Word’s thinnest keyboard created by Cambridge boffins

A Cambridge firm has developed an extremely thin and flexible keyboard-like device that can turn any surface into a touch-enabled interface.

The innovation was created by Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) and is less than half a millimetre thick. The firm said the device combines low-power wireless connectivity with printable, flexible electronics and touch screen technology.

Consumers want innovative, portable wireless accessories that just work with their mobile devices.

The device is demonstrates the capabilities of the firm's CSR1010 Bluetooth Smart chip, which connects peripherals to iOS and Windows 8 PCs for a fraction of the power used by standard Bluetooth, according to the manufacturer. The keyboard - created in collaboration with Atmel and Conductive Inkjet Technology (CIT) - also has a latency of less than 12 milliseconds, which is useful for most business purposes.

The keyboard uses Atmel's touch silicon to sense multiple contact points on a surface, while CIT printed conductors enable the flexible membrane. CIT's reel-to-reel printing process enables copper and other conductors to be applied to the surface of membrane and can be printed to fit a range of tablet shapes and sizes.

It can be integrated into a protective cover or used to create large touch zones on a desktop, according to CSR. The company added that the device could provide a full keyboard on a tablet without taking up valuable screen area. It can also be slipped under a page from a notebook and be used to pick up handwriting and sketches from the nib of a modified pen.

"Consumers want innovative, portable wireless accessories that just work with their mobile devices," said Paul Williamson, director of Low Power Wireless at CSR. "The ultra-thin touch surface we've developed is a perfect example of how Bluetooth Smart can give them just that."

Williamson added that CSR was looking to work with developers to bring similar next-generation accessories quickly to the market. The technology will be shocased the IFA show in Berlin, which kicks off in Berlin later this week.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.