I've spent a lot of time looking at strange keyboards. Anyone remember the miniguru? I even once spent a few hours browsing Cherry's website looking at the various high quality keyboard switches for an abortive project last year. That said, thank God for talented industrial designers like Michael Roopenian. Us computer users spend our time interacting with our machines primarily through the keyboard, it's the primary place where we touch and feel the physical presence of the machine. Usually we're rubbing our fingers all over a collection of cheap plastic keys. My current keyboard is an unimpressive slab of black plastic like I'm sure most of us are using. The Engrain keyboard is so pretty and I want one. Now.
Michael posted a series of images describing the process used to arrive at the final prototype of the Engrain on his portfolio here. The idea is to create a keyboard where every key has a distinct texture as well as position. Touch typists now rely on finding the home row with nubbins on the F and J keys. This will allow for typists to have an intuitive knowledge of their finger position regardless of where their fingers happen to be. It'll also just feel really great under the fingers don't you think?
After experimenting with a number of different surfaces he settled on a design produced from a piece of sandblasted wood that preserved the natural grain. This gives every key a unique texture, as well as giving every keyboard an unique texture across the entire board.
The only problems with designs like this is that often they never come to mass production so they end up costing more than your first born child to acquire, if you can find one at all. Cross your fingers. I'm crossing mine.
[via Colossal Art & Design]