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Keyboarding

8 October 2008 36,951 views No Comment

Dragon Natural Speaking is the world’s most famous voice-recognition software. It’s gone  through ten versions. And although there’s been serious improvement from when I started experimenting with it on version 5 or 6, the bottom line is it still sucks. Even with training and a good mic, I still can’t get it to write a single e-mail or essay without encountering numerous examples of self-parody. Or as Dragon would call it: Nuremberg exams of saved parrots. Don’t even get me started on Microsoft’s attempts at voice-recognition.

Even if they were to improve voice software this to the point where it would be a reasonable alternative to typing, I don’t think many would be lining up to recycle their keyboards. Throats get sore and I can’t imagine shouting out W, A, S, and D in the heat of battle. Granted RTS would seem really cool with voice software…well…at least to spectators. Playing would be a frustrating mess without a keyboard.

So what am I really trying to say here? Keyboards suck and I’m getting pretty impaitent with keyboard technology.

How long ago was the Optimus Maximus keyboard supposed to become a new standard? At long last the thing is at least SHIPPING, but at a price so ludicrous ($1800) that even the creaters admit it’s no good for personal use. What’s even more telling about the OM is that the designers imagine themselves as a cast. While the concept is awesome, every inch of this overhyped centerpiece smacks of form over function.

In response or in frustration, ThinkGeek now sells the Luxeed, seen below. (EDIT: Currently being restocked.)

Again, while sporting an awesome concept – custom designable lighting – the execution is a disaster. The price, while at least Christmasable at $200, is still way too much for a keyboard that has no ergonomic design. In addition, literally, is the numberpad which actually sits attached to the mainkeyboard like a damn telephone. And that part has no backlighting! Are you kidding me? It looks like they’re releasing this thing in beta and getting away without because the market is so starved.

One of the only serious competitors, and the keyboard that I happen to be using now, is the Ideazon Merc Stealth. My current keyboard offers 3 different color settings for backlighting as well as 3 different intensities. While ergonomic (e.g. actually usable) it’s not without it’s faults. The fact that it has no wrist-rest (detachable or otherwise) in the area below the space key is mind boggling. I’m forced to put a long-retired Fellowes gel strip from 1999 back into action just to use this l33tboard. While the gaming-specific WASD add-on to the left side of the board is awesome once you get used to it, the fact that ideazon decided to cram the numberpad on top of the command keys on the right side (so that you need a seperate button to change the input of the “1” key back and forth from “Delete”  etc.) is an inconvenience you never get used to.

Overall, it makes me incredible sad to say that in many ways, the best keyboard I have used to date is the now-defunct Microsoft Internet Keyboard Pro. By all rights this thing should be totally outdated, but apparently nobody has been able to take this simple principles at work here and deck them out with flashy lights and custom gaming profiles.

It’s enough to make you want to say screw it and just get a SafeType. If the design is going to be mangled and force you to relearn the keyboard altogether then it might as well be good for your health.

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