Japan's Minebea has announced that the utterly gorgeous concept COOL LEAF touch panel keyboard designed by Dr. Kazuo Kawasaki is to be released next month. Initially available to Japanese Windows users only, the company says that a Mac version is on the way. Other language layouts are scheduled for release later in the year.

Minebea says that the black framed, mirror-like flat touch panel surface of the COOL LEAF USB keyboard is expected to head for "dimly-lit home theater environments, medical treatment sites and food plants where cleanliness is important and clean rooms where dust resistance is required."

The keys are displayed on the input peripheral's shiny touch panel thanks to light guide plate-type backlights, and keying measured by combined electrostatic capacity and load sensor using a new film technology developed by Toray Industries.

Although no price has been specified in the company release, Akihabara News estimates that it will cost around JPY 26,000 (US$316).

The 108-key Japanese language version of the stunning 15 x 5 x 0.67-inch (383 x 128 x 17 mm) keyboard will hit retail outlets throughout Japan from May 13.

Personally I had hoped that users might be able to configure the keyboard layout, but the scheduled release of English, German, French, and Italian layout versions in July suggests that this won't be possible.