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Review The Cool Leaf buttonless keyboard

first_imgWe live in a world of touchscreens. For the most part, those touchscreens are dedicated devices that react to a tactile response. Completely buttonless, these devices are paired with software and exist both as the next wave of technology and as a commentary on the current state of the technical design. How far will the desire for a buttonless world take us exactly? Full touchscreen displays in our cars, our refrigerators, our washers and driers? Sure, that’s all being done in some way, but are we ready to replace the buttons that we use the most? The world renowned industrial designer Dr. Kazuo Kawazaki seems to think we are ready to replace our keyboards with the Cool Leaf Keyboard.DesignThe Cool Leaf Keyboard is, at first glance, a gorgeous slab of reflective wonder. There are no keys, no lines, nothing. When the keyboard is off, all you see is the reflective glass encased in flat black plastic. The keyboard connects to your computer via a miniUSB cable and offers basic elevation extenders for those who prefer their keyboards at a steeper angle. When the cord is plugged in, the “keys” light up, showing you a full keyboard. The keys are all pretty pixelated with a one inch border around the entire board.Were it not for the USB cord coming out of the back of this, you’d have absolutely no idea it was a keyboard by looking at it. The keys fade away when the board is not in use, creating a visually appealing addition to any desk. I have some initial concerns about the fragility of a big glass slab in the middle of my desk, but the design is such that you could spill something on it and not worry that you’ve ruined your keyboard. The Cool Leaf Keyboard comes with a microfiber polishing cloth that allows you to wipe the keyboard down quickly and remove any fingerprints (don’t worry, it will have fingerprints).PracticalityI’ll be blunt here — if you are typing thousands of words or thousands of lines of code a day, Cool Leaf is not for you. There’s no tactile response at all. In lieu of haptic feedback of any kind, the keyboard has a user adjustable beep that goes off when you touch the keyboard. It’s a single tone, unchangeable in any way except for volume. If you use your computer in a room with any significant daylight, you will have trouble seeing the keys more often than not. You will either have issues with reflection, or the backlight will not be strong enough. The keyboard is multitouch, which is a must for multiple key commands, and it does that very well. The Cool Leaf Keyboard threw very few errors that weren’t just the result of a new user adjusting to a new environment. In fact, it doesn’t take long at all for a user to really adjust to it. If you are a casual typist, or if you are not a “home row” or ten-finger typist, the Cool Leaf Keyboard is actually pretty cool.Final ThoughtsI exposed the Cool Leaf Keyboard to as many people in my local social circle as I could. I found that programmers, writers, people who type for a great length of time every day really didn’t have a taste for the keyboard. However, casuals and those who have never really “learned” how to type really enjoyed the experience. In some ways, the Cool Leaf Keyboard is yet another example of the growing divide between the worker class of computer users and the consumer class.At $250, however, the Cool Leaf Keyboard is really just for those of us who see their desktop experience as a work of art, and not a productivity machine. It’s a nice keyboard, and has some nice qualities, but where the keyboard is lacking is significant enough to push away the one significant group of people who would spend this kind of money on a keyboard, people who sit in front of one all day every day.last_img read more

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