The team from Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) say their 0.5 mm (50 microns) thick device is the world's thinnest wireless touch surface. It can be wirelessly connected to an iOS 7 or Windows 8 device using CSR's brand new CSR1010 chip, optimized solely for Bluetooth Smart, which enables low power devices and sensors to connect to the latest smartphones and tablets. (Courtesy: RTV/CBS)
The team from Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) say their 0.5 mm (50 microns) thick device is the world's thinnest wireless touch surface. It can be wirelessly connected to an iOS 7 or Windows 8 device using CSR's brand new CSR1010 chip, optimized solely for Bluetooth Smart, which enables low power devices and sensors to connect to the latest smartphones and tablets.
Speaking at last Thursday's (September 5) launch at the IFA (International Funkausstellung Berlin) tech show in Berlin, Paul Williamson, Director of Low Power Wireless at CSR, said the device is "the latest variant of bluetooth technology that's much lower power than anything else out there."
"It's only half a millimeter thick, making it the world's thinnest. That's enabled by an ink jet painted touch plane. And it takes the experience you'd have with the surface of you tablet and makes it available on a wireless accessory," he said.
Williamson says the project was inspired by the limitations of tablet keyboards.
"The reason we've decided to step out there and develop this was: many of the developers in our team were frustrated by the tablet keyboard experience. It uses up a lot of the screen, and the external accessories for tablets really aren't that convenient. They are large, they're bulky and they're not very flexible. And so we wanted to create something that was smaller, thinner, lighter. And Bluetooth-smart enabled that by being much lower power and needing a much smaller battery. But also to take that experience of the touchscreen keyboard and bring it off the screen to free up the keyboard area of the screen."
The touch surface is able to register multiple touch points using touch silicon technology produced by California tech company, Atmel. Reel-to-reel printing from Conductive Inkjet Technology was used to apply the conductors to the flexible membrane. The process allows for the production of a wide range of shapes and sizes, which can bring a full-sized keyboard experience to protective tablet covers, for example, or add touch-sensitive areas to a desktop workspace.
According to Williamson, "We expect this to be used primarily as a accessory for tablets and smart-phones. But it can more just text and keyboard. It can do the mousing functions and gestures that you'd expect from a tablet. And it's so thin, it can even be slipped behind the page of a notebook and be used to transcribe handwriting or notes into your app on your smart-phone. It could be bigger, we could print it much larger and it could be used by sort of creative video editing and industrial graphics for the professionals, for sort of pen-input for much larger desktop systems as well."
The keyboard has a battery built into the top edge and can perform basic text input, as well as touch and gesture control. Users can swipe and pinch and zoom, as well as using more complex gestures. It can also be used with a stylus-like pen for handwriting recognition or for drawing and sketching.
The device was invented in collaboration with semiconductor manufacturers Atmel and electronic circuit manufacturers Conductive Inkjet Technology.
CSR says it is in discussions with manufacturers interested in the technology and that consumer products implementing the surfaces could be available within a year.