I forgot to write about this before, but since Wired News has a story on the laser projection keyboard for PDAs, it's a good reminder. When I was at the Symbian Expo a few weeks back (wow, has it been a month already? Shit!) The company who produces this tech was there with a developer version so you could try it out. It was one of those "gee-whiz COOL!" moments when you get to try something you've seen before yet thought "bahh!, it's a gimmick". I tried it and it works fine! Pretty damn cool.
It was explained to me that the red keyboard has NOTHING to do with how the system works. It's not like your laser mouse with the red light underneath that uses the light to keep track of positioning, the image of the keyboard is there only as a convenient method of displaying the keyboard portably. You could, conceivably, use pad with the keys printed on it to marke their position. But then it wouldn't be so cool, hey? The real work is done via a little intelligent camera that monitors your finger positions and keeps track of your fingers entering and leaving the space where the key is supposed to be.
It takes a few seconds to get used to, but honestly I was really touch typing within a few moments. I'm sure that continued practice would really make it a lot easier. You just have to remember that the thing it's waiting for is the movement, so you have to make sure you make a very obvious movement on the key - like the exagerated typing you did when you first learned how to touch type (if you ever learned formally). Maybe I'm a bit odd, but because I use a Spanish keyboard and touch-type with the keys mapped to an American layout, I never ever ever look down. Looking down only messes me up. Thus to me it was a bit odd to have to remember to look down to reposition my fingers because there was obviously no nubs under the F and J keys to "home" me. But beyond that it was totally useable. Better than thumbing or T9ing believe me.
Very cool - the guy at the show also showed the parts that are involved in integrated the technology into PDAs and phones and they are TINY. There's one licensee from HP announced already and supposedly a bunch more in the works.
I think this may catch on. Really... I know it SEEMS like a gimmick because it looks like so sci-fi, but honestly it's a great solution to the typing problem.