cc: VKB, Inc.

VKB has created an amazing, long-overdue and almost totally ignored virtual keyboard device. Using infrared detection it tracks your finger motion on a lightspray keyboard. Futuristic and sexy.

All is not lightsabers and gargleblasters, however. People using the device complain of hand stress from typing swiftly on an ungiving surface, at least until they learn to use softer strokes. Tracking has been reported to be poor unless the virtual keys are hit exactly, a difficult accomplishment without the feedback of a physically pressable button.

I think VKB is missing the money shot. The acceptance percentage in the consumer tech crowd is going to be much smaller than the acceptance in specialized niche markets which could truly benefit from this technology.

I’m a musician who lugs a portable studio everywhere. I currently abuse a small MIDI controller keyboard which barely squeezes into an already over-burdened backpack. I am in love with the idea of carrying a tiny, cyclopean drone like the VKB to spray two or three octaves of keys over my work surface of the moment.

I see the controller purists among you looking askance at this text right now, whispering things like “What about pressure sensitivity?” and “How about velocity?” The technology may already lend itself to velocity measurements, and if not, with development I feel certain speed of finger stroke could be measured. With the longer throw of musical keys it may also be easier to improve stroke recognition in the general keying areas.

All sorts of motion controllers may be possible. Imagine a single band of light functioning somewhat like a ribbon controller next to the keyboard, and assignable to any MIDI parameter you like, including those you would normally control with pressure. Pitch and mod wheels would be easy to create as simple sliders. Imagine being able to switch back and forth from a few virtual octaves to a group of X/Y pad controllers (one for each finger!) to a bank of mixing faders.

This is all off point.

Portable. Let me say it again: less than 7.5 cm tall by 2.5 cm wide by 2.5 cm deep (3″ tall by 1” wide by 1” deep).


I release all claims to this idea, VKB. It’s all yours. There must be an enterprising partner company out there (Roland/Edirol, perhaps?) who would be interested in bringing a device like this to market.

I have one small request: when the first Virtual (MIDI) Keyboards roll off the assembly line, send me one, will you?