By Alexandra Burlacu | Nov 09, 2012 12:51 PM EST
Renowned industrial designer Dr. Kazuo Kawazaki has created the Cool Leaf Keyboard, offering a glimpse into the tactile future of touch screen devices.
Today's world is a world of touch screens mostly, i.e. dedicated devices designed to react to a tactile command. Completely buttonless, such touch screen technology has revolutionized the displays in cars, refrigerators, and even washers and driers. But can the touch screen experience replace the very buttons people use most?
Kawazaki seems to think the time has come to replace the traditional keyboard with the Cool Leaf Keyboard, a unique tool with a mirror-like design.
The Cool Leaf Keyboard has a clean, minimalistic design with no keys, no lines, nothing. When the keyboard is off, it just looks like a reflective glass slab encased in flat black plastic. It connects to a computer via mini USB, and offers basic elevation extenders as well for those who prefer to type at a steeper angle. When the keyboard is plugged in, the "keys" light up and show a full keyboard.
At first glance, the only thing giving away the keyboard is the USB cord coming out of its back. The keys all fade away when the board is not in use, creating an aesthetically appealing decoration.
The design is conceived to resist liquid spills without ruining the keyboard, though the big glass slab seems quite fragile. The mirror-like design also favors fingerprints, but the Cool Leaf Keyboard comes with a microfiber polishing cloth for wiping it down quickly and easily.
Design vs. Practicality
The Cool Leaf Keyboard may be an intriguing piece of design, but it's probably not for those who have to write thousands of words on a daily basis. The tactile response leaves a lot to be desired, and the keyboard also has a user adjustable beep that goes off when you touch the board. Except for the volume, the tone cannot be changed in any way.
Another issue may be the key visibility. While at night the keys are easily visible, in significant daylight things get more complicated: either reflection will mess things up, or the backlight will not be powerful enough.
On the upside, the keyboard deals very well with multi-touch, which is essential for multiple key commands. The gadget features a full English QWERTY 108-key layout, and each capacitive key is individually backlit.
The $250 Cool Leaf Keyboard is definitely an interesting tool, but marks the increasingly obvious gap between the consumer class of computer users and the worker class. For consumers who use the keyboard casually, this gadget may provide an enjoyable experience. For users who need a keyboard to work and type extensively, a traditional keyboard may be a better idea. The Cool Leaf Keyboard is not a productivity machine, but it may turn a desktop experience into a work of art.