Microsoft is about to invent the keyboard. They are working on their own tablet device to compete with Apple’s iPad and they’ve built one with keys on the back. You can’t see what keys you’re hitting, but you see the letters come up on the screen. At first you’ll probably type out nonsense words, but their hope is that after a while you’ll get the hang of it.

They’re calling it the “RearType” project, simply enough. Gripping the tablet in both hands, you can hit the front buttons with your thumbs while tapping the keys on the back with your fingers. If you’re a touch typist, you should hardly feel the difference, they say.  But they admitted that the 12 expert typists they called in could only type about 15 words a minute. (Joy can type 90-100 words a minute on a normal keyboard.)

Since this is a Microsoft Research project, it may never come to market.  We went to an IBM show-and-tell years ago and were shown lots of new products, none of which ever saw the light of day. It’s probably a good thing: One of their projects was a computer feature that told you when your popcorn was done.  (One small step for the stay at home techie.)

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