Flexible Keyboards are Interesting

Monday, July 7, 2008

I got a $10 OmniTech flexible keyboard at Staples yesterday. It’s a funny little device that can be rolled up and packed away, while still being fully functional. At first glance, it’s just a regular USB keyboard with a silicone coat instead of a hard plastic shell. Further inspection through the translucent silicone confirmed that the innards were, indeed, identical to those of a regular keyboard. It consists of two flexible circuit boards overlayed over each other. Each layer has a different pattern of traces, and each keypress occurs at a unique junction to connect the circuits.

So far, it’s been nice to finally have a low-profile, full-sized keyboard for my laptop. It’s quiet, so it’s good for meetings and online voice chats. And, of course, it’s easily storable and transportable. However, it does have its disadvantages. The rubbery keys do not feel “right,” and that may result in slowness.

22 Comments

  1. Daz says:

    Ha, I have a keyboard just like that, just manufactured by some other company. Yeah, it takes a bit to get used to it like you said. But, it’s awesome. OH CRAP I SPILLED COKE, oh, that was easy to clean up! (And no sticky keys 2 years later).

  2. Jiang Yio says:

    Yep, I like that it’s spill-proof. But I really do wonder if it would last two years, hehe.

  3. DavidHK says:

    Will this keyboard work with Linux and open source? It says compatible with MS, but nothing more.

  4. Jiang Yio says:

    Yes, it works with Linux with no additional work. On my Ubuntu laptop, it was recognized as any other USB keyboard when plugged in.

  5. I just purchased one of these omnitech keyboards earlier today..it is taking a little getting used to, but my fiance likes the fact that i’m not clicking away at the board anymore.

    so..to me, it was a good investment…

  6. anon says:

    i just bought one, and i’m typing on it right now…the keys take some force to press..does it get any easier the more you use it? i’m wondering if i should return it.

  7. Jiang Yio says:

    It does take some effort to switch between this keyboard and a regular keyboard. I think the keys actually take less force to press than the keys on a regular keyboard, but I still think it feels weird. Anyway, I’m keeping mine because it wasn’t that expensive and it’s easy to clean.

  8. manicgames says:

    I purchased one of these keyboards the other day, it does take some getting used to, but it gets easier.

  9. Michael says:

    I’m using mine (bought it on a whim last weekend) with Ubuntu on my laptop. While I agree, it takes a bit of getting used to, I’ve already discovered that it is take out Chinese food proof. It was worth the entire $10 purchase price for the look on my co-workers faces as I cleaned the keyboard in the coffee room sink!

  10. destiny says:

    My friend had one and it’s the best; I want to get one of my own, but I don’t know how much they cost and what colors they come in. Do they come in fluorescent?

  11. Jiang Yio says:

    They come in neon blue, neon magenta, and black. They don’t really fluoresce, though ;p

  12. Laurie says:

    Can the Omnitech flexible keyboard be used with Vista?

  13. Jiang Yio says:

    @Laurie: if Vista supports standard HID keyboards, sure. I vaguely remember the label saying something about Win9x/NT/2k/XP/2k3/Vista support, but I’ve never tried it personally.

  14. Laurie says:

    The label on mine doesn’t say Vista that’s why I was asking. Thanks for the response though, Jiang.

  15. Jiang Yio says:

    It should work. After all, keyboards are pretty standard devices.

  16. Jake Sension says:

    I picked one up at Staple a week ago for 6.50 and have just started using it. I do like the fact that I can bring a full size keyboard with me wherever I go in a small package, the silent and spill proof aspects of this keyboard are a bonus. The keys do take a little getting used to. I am a fast typer and it slows me down a little because I feel I have to “mash” the keys to get them to respond 100% of the time. It also has a backspace key that is only one key wide and my laptop has one that is two space wide so I have to reach a little further for it. I like it so far. The addition of the power button is nice but not too essential for me. There are two blank keys to the left and the right of the space bars (yes, bars) that are unlabeled. I have found no documentation online that shows what they are and if the are keys that can be remapped as function keys or multimedia keys.

  17. Jiang Yio says:

    Jake, the two blank buttons flanking the spacebar(s) are actually supposed to be part of the spacebar itself. On a standard keyboard, the spacebar is indeed this long. It was broken up to facilitate folding. Now, spacebars have two or more contact points each because they’re so long, but this one appears to be broken up into two nonfunctional buttons (with no contacts) and two functional ones.

  18. susan says:

    I just bought two of them today for 1.50 a piece at staples.

  19. Jiang Yio says:

    Seriously? That’s a pretty good deal.

  20. BlueHornet says:

    What’s up, is there anybody else here?
    If there’s anyone else here, let me know.
    Oh, and yes I’m a real person LOL.

    Bye,

  21. Jessica Jones says:

    I was skeptical at first, but it’s actually quite an awesome little addition to my laptop and netbook. The keyboard is exceptionally quite and having ACTUALLY spilled a can of diet coke over the keyboard once, already makes this very well worth the money! It looks cute and is very soft and quiet, which I enjoy.

    Good deal under $15.

    Highly recommended.

    Jessica

  22. Lordnikon says:

    I love this thing.