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Review: Celluon Epic projection keyboard

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July 17, 2013

Gizmag review the Celluon Epic, a projection keyboard for your smartphone, tablet, or PC

Gizmag review the Celluon Epic, a projection keyboard for your smartphone, tablet, or PC

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Today more and more people use smartphones and tablets as their main computing devices. But these devices typically don't have physical keyboards, and that leaves the door open for innovation and creative alternatives. Take, for example, the Celluon Epic projection keyboard. Read on, as Gizmag goes hands-on with a device that will turn any flat surface into a full QWERTY keyboard.

What is it?

The Celluon Epic has an attractive, tightly-constructed design

The first thing to know about the Celluon Epic is that, yes, it does work. Prop the tiny (70 x 35 x 20 mm) gizmo on a desk or other flat and opaque surface, near your PC or mobile device. Pair it via Bluetooth with your computer, and you can start typing. Tap your fingers on the projected red laser keys, and the letters pop up on your screen. It can even serve as a mouse or touchpad for your Windows PC or Mac.

If you've never seen a projection keyboard before, it makes for quite the "whoa" moment. Sometimes you have to shake your head and marvel at what technology is capable of, and using your kitchen countertop as an iPad keyboard is one of those times.

Of course, like any magic trick, there's actually something very specific happening behind the scenes that creates the illusion. Here we're looking at infrared light that's emitted from the lower end of the Epic. When your finger (or any other object) passes through a key's projected area, the sensor detects the infrared light reflecting off of it, and computes it as a keystroke.

The Epic projects the keyboard from the top of the device, and senses keystrokes via infra...

The device itself is tightly constructed, with a compact, attractive design. It doesn't look remotely cheap. It's small enough to drop in a pocket, and can easily sit next to the device you're typing on without drawing attention to itself.

The Epic is compatible with all the major mobile and desktop operating systems, including iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac OS X. Windows Phone isn't yet supported.

Typing with Celluon Epic

Typing, unfortunately, is a chore

So, with the Celluon Epic, we have something that is sure to grab any gadget- or technology-lover's attention. But is it something you'll actually want to use on a regular basis? Is this worth considering instead of a physical keyboard?

Unfortunately, unless you have a lot of patience, I'd say probably not. The Epic is about as accurate as you'd expect it to be, considering the technology behind it, but it's a far cry from using a physical keyboard. In fact, it's even a far cry from an iOS or Android multitouch software keyboard.

My attempt at Mary Had a Little lamb was a jumbled mess

The image above is the result of my attempt to type out Mary Had a Little Lamb without looking at the screen. Spaces often ended up as n's, other letters were mistyped, and it ended up a jumbled mess. When typing while looking at the screen, I eventually typed what I was trying to say, but spent about three times as long correcting mistakes as I did typing.

To Celluon's credit, the company recommends beginning by typing with a hunt-and-peck style, and gradually building up to standard two-handed typing after you're comfortable with that.

But there's one problem with that. Why? Why should customers have to go through a grueling learning process to use a new product? Why should we trust that it will yield rewards and become more comfortable in time? Why not just buy a much cheaper Bluetooth keyboard and call it a day?

There's a fine line with innovation. On one hand, there's the jaw-dropping, "holy crap" factor that comes from new technology you've never seen before. Epic has that. But a truly innovative product also needs to solve a problem, make things easier, or do something better than products before it did. This is where Epic is sorely lacking. It doesn't solve any problem, it actually makes typing harder, and it doesn't do anything better than physical or even on-screen keyboards do.

Who is it for?

At just under 60 g, the Epic is light and portable

Here at Gizmag, we keep a close eye on exciting and interesting new technologies and technology products. So we do have a certain appreciation for products like the Epic that swing for the fence and try to do something new and exciting. But apart from gadget lovers who want a cool party trick, the US$170 (discounted for $150 on Amazon) Celluon laser keyboard probably isn't worth it. Perhaps future versions will offer infrared typing that works to perfection, and provides a legitimate alternative to the keyboards you already have. But in its current form, it's hard to recommend.

Product page: Celluon

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About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
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15 Comments

This concept/product has been floating around under one name/company or another for at least 5 years. In all that time, it doesn't seemed to have generated any real interest, gee-whiz factor not withstanding.

yrag
17th July, 2013 @ 02:25 pm PDT

This may come as a shock to you, but touchscreen keyboards are very different from normal keyboards, and have their own learning period. My typing speed on real keyboards is very fast, while my touchscreen typing speed is dismal even compared to people who don't use their devices much. This, being a third kind of keyboard, will naturally have its own learning curve. It isn't a negative.

Joel Detrow
17th July, 2013 @ 04:58 pm PDT

Assuming that it works well with a little practice it would make a great keyboard for a tablet or phone. especially if you can get it to produce an oversized keyboard and ten key.

Slowburn
17th July, 2013 @ 10:09 pm PDT

I remember reading about it in 2004. I thought how cool it would be to connect it to my ipaq (with a "Q") Any way just let it die already.

Frank Bredow
18th July, 2013 @ 03:23 pm PDT

Yup! I had one of these over five years ago. Desk clutter!

Alastair Carnegie
18th July, 2013 @ 05:49 pm PDT

Isn't this at least 5 years old? The housing looks different but the keyboard layout is the same. I've seen earlier versions on closeout and clearance sales.

Gregg Eshelman
18th July, 2013 @ 06:00 pm PDT

I can see how this can be helpful.

James Galan
18th July, 2013 @ 08:56 pm PDT

Maybe the more money than brains I mean early adopters didn't put forth the effort to master the previous device, or the earlier device did not work well but it does not sound like the reviewer put in enough time to find out if it just takes practice. I would have to use a pad of some type for the keyboard because I learned to type on a manual typewriter and hit the keys harder than necessary on electric keyboards.

Slowburn
19th July, 2013 @ 12:56 am PDT

It would work far better by projecting a piano keyboard with polyphonic equivalents in terms of chords. That way, you could type several times faster with one hand via the chords/macros, and the light scan would have hardly any errors, since the piano is solely binary from a linear perspective, notwithstanding the partial-length black keys. Also, light projection and scanning could be from almost the exact same location on the projector/scanner mechanism and make possible a far smaller unit.

machinephilosophy
19th July, 2013 @ 12:04 pm PDT

re; machinephilosophy

So not only would you have to get use to the quirks of how the keyboard works you would have to learn a new layout. This is not making it easier.

Slowburn
20th July, 2013 @ 09:37 am PDT

I have never been comfortable with the laptop keyboards and touch pads. So far have been manged to not own one and avoid using it as far as possible.

What I would really like to see is a full size keyboard that can either be folded or snapped together for compact storage and transport. Having to carry a full size keyboard while traveling is definitely inconvenient.

From the looks of it this will not be a solution either !

pmshah
30th July, 2013 @ 09:35 pm PDT

For me,i agree with pmshah, i think one foldable keyboard is more convenient for travelling o transporting. Luckly,i already have bought

one keyboard-silicon keyboard.It test perfect for use.

alice1028
29th November, 2013 @ 01:01 am PST

Ok first of all I wanted to say that I appreciate the review, but I also respectfully disagree with it. One thing that bothers me is the reviewers (and actually a lot of people in general for that matter) expectation of a cookie cutter "hold your hand" type of experience out of the box without any kind of thought power (or learning curve as they call it) required, as if it's a some sort of entitlement. Are we really getting so lazy that having to learn something as trivial as typing on a projected keyboard that it warrants giving it a negative review? I mean don't get me wrong I like to relax and have things done for me just like the next guy, but I'm also not so entitled that having to learn something new (casually btw) will ruin my experience with something so much that I'd give it a negative review. But all in all that's just me I guess, and the reviewer did get it right by saying you have to be patient, because like anything that's almost always the case. I'm honestly surprised at how accurate this thing is now that I've been using it for awhile (not even a week), and I'm actually writing this review on it quite comfortably. Imo it's a great well made product that is certainly not just a "niche" because can and does perform astonishingly well once you get used to it, and it's still hard to wrap my head around this review lol. I'm also not saying it'll be a better alternative to a novelist or someone who writes for a living because it's not, but for the majority of casual to somewhat heavy "emailers" and "typers" I'd highly recommend checking this out. Not just because of the definite "wow factor" it creates, but for the ultra portability you get along with the excellent build quality and craftsmanship (and believe it or not I do not work for the manufacturer lol, I'm just still happy that I bought it and I hate to see people get turned off on something because of a unfair review like this one). That's just my two cents anyway

Mahrenballz
8th January, 2014 @ 09:12 am PST

Had it up and running a couple of times, looked like it might have a bit of potential...but by second recharge had already stopped pairing with both my phone & ipad. And, both emails I had for any customer support for this device failed to work...would NOT recommend.

Scott Simkover
16th January, 2014 @ 12:28 pm PST

Office Depot has dropped this to $100 and is at the point where it may be worth buying as a cool gadget. I am successful at the hunt and peck but the full typing mode is not working very well. It is worth using in flight on a seat tray and is a decent fit with an iPad mini and the keyboard. The problem is that the vibrations of my fingers moves it to where it has to be repositioned. Some sticky tape is probably in order. I like it but don't love it ...

Rusty Keighron
20th January, 2014 @ 06:05 pm PST
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