While there are already portable keyboards that can be rolled up, we know how it is … sometimes you just want to crumple the thing up and jam it in your pocket. Well, new technology developed by South Korean scientists will allow you to do just that – plus the keyboards should be cheap, too.

A prototype "crumple-able" keyboard was created by a team led by Keemin Sohn (Chung-Ang University), Ji Sik Kim (Kyungpook National University) and Kee-Sun Sohn (Sejong University). It consists of a flat sheet of Ecoflex silicone rubber embedded with piezoresistive carbon nanotubes.

When the user presses one of the square character "keys" that are drawn onto the surface of the rubber, the pressure of their finger changes the electrical resistance of the nanotubes underneath. An artificial neural network was used to teach the keyboard to identify the intended character, based on the location of those changes in resistance.

According to the scientists, tests have shown that their keyboard outperforms all other portable models in terms of functionality, flexibility, disposability and cost – if mass-produced, each crumple-able keyboard could conceivably sell for as little as US$1.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.