I've been trying out the ElekTex Wireless Fabric Keyboard, which as the name suggests is made of fabric, and can be rolled up and stuffed into a pocket. The manufacturer, Eleksen, claims it is durable enough to be washed, although I doubt this claim extends to the plastic attachment that holds the circuitry and batteries.
The keyboard is designed for workers that edit documents or compose emails on a smartphone or PDA while on the move, and it connects via Bluetooth. It works quite well – once you can get it to work, that is. Anyone who has ever used Bluetooth will know that getting two devices to talk together is often something of a black art, involving smoke, mirrors, and desperate appeals to the gods.
So it was with this keyboard. The instructions say to press the 'on' button until the green light comes on, but I found that it almost immediately went out again. What the instructions don’t tell you is that it turns on and stays on once a connection with the host device is established.
Using the keyboard drew some bemused looks from others in the IT Week office, not to mention comments along the lines of 'Where did you find that Sinclair QL, and why is it flat?'
The obvious drawback to the Fabric Keyboard is that it needs a flat surface to sit on, whereas some rival collapsible travel keyboards can be used on your lap. But it folds up much more neatly than such models, and is probably less susceptible to damage.
According to Eleksen, the technology behind the fabric keyboard is proving popular; it is already being used in rucksacks and jackets to provide built-in controls for iPods and other music player devices.
The company also said that future products will include a carrying case for ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) devices such as Samsung's Q1, which will feature a keyboard as part of the fabric of the case.
Look out for a full review of the Fabric Keyboard in IT Week in the near future.
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