A projection keyboard is an innovative technology product that enables users to type on any interfaces at any time without limits of physical keyboards. In other words, it affords more scenarios than a physical keyboard to a large extent. Here come our research questions. How does a projection keyboard realize it? Is it evolutionary to the relationship between physical equipment and its functions? How do we understand the technology under the background of human-computer interaction?

1.Socio-technical Network

For the technical side, a projection keyboard mainly consists of 4 modules, a projection module, a sensor module, an illumination module, and connectivity module. The projection module emits visible lights to form a visible QWERTY keyboard for users to refer to. Users’ typing is based on the visible keyboard that projection module sends out. Meanwhile, the illumination module emits invisible infrared ray covering the surface of visible QWERTY keyboard. Whenever typing interrupts continuous infrared light, the sensor module captures it and records its location and meaning and transmits information to devices, such as computers, tablets, and cell phones through Bluetooth, the connectivity module. Apart from these, the built-in battery of the projection keyboard, which is charged by devices via USB connection supports the running of it. Also, other conditions need to be fulfilled to type smoothly, to name a few, suitable light to realize visible keyboard, flat interfaces to operate smoothly, and APP or software related to typing preinstalled in devices.

When it comes to the social side, there are a few limitations for individuals to utilize physical keyboards in various scenarios, such as inaccessibility, dirty hands, or high requirement of portability. On the basis of these demands, the market gives birth to a projection keyboard. Manufacturers develop their own patents on this product, mass-produce it, and enact a series of advertisements on various media to promote it. With persuasive and attractive advertisements, manufacturers can gain a good reputation, and sales volume gets improved as well. The strategies of sales can be extremely broad, but online and offline stores and pricing strategy are the two most significant elements in this case. Besides that, the user experience can be a bridge connecting the technical product, users, and manufacturers together. Users report their feedback directly or indirectly to manufacturers, such as leaving comments or participating in questionnaire surveys, on the foundation of which, the manufacturers enhance the quality of products, to name a couple, increasing typing accuracy or customizing typing preferences.

2. Difference Compared with the System Before

Before the emergence of projection keyboards, it is universal to utilize physical keyboards. Although projection keyboards still do not play the leading role in keyboards’ market even till now, it still represents a new insight of information’s input. Compared with these two types of keyboards, there are mainly two differences worthwhile to emphasize.

  • Using Scenarios. In most occasions, people are accustomed to using physical keyboards. However, sometimes there are some unexpected situations that might impede them from typing conveniently. When one is cooking, for instance, and one wants to reply to his mother’s text, but his hands are covered with oil, the projection keyboard can be really useful. Before projection keyboards get invented, he has no choice but to wash his hands and then reply to it. But with this invention, he can just type on the table. From this perspective, projection keyboards liberate users from the limitations of using a physical one but also share the similar functions with it.
  • Symbolic Meanings. Considering prior keyboards, it is apparent to find that it still closely connects to a physical thing that users have to rely on to compute. On the contrary, in the case of projection keyboard, though it has a little cube, it represents that humans are making progress to detach themselves from physical things and realize a large extent of freedom. Outside the system, there list visual keyboards, speech recognition system, motion capture, and holographic images which are all creative and pioneering tools to capture human behaviors and real-world data. A projection keyboard is just one of them. Humans are gravitating towards this direction.

3. Forces Trying to Change the System

  • Prices. When a projection keyboard was invented in 2002, it was much more expensive than an averaged physical keyboard. Its price could reach to hundreds of dollars. Due to the immaturity of its algorithm, whereas, its price became to decline dramatically, which costs around 30 dollars and is ten times cheaper than before. As for the effects of the fluctuation of prices, on the one hand, it is more readily available to the public and should take up more significant market share theoretically. On the other hand, it is because of its availability that it loses its potential value in some technological geeks’ minds. The later consequence largely affects its popularity and makes it more marginal.
  • User Experience. According to a few users we interviewed, they responded that although projection keyboards are novel and cool initially, their typing accuracy and typing speed are limited, which resulted in mediocre experience. Besides that, it is more likely to be used with iPads, but iPads are often used for reading rather than typing. PC and smartphones are more mainstream for the majority of users to type, but PC has its own keyboards and phones have a higher requirement of typing casually.

4. Conclusion

According to our research, the portability and flexibility of projection keyboards enable users to input information in more various situations, which transcend prior using scenarios of physical keyboards in a way and satisfy more users’ needs. When comparing projection keyboards with physical keyboards, it is inferable that projection keyboards break the boundaries of limitations of physical devices that physical keyboards have, though the projection ones still need a small device. This innovative change can also be demonstrated by other technologies of input, such as motion capture, facial recognition, and speech recognition system. It is reasonable to infer that the tendency of human-computer interaction will continue to separate meanings from physical devices in the future, making the process more convenient and efficient. A projection keyboard witnesses this alteration and becomes a representative of an intermediate state of it.