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I-Tech Virtual Laser Bluetooth Keyboard

Thu Aug 31, 2006 - 3:51 PM EDT - By Harv Laser


I saw one reviewer call the I-Tech Virtual laser Bluetooth keyboard ("VKB") the "geek accessory of the year." That's probably stretching it. It's an interesting and novel device, and there's certainly nothing else out there like it. It does work pretty much as claimed, but it's quirky and is hardly what I'd call perfect in design and execution.

The VKB looks like a tiny version of the "2001" monolith – a black, rectangular object about 3" tall and an inch wide and deep. A silvery metal band runs up the left side and over the top and houses the power switch on its left, the Bluetooth on/off indicator and a small grille next to it. There's a rubber-capped AC power charger port near the bottom on one side, and a similarly capped reset hole (paperclip required) on the other.

The business side of the VKB is the front, where a slim red window houses a ruby red laser beam that projects a slightly non-standard but full-sized "virtual" QWERTY keyboard on any hard, flat surface. It reminded me of Gort with his visor raised. Below that is a dark plastic window which uses Infrared to intercept your finger movements across the projected keys and transmit them as keystrokes to your computer, Treo or other kinds of handhelds.

The VKB works with many operating systems, and its box contains a 3" CD full of drivers and manuals, a small printed quick start guide, an AC charger that terminates in two round Euro-style prongs – obviously, these won't work in North American wall outlets, so an adapter that does is included.

On the bottom of the VKB lives a tiny round feather-touch micro switch. This little button MUST be depressed by the unit's own weight for the VKB to work, so the it has to stand upright on a hard surface to engage that switch, which doubles as a power-off switch if you simply lift the VKB or tip it over.

I-Tech thoughtfully included a little black snap-shut vinyl pouch to carry the VKB and keep its plastic laser and IR windows from getting scratched, but since its sealed-inside battery is only good for about two hours of continuous use, if you intend to do any serious typing / writing with it, you'll have to lug along the AC charger anyway. Without the ability to re-charge, if the VKB's battery runs out of juice, that's it.


I first tried out the VKB on my Windows laptop. I have a generic Bluetooth dongle plugged into one of the laptop's USB ports. It was a little tricky to get the VKB going, but I installed the XP driver and control panel and muddled through; it paired with my laptop, and finally worked. I could type into any open Windows application with it as if using the laptop's real keyboard.

The VKB's design absolutely requires that its laser projects the virtual keyboard onto a hard, flat surface, preferably one that's not catching any bright light or glare, such as sunlight through an open window. No, it won't project or float a keyboard into thin air. It'd be cool if it did, but its projected keyboard isn't a Hollywood Sci-Fi hologram. Maybe next decade.

No matter which platform you're using it with, there's an OS-specific VKB control panel you must install with which you set its various parameters, including, thankfully, the brightness of the keyboard in three levels. The default "high" brightness level was, to my eyes, way too bright, so I throttled it down to medium, and then to low with its onscreen control panel.

I'm not a Doctor, so I don't know the medical implications of staring at a laser projection of a keyboard for long periods of time but you should definitely NOT point the laser at your eyes, and the manual warns about this repeatedly.

Considering how expensive a some laptop keyboard can be, (on my Presario, for example, I'd have to send the whole laptop back to HP to get the keyboard replaced, while other brands let you simply unclip and pop out the keyboard to replace it with a new one if need be).. the VKB could make a laptop with some broken or flakey keys usable until you fill the old piggybank with enough coins to get your real keyboard replaced. Then again, since the VKB is just under two hundred bucks, I'd have to wonder why you'd buy one of these instead of just getting your keyboard fixed.

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Product Info
> Name I-Tech Virtual Laser Bluetooth Keyboard
> Company I-Tech
> Tested with Sprint Treo 650 and XP laptop with Bluetooth
> Fact Sheet & User Opinions
> Available
> $179.99

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