15 thoughts on “Smart Modular Keyboard Sports An E-ink Display And A Haptic Feedback Knob

  1. You made a great design, with a perfect opportunity to expand in the future and adapt to various markets. I like the way you think about human interaction and improvement of productivity.

    1. Are you thinking keycaps that you take off to update the legend or the near impossible task of wiring up every key to the PCB at the base and the moving part?

      Not sure I really see the point either way, its cool sure but it shouldn’t matter what the key has printed on it, as you should know your native keyboard layout well enough to use even an entirely blank keyboard well enough really…

      1. The former doesn’t make sense, why not just use relegendable keycaps with a piece of paper in this case, rather than e-paper? You’d also be removing the e-paper display to update them externally? Am I misinterpreting what you’re saying, because this makes zero sense and would be overcomplicated at the very least.

        As for the latter, display keys have existed for awhile now. Razer’s old Switchblade stuff, Art.Lebedev’s Optimus products, etc. Products like the Stream Deck and Loupedeck/Stream Controller aren’t comparable. There’s also been other concepts, and even DIY solutions that I believe have been promoted on here. Wires aren’t entirely an issue, there’s ways around it, Scissor switches with some slack wire are pretty much the best solution, adapting Asus’ ROG RX switches would probably be the optimal format as there’s a hollow stem with a keycap interface that isn’t based on the stem. There’s also the fact that there’s display modules that work over UART/I2C/SPI, but the problem is that most of these are breakout modules that aren’t compact, ideally the board wouldn’t extend beyond the display.

        As for the second half of your comment, I think you’re missing the point. The point isn’t to display just your typical native language legend, the point is to display more than that. Take a look at Art.Lebedev’s Optimus Maximus, Optimus Popularus, and Optimus Aux for examples of what this would be like. For a good analogy, look at your phone’s keyboard, how you have your native language legend, how you can switch between languages, how you can long-press for accents and alternative characters, how you have multiple number and symbol legends, how you have emoji, emoticon, etc. legends. The point is expandability within a single device, this can include the previous plus macros, functional macros, macros for platform-based emotes with their relevant PNG such as how Twitch and Discord handle custom emotes, macros for alt-code symbols, unicode symbols, etc. If you’ve never seen how deep the macro game gets, just look at some of former Linus Tech Tips’ Taran Van Hemert’s multi-keyboard setups, he has some content on LTT about keybaords and his ridiculous amounts of macros; and while his use case seems a bit overboard, this is actually fairly common to have a spare full keyboard remapped as a full macro keyboard, but the point of this argument is that all of these macro functions can be consolidated into a singular device that’s easy to read with digital relegending. If you’ve ever been in a field of work or study that’s symbol-heavy, like maths and sciences, and the specific program you’re working within doesn’t have clickable symbols, you’d understand how annoying memorizing alt-codes or having a massive unsearchable cheat sheet of copyable symbols can be. And while the Stream Deck and Loupedeck/Stream Controller aren’t comparable via mechanical design, they are comparable within functional design, as they provide on-the-fly macros that have a relevant display component, so that you’re not memorizing what macro you have per blank key per function layer.

        E-paper however currently has a ton of downsides. The only benefit is power consumption as it has a powerless static state. Problem is that you need to be in a lit environment to make use of this, otherwise you need an edge-lit display as they’re a reflective display; and edge-lighting isn’t that great, but there’s not real alternatives like higher reflectivity pigments, transparent pigments with a way to pipe the light to them from a PCB-based LED, etc. But the largest issue is the component needed for an e-paper key, the size and aspect ratio seemingly do not exist in the wild, short of being a full-sized company that can tap into the custom supply chain, assuming a manufacturer can even produce these; which is why these kinds of projects and products always use LCD and OLED panels, the supply chain is there even for the non-commercial market.

        Though, I have hopes for mLED or μLED. They’ll have the density and color to be comparable to OLED, they should also be able to have a static state that doesn’t utilize high refresh rates when not being used as an active display which would peg them somewhere between OLED and e-paper. But one benefit I’m hoping for is easy scalability of these displays, I would imagine there’d be a point where they’d be akin to perfboard, just snip to the size of the project, without major repercussions as long as the array wires are still intact; and more scalability on the manufacturing side of things. Give it another decade’s time and we should be seeing small μLED units, assuming that the panel manufacturers don’t abandon the technology before then.

        Digital relegending is an interesting rabbit hole to go down. I’d suggest you look into it more, as your surface value assumptions of it don’t actually match the legitimacy of the technology.

        1. Yes I’ve seen keys with screens in, and can see how it may be useful (If I had to label myself as anything it would be as a mathematician).

          But its a very tricky thing to actually make work, and make work with e-ink as a ‘keycap’ rather than an integral part of the key I’d say is currently entirely impossible – at least when you define keycap and key sizes as something very much in the normal size range.

          Where putting a few electrodes in a jig that allow you to feed the pretty damn high voltages e-ink requires through the keycap to change the display off the keyboard seems very much actually possible and beats slips of paper for highly repeatable position and easy of change.

          I don’t oppose the idea of active displays in a key, just the idea you can do it as a keycap – it may become possible, but right now it doesn’t seem at all plausible, keycaps are too damn thin and small!

  2. The scanning matrix has nothing to do with the USB protocol. The reason for the shift registers is to lower the number of PCB tracks that have to go through each individual row (because of the slotting)

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