Looking to make typing on tablet computers easier (and add another term to the mobile computing lexicon), French company AlphaUI is developing a “back-typing” concept that adds an external physical keyboard to the back of a tablet. The prototype device from AlphaUI is designed to attach to the back of smaller tablets with 5-7-inch displays and provides 24 standard-sized physical keys that are ergonomically placed within easy reach of the user’s fingers as they hold the tablet.
Since each letter key actually represents two letters, the device doesn’t do away with the onscreen keyboard. However, because the onscreen virtual keyboard only serves as a guide to direct the user’s fingers to the appropriate key, it can presumably be a bit smaller than an onscreen keyboard that is actually used for typing. Also, because the keys aren’t labeled, there’s also the possibility the keys could be mapped to a user’s own configuration.
The form factor of the prototype actually looks like it would be pretty comfortable to hold too, being not dissimilar to a slightly oversized and more rounded PSP. And since the device allows eight fingers to be used instead of over-relying on the thumbs, it should cut down on typing fatigue.
It certainly looks promising for those who prefer physical keyboards to tapping away on a touchscreen for extended periods, but it might take a bit longer than the week the company says it should take users to be pumping out around 250 characters a minute.
Although the device is still only a prototype, AlphaUI recently asked for volunteers to beta test the external keyboard so it looks like it could be at the fine-tuning stage and we might see an actual product hitting the market in the not too distant future.