Electronic paper is common in eReaders, and it occasionally shows up in digital signage. But every now and then we see them show up in other product categories, like watches or keyboard.
French company LDLC is showing off a new ePaper keyboard called Nemeio at the Consumer Electronics Show this week. Since there’s a display beneath a set of transparent keys, you can change the keyboard layout with the press of a button. And since it’s an ePaper display, the screen doesn’t consume a lot of power and it should be easy to view in a wide range of lighting conditions.
That allows you to do things like switch languages or regions, create custom keyboard shortcuts, or make other changes to the way the keyboard looks and works.
That said, the version on display at CES is still a prototype. The clear plastic keys feel smoother than you’d expect from a keyboard, and it’s not the most comfortable keyboard I’ve ever typed on — keys don’t feel quite as springy as they should, but the company says it’s working on improving the responsiveness of the keyboard.
On the back of the keyboard there are USB Type-A and Type-C ports that you can use to connect it to any computer. It also supports Bluetooth.
The Nemeio keyboard should work with Mac or Windows machines without the need to download any custom drivers. There is software that comes pre-installed on the keyboard which you can use to configure the keyboard layout and other settings. And there are buttons on the back of the keyboard that you can use to quickly switch from one view to another.
Multi-lingual folks who want a keyboard that supports both French and English, for example, could easily switch from one to the other and back again. Or users who want to set u[p different keyboard shortcuts for different tasks (such as document editing vs photo editing) could set up different layouts for each.
There’s a battery built into a stand at the back of the keyboard. It serves double duty of propping the keyboard up at a comfortable typing angle and allowing you to use the device as a wireless keyboard for a tablet or other device.
The Nemeio keyboard is expected to ship later in 2019, but it won’t be cheap — the company is expecting it to sell for somewhere between $300 and $500.
It’s a neat idea, but even if the company can improve the key travel and deliver a device at the lower end of that price range, it’s probably going to be a pretty tough sell. That’s a lot of money to spend on a keyboard.