the Touch is simply horrible. There is no tactile response at all making it impossible to type with any sense of confidence or accuracy.

The Type isn't perfect but it's much better for typing although it obviously compromises on key travel because it doubles up as a cover.

So I wouldn't be quibbling over 3 or 4mms of difference if it meant the difference between some crappy membrane and proper keys.

Who knows what purpose a 0.5mm keyboard would serve. I doubt it would be much good as an accessory because it would snap or bend unless it was glued to a stiff backing. But perhaps it might have other applications.

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Re: If they make it cheap enough

"A tablet with a keyboard, isn't that a notebook?"

I think that kind of depends how good, and how large a keyboard....

There are keyboards you'd happily bang out a substantial piece of prose or a few thousand lines of code and there are keyboards which are better than an on-screen keyboard (like the iPad I'm using to post this comment), don't use up valuable screen area, but which you wouldn't want to do much more than the odd brief note with. A notebook needs to be pretty close to the former, a tablet can get away with the latter and (to my eyes and fingers at least) would still by-and-large be a tablet.

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Re: If they make it cheap enough

The big problem is lots of keyboards of all sorts of form factor have been offered to the market and (apart from BlackBerry) the market consistently said 'meh'.

I think there are 2 issues:

1: Most people just see no need, once they learn how to thumbtype SMS and email on a touchscreen they see no advantage to physical keyboards on small devices. TBH after typing on an iPad I can't see much need for anything better for what I'm going to use and despite loving the hard keys on my old G1 I can type just as fast on my newer 4" device touchscreen.

2: most of them are so poor to use in practice. And you're going to need to prop up or otherwise support the screen somehow, maybe cart around a stand and have severe constraints on positioning - just holding the device in a comfortable viewing position can feel easier and have better ergonomics. If you're going to inflict a flat, feedback free keyboard you might as well just use the flat version on screen, especially as the onscreen versions get smarter. The ergonomic issues make this a hard sell.

I can see other input methods (voice is nearly there) completely supplanting these clumsy hacks.

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Tactility

Soemthing which I consider extremely import is the tactility of a keyboard. Keys that have no depth of travel, are too hard, too soft etc soon lose their desirability.

I understand these things from a portability point of view but from a practical, ergonomic point of view it changes the ball game. Latops are good but heavy/large....... Tablets are OK but it is difficult to do real work for any lenght of time.

Maybe what we need is an inflatable PC.....

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Thumb Up

Re: Tactility

I still look back wistfully to the old IBM Selectic keyboard of the original PC/AT. Give me a keyboard with a proper positive click feedback, not this modern rubbish.

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Re: Tactility

Well done those lads.

However per Hollywood keyboards are old shite, to be replaced by arm waving and gesticulating. The printing part is interesting though. The Selectric confirms a theory of mine that when a technology reaches a certain level of perfection, it is destined to be replaced. Clearly with this development something is about to replace keyboards as the input side of the human to machine interface.

Thumbs, because all my fingers are.

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Not the thinnest; not the newest

Novalia (another Cambridge company) has been in the business of paper-printed electronics for some time. Their products are paper-thin, literally - way thinner than the 0.5mm of CSR's device - as the circuit and some of the electronics are directly printed onto paper using commercial offset litho printing.

(Disclosure: I'm a software/hardware consultant who talked with Novalia about working together, but I've not been asked to promote them, and get no benefit from the mention - they don't even know I've done so.)

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Unhappy

Camby? WTF?

El Reg has come up with some great nelogisms but this isn't one of them.

If you are trying to save space then "Cambs" is established.

If you are *really* trying to save space you could try 'tab, although it may not be widely understood.

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Happy

Re: Camby? WTF?

It's a just a bit of cheap namby pamby humour, the standard MO of El Reg subs.

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Headmaster

OK, maybe I'm missing something but surely the thinnest keyboard ever is the one that projects onto a surface, cause really, light isn't that thick.

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Might turn out to be as popular as the keyboard on the ZX-81

The reason for switching to a real keyboard isn't just one of size. Its of touch.

I can happily type away on my keyboard without looking at it, and I'm not even a touch typist. I can get quite a reasonable speed up.

However, on my tablet, which still has a reasonable sized keyboard on screen, my typing is a lot slower. The reason is I have to keep an eye on my hands to ensure they are over the right keys and not drifting to the side. And an eye on the text entry line to make sure I didn't brush the keyboard with another finger.

It may be possible to make a keyboard that thin, but is it a good idea?

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Boffin

Turning the prblem on its head...

Make the tablet a decent keyboard and project images onto the nearest convenient surface.

Now for real trickiness allow that to include the human eyeball.

After all with Bluetooth headsets it's possible (in principle) to have a whole conversation with the phone in your pocket. Why not just sitting on your desk/table/nearest convenient surface?

If course if you could also manage some kind of audio projection as well.

Just a few thoughts.

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Facepalm

Re: Turning the problem on its head...

Projecting a human eyeball onto a wall?

Sounds painful!

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Re: Turning the prblem on its head...

"Make the tablet a decent keyboard and project images onto the nearest convenient surface."

An interesting concept only awaiting the quantum leap in battery technology required to support the projection device and the difficulty of finding a decent surface to project on while attempting to maintain some level of privacy.

I suspect projecting directly onto the retina is not only some time away, but will almost certainly be hampered by years and years of testing to prove that it's harmless.

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I'm much rather have ...

* a keyboard with a small screen, local edit buffer and customisable keybindings (with emacs as an option)

* extensions to the Bluetooth protocols so that any dumb device (or smart one) can pre-populate entry fields for you to edit in comfort without needing to use the application's idea of how to do things like cut and paste or whatever (editing things on phones or tablets is just very fiddly)

* more extensions so that the application can tell the keyboard when markup should be available (eg, bold, underline and font information) as well as maybe letting the keyboard access the device's dictionary for spell checking and maybe auto-completion (on the grounds that if you're going to have a bi-directional protocol you might as well exploit it fully)

Basically the above would be like the very old style of stand-alone word processor, except that it's mostly designed to be used as an intelligent slave device. If you give it a bit of local storage, you should be able to use it as a basic word processor (or capable text editor) without being tied to any any one device. You might even be able to use it for storing passwords (with actual passwords being stored on an external SD card, protected by a standard encryption algorithm).

Another type of keyboard I'd love to see is one that made it easier to switch between controlling different machines—basically a K (no V) M in a handy box. Bluetooth pairing is all well and good, but it mostly has to be initiated from the PC/phone/tablet side, and once you're paired you have to unpair and re-pair if you want to switch to providing input for a different machine. So basically, I'd like to see a keyboard that can pair with multiple devices at once and use key combos to swap between them. It would probably need to have a separate USB dongle plugged into each machine you want to type on (for compatibility—just have it recognised as a regular keyboard/mouse combo), but that would be a small price to pay for the convenience. I know that there's also software to enable you to share USB devices (like keyboards, mice) over the network, so a keyboard that worked over that stack might also work (depending on OS support, naturally).

Of course, nobody wants a shitty keyboard either. I'm sorry, but this flat thing with no travel or tactile feedback just doesn't cut it for me. A keyboard that you're going to use every day doesn't have to be as good as the IBM Model Ms that I use as my main keyboards, but it should be a lot better than this..

/my €0.02

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I prefer Tactile but...

I prefer Tactile normally but the Conductive Inkjet Technology CIT which comes from UK company Carclo is one to watch out for, it offers significant benefits over what most smart phones and pads currently use.

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