New Keyboard with Nanotubes can Be Folded and Crumpled to Fit Your Pocket


A man using a computer keyboard. / Photo by: Cangjie6 via Wikimedia Commons


Standard gaming and office keyboards are bulky and heavy, as well as impractical to carry outside. While bendable, portable keyboards offered in stores only bear a limited amount of flexibility and still consume a reasonable amount of space when you roll them up for transport. Thus, researchers in South Korea developed a tough and flexible keyboard that can be crumpled into a ball that fits your pocket.

The new keyboard built by Korean researchers led by Keemin Sohn, Ji Sik Kim, and Kee-Sun Sohn are intended to withstand the daily rigorous activities of typing, folding, and crumpling. The device uses a sensor sheet that the team developed in an earlier study. The sensor sheet is made of a soft Ecoflex silicon rubber embedded with conductive carbon nanotubes -- tube-like materials comprised of carbon with a diameter of a nanometer.

The use of a conductive set of carbon nanotubes is needed so that the sheets will respond when the user’s fingers push on the surface. The response works through the shifting of electrical resistance whenever the user types something. To help the users where to press correctly, the researchers drew squares on the surfaces of the sheet, which represent the keys for every letter, number, and other essential characters.

For the training of the keyboard in recognizing the right character or letter based on the location, the team applied a deep neural network. The DNN enables the keyboard to learn the changes or pressure in the electrical resistance.

“This simple sheet-type keypad worked perfectly and outperformed all of the existing portable keypads in terms of functionality, flexibility, disposability, and cost,” researchers noted.

In fact, the price of their high-tech keyboard is only $1. Anyone can throw it away without so much regret when it stops working, compared to other models.