Flexible Keyboards Made Cheap & Crushable

A team of scientists in South Korea have developed a flexible keyboard that can withstand folding and crumpling.

AsianScientist (Jul. 4, 2018) – In a study published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, scientists in South Korea have created a flexible keyboard that retains its function even after being folded and crumpled.

Bendable, portable keyboards for use with computers and other electronic devices are already on the market, but they have limited flexibility and are sizable when rolled up for transport. Existing keyboards incorporate either rigid push buttons inserted in a sheet or a tactile sensor array patterned on a multilayered soft sheet. These devices require complicated fabrication processes, and because of their brittle components, can only withstand a slight amount of bending or rolling.

A research group led by Professor Sohn Kee-Sun has overcome these challenged by creating a keyboard based on a sensor sheet they had previously developed. Their device consists of a sheet of soft EcoflexTM silicone rubber embedded with conductive carbon nanotubes that respond to the push of a finger by changing electrical resistance.

The researchers drew squares on the surface of the sheet to represent keys for each letter, number or other symbol. They used an artificial neural network to teach the keyboard to identify the intended letter or character based on the location and pressure of pushes—and associated changes in resistance—on the keyboard.

The team reported that their keyboard outperformed existing portable keypads in terms of functionality, flexibility, disposability and cost. In fact, each keyboard would cost only US$1 to manufacture, cheap enough that it could be tossed out and replaced if it stopped working.

The article can be found at: Lee et al. (2018) Deep-learning Technique to Convert a Crude Piezoresistive Carbon Nanotube-ecoflex Composite Sheet Into a Smart, Portable, Disposable, and Extremely Flexible Keypad.


Source: American Chemical Society.
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