Without taking sides in the age-old gaming debate of console vs PC, controllers do have an advantage when it comes to analog input. On digital keyboards, a button is either pressed or it's not – a potential pitfall when you accidentally run full pelt into an enemy you were trying to sneak up on. To this end, a group of Dutch gamers have designed the Wooting one, an analog mechanical keyboard intended to provide more precise in-game control.
The Wooting one registers how far down you press each key on a scale of zero to 100 percent, and can adjust the input into a game accordingly. The primary use there is to vary your movement speed anywhere between a crawl and a sprint, helping you avoid the start-stop jerkiness when trying to follow a particularly slow NPC.
Single keys can also be bound for different functions. In a game of League of Legends, for example, you could hold the Q key partway down to pull up your casting range and line it up, then press it in fully to cast the spell.
The analog functions are possible thanks to the optical Flaretech switches under each key. Physically, they act just like the switches in regular mechanical keyboards, but they reflect light at different degrees depending on the depth they're pushed, then shoot the information to sensors in the PCB that read the varying values. Having the brains there inside the keyboard frees up the rest of the equipment to be modular, so the keys, top plates and switches are swappable without any technical knowledge.
Rather than dealing with potentially complicated drivers, the Wooting one is natively recognized by a PC as a Gamepad, meaning it's plug-and-play. If you do want to dive into the nitty-gritty customization that the PC Master Race is known for, configuration software lets you map keys, tweak the sensitivity of the analog sensing, bind multiple actions to individual keys, create custom macros, or just personalize the LED backlight patterns across an RGB spectrum of 16 million colors. All this can be saved in multiple profiles and switched out between users or different games.
For those times when you need to do some actual work on the Wooting one, the designers have built in a switch to turn it into a digital keyboard. With the mechanics underneath granting it a near-zero input lag – a debounce of 0.03 ms – it should be pretty satisfying to type on.
The Wooting one is currently on Kickstarter, and it's raised almost four times its original goal with a couple of weeks still left on the clock. A pledge of €139 (US$157) will get you the basic model, which should ship in November, if all goes to plan.