Microsoft Hardware, in collaboration with the Applied Sciences Group, has released this video showing off the capabilities of its Adaptive Keyboard.
The blog post which accompanies the video states that "the display capabilities of high efficiency input devices such as keyboards and mice should be as dynamic and relevant to user context as the UI on the PC screen".
What they've come up with is a keyboard that includes both programmable keytops as well as a touch display area. It's an idea similar to what we've seen in the past from Optimus with its adaptive keyboards, but now that Microsoft is playing ball it is surely only a matter of time before this sort of device hits the mainstream.
The keytops change depending on what program you are using. In the video they use a PowerPoint example and the keys are relevant to the sorts of things that you might want to insert within your slideshow.
The touch display area shows off a mixture of recent documents, or active displays if you have a program open, and you can scroll through much like you would with a smartphone.
They show off an Outlook demo and contacts pictures are shown where you can highlight one of your friends in the display area and display a number of communication methods, like you can within a smartphone's UI.
The keyboard is now part of the Student Innovation Contest at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology, and Microsoft Hardware is hoping that "the participating students will come up with truly unique and valuable uses for this particular evolutionary input device concept".
We do too, and we can't wait for devices like this to hit the shops. When you consider that the basic setup of the keyboard hasn't really changed since the 1980s, then it's about time we saw a major overhaul.
Expect Apple to respond with a "magic" keyboard sometime soon.