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Keyboard concept uses magic trackpad

This is a keyboard alternative that [Sebastian] is building from two Apple Magic Trackpads. The multitouch devices are a good platform for this because they’re designed to pick up several events at the same time. To prototype the locations of the keys he’s using printable transparency sheets. He gives you a sense of where the home row is with a dab of clear fingernail polish that you can feel with your digits.

He may laser etch these pads once the key location is just right. This should give a bit of texture in itself and do away with the need for nail polish but we still like the ingenuity of that solution. The device is being developed in Linux, with some kernel hacking to handle the devices. We asked about source code and [Sebastian] is hesitant to post it because he’s been getting a lot of kernel panics. It sounds like once he cleans things up a bit he’ll share his work.

Don’t forget, there’s an easy hack to do away with the batteries in these things.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Two $70 trackpads to emulate a keyboard?

  2. the_author says:

    Yep, but that still makes it cheaper than a kinesis,a comfort keyboard, or the fingerworks touchstream which this is meant to emulate.

  3. Abbott says:

    Looks pretty sweet actually. reminds me of lots of futuristic keybaords on movies and such. good luck!

  4. zac says:

    Sadly Apple already owns all the patents to this, since they bought Fingerworks a number of years ago. Also it’s very difficult to type quickly without being able feel edges of physical keys. I’ve had a touchstream for many years, and I can still type faster and more accurately on a traditional keyboard.

  5. the_author says:

    Patents don’t prevent you from hacking something for your own personal use. I agree that touch typing without feedback is difficult. Since capacitive touch or whatever technique used by the magic trackpad only requires a trivial amount of pressure, perhaps a different approach might work. What if one built a keyboard with mechanical keys where the separation between the surface of each key was minimal, so the overall surface of the keyboard was almost continuous. Each key top would be a mini touch surface and you could use interpolation and smoothing to compensate for the jumps created by the transition between keys. This would probably be horribly expensive but then you’d have both integrated multitouch and mechanical feedback for typing.

  6. Rich T Kirk says:

    I can not help thinking of the MacBook Wheel…

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