The iPad has some amazing writing applications designed for it, like IA’s Writer. But unless you want to tote a bulky Bluetooth keyboard along with your tablet–or enclose it in a special case–the touch-typing experience on the iPad’s virtual keyboard is bound to be disappointing. Steve Isaac and Brad Melmon solved both problems with their TouchFire keyboard, which provides essential tactile feedback without adding annoying bulk to the device itself.
The designers have impressive pedigrees: Isaac helped create one of the earliest tablet computers at GO Corporation, and Melmon has designed products as diverse as toothbrushes and Cray supercomputers at firms like IDEO and HP. The constraints they worked with to create TouchFire were challenging, to say the least. The keyboard had to be springy enough to allow users to rest their fingers on the keys without triggering them, while simultaneously being supple enough to allow swiping through the bottom edge of the keyboard (to access special characters or the iPad’s application-switching tray). It also had to be thin enough to attach to the iPad 2’s Smart Cover, and flexible enough to easily fold out of the way when the user returns to full-screen touch browsing.
Amazingly, the TouchFire appears to hit all these marks. It’s thinner than a credit card and magnetically attaches to the iPad and Smart Cover, so you won’t even notice it’s there until you need to use it. It’s transparent, so you can always see the virtual keyboard underneath. Its floppy flexibility is the only less-than-elegant thing about it, but that’s only a minor quibble, since that’s what allows the TouchFire to roll away when you use the Smart Cover as a stand for the iPad, or when you simply want to fold the keyboard down out of the way.
Isaac and Melmon have already raised over $70,000 via Kickstarter to bring TouchFire to market, so it’s probably only a matter of time before the accessory starts showing up on the racks in Apple stores, too.