10 Odd Computer Input Options
Isn’t it great how you’ve got the entire world at your fingertips thanks to the internet? And isn’t it even better that those fingertips are using a system built in 1874 for typewriters when “wireless communication” meant shouting across the office? Some people are so unimpressed with this clunky QWERTY style they’ve found ways to make it more exciting – or replace it entirely.
1. Optimus Maximus
You can’t talk about cool keyboards without mentioning the Optimus Maximus. Seriously, it’s not allowed – try it and Swiss hackers will trace your IP and beat you up.
First rumored in July 2005, this geek wet dream has finally arrived after three years and people are queuing up for the chance to blow two thousand dollars on a keyboard. The gimmick is that every key is an OLED display which changes to show that function that key has. But isn’t the sort of person who’ll spend four figures on a keyboard almost guaranteed to be a touch typist? Isn’t that like a blind man buying an original Picasso? Is this the first piece of hardware ever to make the PS3 look sensibly priced?
2. Cyber Scrabble
The DX1 is the Megatron to the above Optimus Maximus. The opposite (though hopefully not so evil). While the Maximus features fixed keys with striking labels, the DX1 has movable keys with no labels at all. 25 movable buttons can be clumped in any arrangement you like, with every button capable of single function or macros.
A dream come true for the PC Gamer, you can set your FPS commands or your RTS build order to utterly customized input clusters and feel like a total cyber-badass as you do it.
No word on whether inputs count extra if you put one of the button tiles on a “triple word score.”
3. Datahand II
Just like those Datapalms from “Hackers”, only not stupid or in a totally failed movie. The DataHand Professional II looks the Nintendo PowerGlove grew up and had to get a job.
Despite the appearance of something that would suck your fleshy fingers in and mince them, the DataHand is actually an extremely compressed QWERTY keyboard. Every key only a tenth of an inch from your fingertips. So yes, pretty much all technology but the Wii is a conspiracy to remove even the idea of movement from your life.
4. Wearable wireless keyboard
Of course, even having a physical keyboard is so last century you might as well be bashing rocks together and hoping ASCII-coded sparks fly out. The “Body Coupled FingeRing” hopes to be the next generation of input technology. Just make sure you capitalise that R in FingeRing or it sounds positively filthy, as well as something that would electrocute you if you tried it while wearing the equipment.
The idea is that if you’re going to be moving your fingers a certain amount anyway, actually having a big board for them to bash against isn’t necessary. The fingeRings track your fingers and work out what keys you were going for, hopefully without cutting off too much of the blood supply. It’s not clear what happens if you try to grab a donut or wave to someone while typing, but we calculate a 50% chance that your computer will explode.
5. Bluetooth laser keyboard
If you like the idea of no physical keyboard, but prefer a product that is actually available and doesn’t make you look quite so much like a runaway Borg), look no further than the I-Tech Virtual Laser Keyboard. Yes. Laser Keyboard. A projected display, utterly wireless, and with an “I” in the title – if this thing got any more futuristic you’d need dilithium crystals to run it.
While it scores a perfect 100% on the “Black box with ominous red light”, and is therefore guaranteed to turn evil, there isn’t very much it can actually do to you. There’s only so much damage a typo can do and we figure the average bloodthirsty machine intelligence will get bored with that pretty quickly – just don’t use one if you work in a build with the word “nuclear” in the title.
6. Draw a DJ Deck
Once you’re freed from “having a physical object to touch”, lugging around a design intended to prevent underpaid women from jamming brass armatures goes past ironic and into crippling. Step forward the awesome drawable DJ deck – literally draw a deck on any surface and the camera (with associated software) converts it into usable input.
This is exactly the kind of tech one-man crews can put together, a perfect balancing point between “too many possibilities to count” and “but do we actually need it at all?” If your answer to the second question is no then congratulations, you’re not a nerd, and thanks for making it this far into the article despite that!
Now we’re well past keyboards and into the future – the Orbitouch sounds like the sort of MacGuffin that needs to be saved from Ming the Merciless’s Death-O-Cannon, and would certainly fit into any starship bridge from the seventies. Big, chunky and brightly colored it looks more like a preschool toy than office equipment.
You input different characters by pressing the two domes into one of eight positions – that may be massively slower than your regular typing speed, but for some people your crumb-laden keyboard gives a rate of zero words per hour. Intended for disabled users, the large and easily manipulated control surfaces means that “fingers” are no longer a necessity to get typing.
You knew it had to happen – homebrewers have worked out how to pair your Wiimote with your PC, giving you the funnest and flailingest mouse possible, and because open source is kind of their thing they’ve posted a helpful guide on how to do it yourself.
Chances are that the Wiimotes relative lack of sensitivity will stop this being more than a novelty – the average application button isn’t designed with tennis simulation in mind – but as soon as someone works out how to connect the Balance Board to AudioSurf there’s a chance you won’t see us again for a month.
9. Backball Mouse
Sitting at the computer all day can leave people with fat asses. Now, in the cyberest example of recursion we’ve ever seen, Interaction Architecture will let people use that generously cushioned derriere to control the computer again with the “BackBall” – basically the biggest trackball you’ve ever seen.
The odds of getting good enough at that for online deathmatches are slim in the extreme, but just imagine the possible burns. “I just headshotted you – WITH MY ASS!”
10. Gaming Bra and Boxer
Never have “well-meaning” and “tragically doomed” ever collided so intimately or hilariously. JennyLC’s “Intimate Controllers” are intended to combine fun and frolics, arming a bra and boxer shorts with joypad controls for couply control.
But we know just how intense things can get in the heat of battle, and we hardly think mashing breasts like an emergency stop button will lead to the right mood, never mind the fact that JennyLC seems to think “halfway down the outside of the thigh” is a male erogenous zone. And remember: playing videogames can develop real instinctual reactions, and we don’t think developing the crisis response of “Hit your partner in the crotch” is a good idea.