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Make HID (human interface design) beautiful Answered

There are few ubiquitous household items as ugly in form and function as a computer keyboard. They're everywhere. They're an inefficient and archaic visual distraction, barely suited to stamp ink on dead trees, as they were originally designed to do.

Computer components need to be elegant, form well married to specific functionality needs, if computers are to fade into the background of life and thus best support it -  and that is nigh impossible with the keyboard hanging out.

I'm a hci software guy. I spent almost three years writing a library of code to enable a new generation of input devices… beautiful, simple  and efficient… closer to playing a musical instrument than typing on a typewriter.

I need designs for a piece or two of hardware that shows off how beautiful and/or hidden a computer input device can be when you completely minimize its form…

If you are an industrial designer or a mid level maker or even a just a for the fun of it 2d or 3d CAD nerd, allowing for the device functionality will be a trivial concern, with 90% of your attention paid to the form of the device… and that's what I'm looking for… a beautiful replacement for the horrible and outdated keyboard and mouse that shows off the features of the software and blends in to people's lives.

The designs will be 5-key and 10-key.

The electronics area to allow for will be pretty simple -  probably just an HID chip - as tiny as possible - with ports to wire to buttons, etc -  a power source, wireless connector (preferably low power bluetooth), and wires to connect the chip to everything it needs to connect to.

While the designs can be created as completely conceptual, we would prefer to be able to physically prototype them using something like 3d printing, laser cutting or other maker accessible options and electronics components that would also be maker accessible.

Preferably, the file format will be solidworks compatible.

For now, this is an unpaid gig, with the compensation mainly being in the form of some really sweet portfolio designs, hope for a better HID tomorrow, and maybe a makey makey type gift for those times when nothing but a banana piano will do. We do have investor meetings lined up and will credit any prototype designs used to show off the software during those, as well.

If we decide to sell the software in various configurations packaged with hardware variations, and everyone feels like a good time was had by all in this trial run, then we can talk about a production partnership. If that were to be a possibility, industrial design related experience or strong enough to heavily research it type interest - sourcing, packaging, etc. - would be a big bonus. (As a note, while the  HCI is all key input based now, there will later be support for things like 3d tracking options - So, the project could get even more exciting on the HID side.)


If you are interested in learning more, please use the PM system provided through Instructables as first contact. Further contact info will be provided should the initial contacts merit it. Thanks!


The HCI software is definitely going to be released in a few different forms, whether hardware is part of the package or not. It utilizes a few different generic HID drivers, like that for a keyboard and a mouse. So, any chip with those readily available drivers loaded could be used in construction (and, in fact, many chips are sold with one or more of these generic drivers pre-loaded.)

Unless otherwise discussed, designs utilized in our presentations would be considered free use on both sides, with no need for even an NDA unless the designer would like to delve into the HCI code. So, designs provided for this project could then be manufactured by the designer for use with the software independent of our involvement, as well.

How about using touch sensitive technology to eliminate the mechanical action of the keys giving you a smooth surface which you can make any color or shape you please, and then have semi-transparent bits that appear when back lit to indicate the location of the keys? Why make things more difficult? Plenty of people can type on a typewriter, but how many can play a musical instrument? Are you talking about musical instruments like a harpsichord or concertina or something stranger like bagpipes or theramin? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if you don't like the look of keyboards, how do you feel about monitors?
Finally, you failed to include any contact information.

Hi Kimo,

For contacting us, we intended to use the PM system provided through Instructables as first contact. Further contact info will be provided should the initial contacts merit it.

Don't rely on the PM system, the latencies can be measured in days or weeks.

Hi Kimo,

The keyboard is not only ugly in terms of looks, but also in terms of functionality - It is an inefficient way to control the machines it is used on today, designed on a paradigm that is over a century old. Just as modern operating systems need a reboot of their HCI software, the HID hardware needs one to match.

The idea here is not to make a musical instrument for the computer - it is mentioned because there are many concepts to be found in the arena of instruments that are useful in redesigning both the HCI and HID sides of the computer system.

Interestingly, while instruments may seem more complex because fewer people use them, simple key musical instruments like a rock band guitar or even the most used keys of a piano tend to have a much lower learning curve to get to a good level of proficiency than any qwerty or dvorak or similar keyboard.

Hi Kimo, (separating responses per topic)

The field for designs is wide open - mainly need to be 5 or 10 key, and good for human computer interaction

So, if capacitive keypads or similar seems extra beautiful or just super useful for controlling a computer while doing something you love or just do a lot - bathing, skiing, playing an instrument, whatever, then that is a great way to go - keeping in mind the limitations of the technology desired for use, if the design is intended to be fabricated (and for now the limitations as they apply to the home hobbyist's market of options)

One thing to note on capacitive and similar tech is that people do not, at this point, type as quickly using them as they do keys that give a more mechanical feedback. Also, they provide no cushion for people's fingers, so those tradeoffs would have to be considered in whether or not to utilize them for the application desired. Sometimes, it might be worth it - but in instances where productivity is a key concern, it probably is not. This sort of consideration should be given when supplying info on why you went a particular way with your submitted designs.