No Keyboard Needed, This Laptop Is All Screens

If you have an eye for obscure Microsoft products, you may be aware of the Microsoft PixelSense, a table-sized horizontal touchscreen designed as a collaborative workspace. It’s a multi-user computer with no traditional keyboard or mouse, instead multiple users work with documents and other files as though they were real documents on a table. It’s an impressive piece of technology, and it was the first thing that came to mind when we saw [Anitomicals C]’s dual screen portable computer. It has a form factor similar to a large laptop, in which the touchscreen folds upwards to reveal not a conventional keyboard and trackpad, but another identical touchscreen. The entire surface of the computer is a touch display with a desktop propagated across it, and in a similar way to the Microsoft product the user can work exclusively in the touch environment without some of the limitations of a tablet.

He freely admits that it is a prototype and proof of concept, and that is obvious from its large size and extensive use of desktop components. But he has brought it together in a very tidy Perspex case serving as an interesting class in creating a portable computer with well-chosen desktop components, even though with no battery it does not pretend to fit the same niche as a laptop. We’d be interested to see the same interface produced as a less bulky desktop-only version with solely the two monitors, because the horizontal touch screen is what sets this machine apart from other home-made ones.

Home made laptops are a regular sight on these pages, but some of them are a little more rough-and-ready.

Thanks [Morris] for the tip!

38 thoughts on “No Keyboard Needed, This Laptop Is All Screens

    1. You got that one right.
      Mind you I did a portable CoCo and put The Coco in a small TV and used Militarily batteries to run it in the early 80’s.
      I made it So that I could use a computer when we went on exercises. At the time I was running the canteen store and wanted to use a program to work out inventory and finances.

      I could see being in the militarily and being moved around a lot and you wanted to bring your computer with you.
      Me I’ve put computers in briefcases, that was my favorite thing to use.

      Great job even though it didn’t work out for you in the end.

      1. I think the one thing here is that the “keyboard” becomes infinitely programmable, and the key caps change with it. So it can change instantly, as the application needs it.

        So a text program could make the screen mostly keyboard, with a little area for the “mouse” while a graphic program would mostly a “tablet” for drawing on, with a few keys or functions on the screen. A dual-mode application could change the keyboard depending on mode. Some apps might want a different selection of keys than another. One user uses qwerty, the other Dvorak, and logging in defines the keyboard, no need to physically change keyboards, or not have keytops matching the use.

        Some of this is being done on tablets now. If I’m typing an email address, “.com” will appear on my tablet, as well as “@”, so I don’t have to go through layers to get them.

        The only thing better would be a regular keyboard with LCD screens on each, so the keytoos match the function. But then you can’t instantly change the size if the keytops.


        1. Your virtual keyboard on the tablet presents you a “.com” because someone figured out that typing extra 4 characters on a virtual keyboard is a royal pain in the arse and invented a workaround (thanks mate!) Nobody needs a special key to enter “.com” on a keyboard that’s working well.

          BTW, the idea of retargetable specialized keyboard is not very new. It keeps popping up every now and then, only to fail miserably. Look up “Optimus Maximus” for the most recent one.

      2. I hate it. HAAAATE IT. This is a great build, I don’t want to poo-poo on this amazing creation. But the replacement of tactile human interfaces with screen-fingering in general is a tremendous step backward in interaction design. We get it, we all watched Minority Report in 2002.

        This guy’s rant sums up my opinion pretty well:

        I think it’ll be a very long time before keyboards really disappear, despite designers through the decades with some kind of weird anti-keyboard OCD. Touchscreens are good for niche cases, but if your only communication with computers is touch / voice then certain necessary tasks become enormously frustrating. We have hands! Humans are what they are because of hands–they came first, before language or intelligence or tools! The motor and touch circuitry in our brains is a damned masterpiece. We shouldn’t be neglecting the incredibly dense bundles of nerve endings in our fingertips. They are the root of craftsmanship. The represent a sense as rich and useful as any other. Put screens on keys if you really must, but don’t take away the tactility. Don’t restrict interaction to one or two fingers out of ten.

        Mobile design these days is one of the most heinous miscarriages of hardware and software ergonomics. And it has leaked into web design in general, because for some reason everyone has to prioritize their site for an ipad or something now. We make websites one-size-fits-none, and we harvest only rage.

  1. I’ve had this idea for awhile now… something like a tablet-as-a-keyboard but running Android and Swype full screen. Instead of typing you could just swipe across the keyboard. Since it’s running Android you could also do other things with it. Could be cool.

  2. I tried something similar but just used 2 10″ tablets one remoted into the other, lag was bad enough but the lack of tactile feedback convinced me it wasnt worth any more effort for me to go the screen as keyboard route.

  3. Now, place a keyboard and trackpad below the second screen!
    I kid. I’m waiting for a laptop with a screen that has been replaced by a HUD. Infinite screen space,
    A real keyboard, reconfigurable keycaps, invisible hands!
    What’s not to love?

    1. Oh do you mean HMD? I’ve tried that a bit and it would definitely be nice to have some kind of AR so that you can see your keyboard. Maybe the keyboard is tracked like a VR controller, displayed on the computer as a 3d object, and maybe it even has some kind of capacitive touch so it can display what key your finger is lightly touching so you can find weird keys that are tough to feel your way to from the little bumps on the home row, like the function keys.

      I also tried to jury-rig something up using a fat shark with a webcam stuck to the front, along with a simple program that translucently overlays the webcam feed on top of your desktop. I just wanted to see if I could use the operating system while having some bearings on my surroundings / controls, plus I could turn off the web feed if I needed it to be more immersive. It was very rough but I was kind of enamored with the results, and I plan to develop it a bit more someday.

  4. Acer Iconia 6120 did this 8 years and 2 months ago. Worked great, but was not very good for intense typing, as tactile orientation without looking at the “keyboard” was not very good. However, the ability to switch softkeyboard layouts or use alternate interfaces (like a mixing table for sound operators, etc.) was amazing with the right use case.
    It was a bit heavy for its size and from the business POV was not a huge hit, but those who knew why they bought it never gave it away and you would have a hard time getting a second hand piece.

  5. How you type while watching the screen? Don’t have the F and J keys with a tactile mark.
    You can use the tablet with a slanted stand yet this way you are forced to look down and this put a strain on the neck and eyes.

    Or you can 3D print a grid like the keys space, 2mm thick, and put it over the lower tablet.
    Or even print a 2mm thick keyboard with some contact surfaces for the specific touch technology of the lower tablet.
    I don’t know if the tactile sensation will be the same as using a normal keyboard.

    1. I agree with you. It’s hard for me to imagine that this type of keyboard will be handy to use. About “3D print a grid like the keys space, 2mm thick”. As prororype it may be useful, but in practice even 4mm laptops keyboard fells to small for fingers, i think. Hope, it will be some type of small buttons which i’ll be able to feel. And it will be easy to fix when it brokes.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.