like there are too many keys on your full size keyboard when all you need to do for the next hour is press Ctrl+Z? Of course you have. Trickey is a nifty little hardware project that’s aiming to fix that by letting you replace a full size USB keyboard with a dinky unit that consists of whatever keys you happen to need for that game or graphics package — in whatever configuration you fancy. Saving on desk space and wrist movements in the process. Just plug in Trickey’s replaceable keys wherever you want them in the sockets provided on the board and use the companion key writing software to customize the keys to your requirements. So you could have a physical keyboard that only consists of cursor keys, or spec out the specific numbers and letters needed for a particular game or piece of editing software. You can also save on key presses by creating single keys to represent combination key presses, like Ctrl Z. If you need more than six keys, multiple Trickey boards can be plugged together to create a larger unit consisting of multiple grids. (The team says it has tested up to 20 keys in configuration and found no latency issues.) The keys themselves can also be customized with your own key mat designs, thanks to removable transparent key caps. Here’s an example of custom designs on one of the current Trickey prototypes. It sure is cute.
Trickey is a (working) prototype at this point. Its Japanese creators are currently running a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to turn it into a shipping product. At the time of writing just over half the $30,000 funding target has been pledged with more than a month to go.
One of Trickey’s creators, Keisuke Shiro, an engineering student at the University of Tokyo, says the project was sparked by a rapid prototyping contest at the university — which has helped them with parts and equipment costs up to this point. Shiro also works part time for robotics and engineering firm QibiTech which has been helping commercialize the product.
“This idea was derived from my favorite game, which has awkward key binding. I wasn’t satisfied with the binding, and I thought about replaceable keyboard,” he tells TechCrunch.
“Trickey is a normal HID USB keyboard. So Trickey works on any systems which supports HID USB keyboards. And we are planning to make the writer software on Windows and Mac OS. Already we have developed the prototype software on Windows.”
Development work on Trickey started last December. And the team is hoping to ship to backers by September. Early bird pledges have been snapped up so the Trickey keyboard now starts at $139 for one standard kit — which gives you six keys to customize, plus one spare in case you forget where you put a key after you unplugged it.