Keyboards have come a long way from the plastic dust traps of yesteryear. In just the past few months, we've seen virtual keyboards that project onto any surface and gloves that let users "type" in thin air. Now a handful of inventors have created the Qii, a thin, flexible keyboard that connects wirelessly to smart devices and rolls up into a portable case that fits in your pocket.
There have been a few keyboards that could be rolled up in the past, but these still only shrunk to the size of a magazine, which is still a bit bulky. When it's stored away, the Qii (pronounced key) is about as big as a roll of coins, but can be pulled out easily like a tape measure and laid over almost any surface to type on.
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With a corresponding app, the keyboard connects to supported smart devices over Bluetooth. The full QWERTY keyboard also has a textured surface for easier touch typing and an anti-fingerprint coating that can be washed with just soap and water. To top it all off, the case itself is a touchpad that lets users scroll through and select items onscreen.
Over a period of several years, the team behind the bendable keyboard developed a technique for printing programmable touch sensors onto a new carbon-based nanomaterial that can conduct electricity. The result was a transparent film that can be programmed to detect the force and position of a finger touching it. Surprisingly, the flexibility of this film also enhances the keyboard's resilience. Since all the electronic components are printed flat and made of water and dirt resistant materials, the keyboard can survive drink spills and even being hit with a hammer.
There are plenty of possibilities for an ultra-thin wireless touch sensor, and the designers hope this will be the first of many products to use the technology. The Qii's electronics are built into a bendable plastic for now, but with future development, similar electronic components could be printed on a smaller scale and onto almost any material, even paper. And since it's completely programmable, different apps could yield wildly different uses for the material aside from a QWERTY keyboard.
The makers of the Qii are currently running an Indiegogo campaign to finalize the product and bring it to full production, but there's still plenty of testing and design work left to finish, particularly with getting all the components to fit inside the case properly. As of this writing, there's less than 30 days left for it to reach its US$1,850,000 goal with just over $9,000 in contributions, which doesn't seem like a good sign unfortunately.
You can still reserve your own Qii in a variety of colors for donations starting at US$120 however, with delivery expected for October 2013, provided the Indiegogo campaign reaches it's target. Certain contributors who donate a significant amount will also have the chance to work with the team to program the material with their own custom functions.
Check out the video below to see how the Qii rolls out onto any surface to act as a working keyboard almost anywhere